Why Local Hiring Is More Important Than Ever With COVID-19

COVID-19 is creating a growing number of challenges for companies seeking leadership talent. Those challenges are making hiring local executives more important than ever before. The reason? The more the Novel Coronavirus spreads, the more candidates are becoming reluctant to hop on planes to fly in for interviews. That makes local recruiting and local executive search an essential strategy to match force with COVID-19. Local hiring is becoming the new imperative.

Teleconferences Take You Only So Far

So, you might think, “No worries!” You can always dial up Zoom or Go-to-Meeting and conduct virtual interviews for candidates who do not live within commuting distance. But what then? What happens as the candidate becomes a finalist? While there are executives who still feel fine with travel, it is reasonable to expect that frequent flyers will become infrequent ones as the virus spreads.

Travel Increases COVID-19 Risk Exposure

Typically, companies fly in executive and technology candidates for on-site interviews — often several times before moving to offer. Even if those interviews can be done online, candidates and spouses are 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.

For non-local candidates, flights are hard to avoid and those flights now present a growing risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Seasoned travelers have long been aware that breathing recycled air on commercial jetliners increases exposure to the seasonal flu. The recent horror stories of the coronavirus contagion spreading on cruise ships and on rescue flights to the US have done little to quell traveler’s fears.

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, you simply do not know where other travelers have been.

Does an Employee Travel Ban Demand a Candidate Travel Ban?

Moreover, if you are among the companies that have announced that your employees will no longer be expected to travel due to the growing Novel Coronavirus risk, is it reasonable to expect candidates to travel? And even if a candidate leaps at the chance, is it ethically right to take advantage of that candidate’s willingness to possibly place themselves in harm’s way? Local recruiting sidesteps that ethical conundrum. 

Private Jets, Road Trips, or Staying Put?

Given the long incubation time of Novel Coronavirus during which people are infectious but don’t yet exhibit symptoms, the uncertainty is making travel for candidates far more challenging to manage.

Instead of flying, some candidates may be willing to mount long road trips, but again, that also increases exposure. Unless you have a corporate jet for transport, a growing number of candidates will likely prefer to stay put.

Time to Power Up Local Executive Search.

In the age of COVID-19, companies need to do a better job of finding local candidates. For example, we consistently surface A-players others miss. That’s because we take an unrelenting, investigative approach based on methods I learned as an investigative journalist. We cultivate highly-placed sources. Surfacing the best-of-the-best takes greater expertise, but it can be done.

Local Recruiting Doesn’t Work for Every Opening

Now, there will be openings for which there are few local candidates, particularly in cities and towns outside larger metropolitan areas. But for all the other openings, starting local, going deep, and ensuring you haven’t missed anyone seriously increases recruiting success. In fact, doing so will make your company more successful at acquiring the talent you need as other employers stumble.

Local Executives Bring Benefits

When candidates are local, it speeds interviewing and time-to-hire. The candidates know the landscape. They have local relationships that they can leverage. 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

COVID-19 is a 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 — some of the special needs children do not do well with changes in their routine.

These candidates have built 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.

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

Recently, Axios reported that relocation has dropped dramatically. 10% of Americans moved to new places in the 2018-2019 year, just half the rate it was when the Census Bureau started tracking domestic relocations in 1947. In addition to the micro reasons mentioned above, the macro reasons are many.

Student Debt is a Drag on Housing Demand

Relocation is not as easy as it was before. Demand in many U.S. real estate markets has remained flat. That is due, in part, to the delay in the purchase of starter homes by young adults. They first have to pay off massive amounts of student debt.

More Americans Are Stuck in Place

As a result, young adults are less able to buy. Older adults are less able to sell. Consequently, many Americans are stuck in place.

Moreover, while jobs were pretty interchangeable a few decades ago, now they are more specialized and concentrated in specific regions. There, the cost of housing has skyrocketed. Even with generous compensation packages, many candidates cannot afford to maintain their current standard of living with a move to San Francisco or New York.

How to Uncover More Local Candidates

Fortunately, there are more top-performing candidates living within commuting distance than most companies realize. You just have to know how to find them.

We do so by going into target companies, mapping reporting relationships, and building org charts. That is how we ensure we leave no stone unturned and no viable candidate unrecruited. That approach is the key to local recruiting.

Hammering away at LinkedIn Recruiter searches and googling for candidates results in gaping holes in the research and in missed candidates. In other words, typical candidate sourcing and traditional approaches to executive search are not strategic enough. That approach is not designed to tell you whether you have identified all potential candidates at your top target companies.

Instead, every local executive search should enable you to answer the question, “Do we have everyone?” 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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