No doubt your recruiting and hiring process has been up-ended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. You may have some open positions and have implemented new virtual recruiting initiatives. But what do you do if you’re in a temporary hiring freeze? At South Shore and Cape Cod MassHire Career Centers, our Business Services teams remain busy assisting essential services employers hiring now. We are equally busy referring candidates for positions that are likely to open in the weeks or months ahead because employers know they will need to be ready to bring on talent quickly once the new normal resumes. You know it’s important to keep your talent pipeline active. Today, that means elevating your usual outreach strategy to keep candidates warm and attract potential talent so that you are well positioned when things return to normal. Most candidates will expect a hiring freeze at this time, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in hearing from you. How you communicate with them throughout the “freeze” will influence their continued interest in working for you. Here are some tips to help you stay connected to candidates who are at various stages in the pipeline. For Candidates Who Have Applied It’s important to stay in touch and keep the conversation going. It may be awkward to announce you’re freezing hires but emphasize that you hope that it’s a temporary situation. Stress that you are looking forward to having quality candidates like them join your team when things are back to normal. Update your website’s careers page with messages that explain the hiring situation and explain that it may take you longer than usual to respond to applicants. Create an email marketing strategy to share relevant content with applicants on an ongoing basis. Personalize these messages whenever possible. Consider providing links to helpful information about coping with the crisis and staying safe. Keep the embers warm by encouraging candidates to follow your social platforms to learn how your company is supporting its employees, customers and community during the COIVD-19 crisis. For Candidates Who Have Interviewed Keep your outreach plan personal via, phone or video chat, with those who have already interviewed. While you can’t extend any guarantees, you can assure them that you will reach out again when the positions are re-opened. Encourage them to keep updating you about their journey during these unprecedented times. Are they pursuing new certifications? Participating in zoom webinars or conferences? Have they engaged in volunteer efforts to help their neighbors? Are they mastering home-schooling skills? Be honest if the decision has been made to eliminate or revise the scope of the position. If they’ve advanced to the top of the candidate pool, then explore ways that you can utilize their talents and skills for other positions within your company. Establish a routine check-in calendar to demonstrate your continued interest in their candidacy. For Passive Candidates Sourcing qualified passive candidates should always be on your radar. And many, especially furloughed and those who are anticipating furloughs, may be actively seeking new employment opportunities during this pandemic. Develop messages to cultivate candidates and keep them moving through the process. Your initial contact needs to be candid and informative about your current hiring situation. Let candidates know that you don’t have immediate openings but look forward to when the positions re-open, hopefully soon. Encourage them to perform the application process whether it’s completing an online form or submitting their resume and cover letter, or both. Explain that taking this step keeps them in the communications channel for important company updates. Show empathy for the added stress of job searching during a health crisis of this magnitude. Simply state that you respect their time and understand that their availability for phone or video conversations may be limited due to caring for others during the pandemic. Take a few minutes to connect with them, via email or phone, to discuss their career aspirations and why they’re interested in working for your company. This will help you determine if they’re a good fit and if you want to assign a ranking to them in the talent pool. Creating a COVID-19 communications strategy that touches all candidates in your talent pipeline will expedite the hiring process once this crisis is eradicated. Keeping in touch through multiple channels will keep your candidates warm and ready once the freeze is lifted. Keeping your talent pipeline active also means communicating regularly with your MassHire Career Center partners. The career centers’ free job posting and recruiting services will further advance your candidate sourcing efforts. So even if you need to keep moving the goal posts for dates when you’ll be hiring, keep feeding your talent pipeline so you’re ready to score great hires when you need them. Neila Neary is business services manager for MassHire Cape and Islands Career Center in Hyannis.