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  • KPMG Taking Measured Approach in Coronavirus Response

    March 23, 2020 | By NACE Staff

    Best Practices
    A recruiter at KPMG conducts a virtual interview during the coronavirus pandemic.

    TAGS: best practices, internships, operations, nace insights, coronavirus

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    Organizational, government, and health organization guidelines in response to the coronavirus pandemic have led KPMG to take a measured and practical approach to college recruiting. In mid-March, KPMG closed all of its offices and mandated that all KPMG people work from home.

    “Our student recruitment team is working hard to navigate this challenge, remaining nimble and flexible and addressing everything as it comes up,” says Sean Treccia, KPMG’s director of campus recruiting.

    “When this started a couple of weeks ago, we did not stop everything; instead, KPMG relied on credible information and guidance from the WHO and the CDC, and the true health experts.”

    The firm has canceled all in-person recruiting activity.

    “At this time of year, we are done with career fairs at schools, so it’s really just interviews and follow-up events that are affected so far,” Treccia says.

    He notes that interviews have been moved to virtual via Skype or other technology, while follow-up events have either been canceled completely or moved to a virtual platform.

    “We have a virtual tool that we use for one person presenting to a group of people,” he explains.

    “Some recruiters are choosing to use that, while others are opting to schedule individual follow-ups. It has created a lot more work for our recruiting team. You would think that if we cancel an event, it would make our job easier, but the reality is that now, we are trying to schedule 75 individual follow-ups. It has taken a lot more time and effort.”

    KPMG finished most of its 2020 hiring in the fall. At this point in the current recruiting cycle, KPMG is recruiting interns and full-time hires from the Class of 2021.  

    The firm has developed a general structure for working remotely for managers to share among their teams. Internal communications are delivered through the KPMG intranet, including video messages from leadership, to provide updates and share encouragement.

    The general message is the same: KPMG’s number one priority is everyone’s health and safety. It is planning to continue with certain programs and events that are scheduled in June, July, or August as of this point, but it is working on contingencies and will adjust as needed.

    “The emphasis is on everyone’s health and safety,” Treccia says.
    He offers some tips to his colleagues for operating in this unprecedented situation, including to:

    • Be comfortable with uncertainty—“This can be difficult because so many of our colleagues are younger professionals. Experienced URR professionals have been through challenging times before, so we need to help others manage the uncertainty. We are lucky that we have jobs that allow us to work remotely and a firm that is supportive. Messaging will come out and even though the messaging might be invalid 24 hours later, it does not mean the people coming up with it were not thinking through it; it is just that the situation is changing so rapidly. Help them to be patient and understand that everything is changing quickly, which can be frustrating. KPMG has set up a specific charge code for everyone in the firm to use if they need to take time off because they are either unable to work, because of the situation, or because they just do not feel comfortable. Be a voice of reason for someone who just is not comfortable right now or who may have family members who are scared or nervous. Provide all the support you can to help others manage the stress and uncertainty of this situation.”
    • Not minimize the importance of the one-on-one connection—“Do not assume that large virtual events or programs are going to solve everything. There needs to be a lot of one-on-one or small-group conversations that could, ideally, be through video technology as simple as Facetime or Skype, but at the very least, on the phone. When you lose that physical touch that you have with people, you have to still maintain the one-on-one interaction. It is challenging and, ultimately, more work. You save significant time not having to travel, but you end up using that time to then do one-on-one conversations.”
    • Limit the number of attendees at your virtual events—“As you are conducting events virtually and trying to do more one on one, reduce the pool of candidates with whom you have to talk. For a live event, you can invite any student who wants to attend and chat with them for a couple of minutes. If you are doing it virtually, however, that could get overwhelming. Put parameters on attendance and make students register. For example, only include those who meet your minimum GPA or who have the right degree requirements. Doing so might upset some students who do not get to attend, but you have limited time and you want to use the time that you do have to focus on the right people. Remember that the students who are the best fits deserve your time. You don’t want them to lose that time because you are talking to students who are in a major that you cannot even hire.”

    While the impact of this pandemic is unprecedented, Treccia says URR functions can adjust and progress by taking a practical approach.

    “Get credible information and react calmly,” Treccia says.

    “Communication is really important, so we’ve been getting information out right away, even if we don’t have an answer. Be proactive with your information, and even when you do not have a solution yet, let your people know that you are working toward one. It is about balancing the mechanics that naturally come with being responsible.”