There are currently 405,000 temporary or full-time positions available at just eight companies, among them Amazon, Walmart, CVS, and Domino’s. Filling them over the next two weeks would mean that these eight companies have to hire a combined 28,928 new workers a day.

That is, if they can wait that long. Make no mistake, time is of the essence as these and other companies are scrambling to hire workers to meet a surge in demand prompted by the coronavirus outbreak. Walmart alone is looking to hire 150,000 workers, for instance, while Amazon wants to bring on 100,000 workers to meet increased demand. But it isn’t just delivery companies, drugstores, and supermarkets that are looking to hire. Video conferencing and digital payment companies, for example, are also looking to hire workers to help with a boom in usage.

With health and safety concerns altering the traditional recruiting process, however, Byrne Mulrooney, CEO of Korn Ferry’s RPO, Professional Search and Products, says the pandemic could ultimately be the tipping point that breaks organizations’ predisposition toward in-person hiring, whether for individual positions or at scale.

“This kind of event could cause organizations to recognize that digital tools can be as effective as a face-to-face interview, as the final arbiter of whether a candidate gets a job or not,” says Mulrooney.

To be sure, organizations have been using artificial intelligence to increase recruiting capacity and augment their recruitment teams for years. Recruiting platforms such as Korn Ferry’s Nimble, for instance, use AI to identify candidates, usher them through the recruiting process, conduct automated interviews and background checks, and assemble a shortlist of candidates for hiring managers to review.

The difference now, says Jeanne MacDonald, president of RPO solutions with Korn Ferry, is that the compressed time frame means organizations have to be ready to make an offer, get paperwork signed, and onboard candidates in real time. “Organizations can’t get hung up on the offer side,” says McDonald. “They need to be prepared to make an offer over a platform or mobile device without human intervention if necessary.”

Outside of AI-influenced hiring—and in keeping with the purpose movement—organizations can also work through industry associations to “make a market in labor” for displaced workers from other sectors, says Nathan Blain, a Korn Ferry senior client partner and global leader for organizational strategy and digital transformation. For example, hotels and restaurants forced to lay off workers are coordinating with their peers in grocery and mass-market merchandising to find homes for some of their talent. They can also pivot marketing messages to tap into neighboring businesses to help redeploy furloughed workers from the community.

“There’s a vast supply of local talent now available that wasn’t there three weeks ago. These people have the skills that organizations seeing increased demand from the outbreak need,” says Blain.

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