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Talent Talk: Hiring in the Time of COVID

Believe me when I say I thought my last COVID-related blog had been written long ago, but recently we encountered a situation that is driving some internal changes at our company. Anyone who is either part of the hiring process or is considering a job change needs to be aware of this.

I also need to insert a disclaimer because this issue can easily lead to controversy. The purpose of this discussion is to provide practical information to both employers and candidates, nothing more.

Here is the situation we encountered: After months of recruiting for a large company in the plastics manufacturing industry, the company concluded the interview process and made an offer to a candidate. The offer letter contained language that required the candidate to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to the start date as a condition of employment. There were also options for weekly testing and accommodations for disability, medical condition, or religious belief, in lieu of vaccination.

This was not something we had discussed with the employer or the candidate. It did not come up during the extensive interview process, and upon discovering that the candidate was not fully vaccinated and did not intend to be, the lessons we are going to discuss were learned. Fortunately, we were able to find a compromise between the company and the candidate and salvage the employment contract, but we immediately implemented changes as described below.

If you are applying for a new position and vaccination status is a factor for you, consider asking something like what we are now asking our client companies. We ask: “Will a candidate’s COVID-19 vaccination status have any impact on your hiring decision or the interview process? We have some clients who either have a vaccine mandate in place or a requirement for specific roles (travel, customer interaction, etc.) and it will be helpful to understand your policy up front.”

If the answer is yes, we dig a little deeper into the specifics and will make sure to address them with candidates early in the process. If the answer is no, then we do not care, and it is not an issue. As a company we have no position, other than making sure we do not get to the finish line only to have the issue arise.

If your company does have a vaccine requirement, consider asking something like what we would then ask potential candidates, early in the process. We ask: “If COVID-19 vaccination status is a consideration of employment with this company (due to travel, customer interaction, work with government, etc.), would that be an issue for you?” 

One final note: This is an evolving topic, one that involves several government agencies, as well as the courts, so if vaccination status is a factor in your employment, stay current on any new developments.

About the author

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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