Opinion: Hiring in the times of Covid-19? A Guide for MENA Startups

Here in the Middle East we are beginning to settle into our new normality, albeit temporarily. During these times of change it is important to avoid tactical responses that could do long-term damage. How heavily your business has been impacted depends on your industry. While some are facing huge disruption and drops in revenue, others are thriving, and struggling to keep up with demand. What all businesses have in common however, is people. Whatever your situation, all companies will be asking questions around how to manage their workforce, whether they should continue to hire, and how to onboard new staff. In this article we address some key considerations to give thought to around; key roles, timing of hiring, candidate and market sentiment, and practical advice to aid the hiring process remotely. At True, we’re certainly seeing a continued focus on senior level hires such as at C and VP level across tech, product and business development. This in large part to navigate the current climate, but also to ensure on the other side of this the team is shaped correctly.

Business Continuity

For many of you, you will be testing your business continuity plans for the first time. Fundamentally they should ensure that you can resume or restore business activities as quickly as possible following an unexpected event. From a people perspective this should ensure that you identify your key employees in the short term (ensuring they are well catered for) and revise your talent plan for the changed horizon. Keep in mind those businesses in the more heavily impacted fields (travel, tourism and hospitality) will find their best people become targets from other industries. Aside from an engagement plan to retain your team, you should consider succession planning and adding of new skills to your teams to support the transition back to ‘business as usual’ and beyond.


After taking a breath you will no doubt be re-working your business plan for the remainder of 2020 and will need to ensure that your talent plan supports your business plan. Isolate the business-critical functions that you might need to focus on. Think about core personnel and people needed to perform any required market pivots. This plan should take into account what your requirements are now, in a recovery and as the market returns to strength. As preparation for a return to normal or even an increase in business, it’s important to consider the length of time it may take to hire. Considering it often takes a few months to hire along with a 3-month notice period, so even if you’re looking now, it could be September/October before your new hire is on board. Ultimately incoming or present talent will be looking for safety, support and recognition, things you should be offering all your key players.

Are candidates currently hesitant to move?

We are constantly in touch with global candidates across all functions, and while there are some that are less willing to leave right now, there is other top talent at organisations where they may feel less safe.  Explaining to candidates why you are structured to make the most of this market and taking significant time to help them understand your plans can help candidates comprehend why you are a safer choice.

Competitive advantage

With some in-market cutting back on staff, or reducing compensation, now can be a great time to steal away talent you may not normally be able to dislodge. You want to be able to use this opportunity to maintain/build a team to best react to this event and deal with a post Covid-19 world. Achieving this requires staying on top of your talent. This applies as much to your existing team as new hires.

How do I manage the recruiting process remotely?

For many companies that have hired candidates from outside of the country, video conferencing will be very familiar and a great way to utilise available technologies, to get to know your candidates in both a formal and informal setting. It’s important to enlist trusted team members and ‘culture champions’ to virtually meet candidates to sufficiently reflect your company’s internal culture and values. Get creative with your calls, they don’t necessarily have to be in a ‘conference room’ setting. Leverage formal and informal references, focusing on specific scenarios and how the candidate addressed them.  Here our Co-Head of the PDT Practice, North America, Shawn Thorne outlines some great tips for managing the remote hiring process.

Can I effectively onboard an employee while they’re working remotely?

Absolutely! Utilise the many available technology solutions to engage your new employee with the teams that they will be working with early on. Set expectations early, assign an on-boarding buddy to guide them through the processes and standard practices of the business, ensuring your existing workforce appreciate their part of the process.

Set regular check ins with management in advance to build trust and ensure the new starter has ample opportunity to receive feedback and share views. Here our GM of North America, Josh Withers, shares his advice on working remotely.

Executive onboarding tools, such as Synthesis can be a very useful resource to get new hires up and running effectively. Delivered remotely, they are a great addition to the onboarding process. They can identify leaders’ strengths, weaknesses, potential and motivators. This sets the stage for optimal leadership in our fast moving and dynamic world. Such assessments can accelerate your new hire’s ability to make a positive impact on the business, and integrate into the organisation with ease, improving performance from stronger working relationships.

While we are no doubt in turbulent and uncertain times, it is vital to retain and potentially recruit the best talent, whether it’s because there is heightened demand in your industry, or because you need to support business plans for the remainder of 2020 and beyond. Should you wish to discuss your current talent plans and challenges, discuss executive onboarding tools or gain further market insight, please feel free to connect with us on MAGNiTT!

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