Why Local Hiring Is More Important Than Ever Before with COVID-19


For Essential Leaders, Go Local

Since COVID-19 arrived, it has created significant challenges for companies seeking leadership talent. Those challenges are making local hiring more important than ever before.

The reason?

The more the Novel Coronavirus mutates and then spreads (again) and the more that BA.5 version escapes being recognized by our vaccinated and boosted immune systems, then the more hesitant candidates become to travel anywhere. When you add on the near-constant flight delays and disruption at getting to your destination and back on time, recruiting local candidates is the go-to first choice.

Of course, if the position is remote and the employee can work from home and you don’t need the executive for regularly scheduled on-site meetings or other events — then dial up Zoom and pursue the growing number of senior executive candidates who prefer to work from home.

In other words, local recruiting and local executive search are often the first priority for work that cannot be done online. Local hiring whenever possible is the new imperative for in-person work. Only after you have exhausted the pool of viable, top-performing local talent does it make sense to venture beyond your commutable backyard.

Video Calls Replace Onsite Interviews

Most companies have replaced on-site interviews with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or with video interviewing platforms such as HireVue. Despite our return to the New Normal, most employers conduct virtual interviews for some, if not all, rounds of interviews.

Monkeypox and Polio outbreaks still make candidates resistant to travel for fear of bringing the latest variant home to loved ones. But it also makes sense to recruit virtually, even for those who do not hesitate to catch the latest flight. Top candidates are almost always heavily recruited — as a constant. Any delay or any friction that employers introduce to the interviewing process risks losing perfect candidates to more nimble competitors.

Travel for On-site Interviews Remains Tenuous

In the Before Times, companies used to fly in executive and technology candidates for on-site interviews — often several times before moving to offer. Candidates and spouses were regularly flown in to help them determine whether they want to move to the town where the job is based and where they want to live.

But these days, international and interstate travel still succumbs to insufferable delays. So requiring candidates to travel introduces hardship where there has been little before. Frequently candidates have to give up vacation days to fly in for interviews. If a flight is delayed, that may trigger an unexplained absence, putting their current jobs at risk.

Additionally, public transportation increases candidates’ exposure to whatever infectious disease or virus is circulating. Traveling in cabs, through airports, onto planes, and into hotels heightens the risk of exposure. In an uncertain world, growing more uncertain by the day with COVID-19, Monkeypox, and even Polio, you simply do not know where other travelers have been or what they have touched.

Local Executives Deliver Benefits

When candidates who live in the area are done with their on-site interviews, they get to go home rather than make a mad dash for planes, trains, and automobiles. When candidates are local residents who live within commuting distance, they know the landscape. In fact, they often have local relationships that they can leverage for their employers. Moreover, local employees often make employee referrals, leading to additional local hires. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Local Hiring Makes Sense Beyond COVID-19

For jobs that require relocation, COVID-19 is but one compelling reason to focus on local executive search. But it isn’t the only reason. The longer I recruit, the more I have come to realize that, increasingly, executive candidates and senior technologists are resistant to relocation. Many leading candidates value the roots they’ve set down in their communities. They have friends and family nearby. Their kids are thriving in school. Special needs children do not do well with changes in their routines.

Candidates have built cherished memories associated with where they live.

This is where we bought our first house. This is the hospital where our baby was born. This is where our kids went to school.

When you relocate, you lose those physical reminders of a life well-lived. When you move away, you spend less time with the loved ones you leave behind. You make fewer memories with those you care most about.

Turn around, and a decade has passed. Turn around, another decade — gone. In time, your relationships are quite literally more distant.

While I can and do recruit candidates nationally, increasingly it is more important than ever to scour the local market thoroughly for hidden top performers. The reason? Fewer Americans are willing to move. 

Few Americans Willing to Relocate

2021 saw the lowest percentage of relocations in decades. According to the United States Census Bureau, a total of 27.1 million Americans moved in 2021, so about 8.4% percent. That’s the lowest “mover rate” since 1948 when the Census Bureau started tracking relocation and when 20% of Americans relocated. According to a Move.org survey, while people’s reasons for moving vary, many moving customers cited political, ecological, and economic concerns among their motivations. So while it may have seemed like everyone fled American cities for the suburbs at the start of the pandemic, Americans were and still are staying in place more than ever before.

How to Excel at Local Hiring

Fortunately, there are more top-performing candidates located within commuting distance than most companies realize. You just have to know how to find them. To avoid missing dream candidates, companies should consider taking an investigative approach. Traditional sourcing methods frequently miss top candidates standing in plain sight.

Hammering away at LinkedIn searches and googling for candidates results in gaping holes in the research. That results in candidates being overlooked. In other words, typical candidate sourcing and traditional approaches to executive search are flawed. They consistently miss stellar candidates, resulting in longer time-to-hire and failed searches.

Are Your Recruiters Investigative Enough?

How can you tell whether your recruiters are investigative enough? Pick your favorite target company and ask your search firm or sourcing team, “Do we have everyone?” at that company. If they answer in the affirmative, ask how they came to that conclusion. The answer should detail the company’s organizational structure, the teams where ideal candidates are located, and how your recruiter knows for certain they found everyone on that team. When you structure your sourcing and executive recruiting to answer that essential question, you accelerate your ability to hire top-performing talent in your own backyard.

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