How to Recruit Furloughed Employees

Recruiting Hacks

With an unemployment rate in excess of 13%, the overwhelming majority of industries find themselves unable to maintain their pre-COVID employment numbers.

Yet, while many companies have experienced a considerable contraction in their workforce over the past few months, a number of large corporations–Amazon, CVS, Albertsons, and others–actually expanded their hiring efforts in order to address the increased demand for their services.

Unable to utilize traditional hiring processes, these companies found creative and efficient ways to identify and hire quality candidates. With more states and business re-opening, the need to successfully re-hire or hire furloughed talent is imperative.

So, if your organization is fortunate enough to be hiring during the pandemic, looking for furloughed employees may be a good place to start. The question becomes how to do so most effectively. This article covers some of the most fundamental considerations.

What is a Furlough?

Before we get started, it’s worth defining what a furlough is and distinguishing a furlough from a layoff. Fortune magazine has a good answer to these questions. 

A furlough “is an unpaid leave of absence. While furloughed employees still technically retain their jobs, the furlough itself means that they cease working for their employers and do not earn a salary.

The idea is that this is a temporary arrangement, and workers will one day be able to return to their jobs.” While furloughed employees typically do not earn a paycheck, they do maintain their benefits, like healthcare. Furloughed employees are also eligible to collect unemployment benefits.

Furloughs vs. Layoffs

And therein lies the difference between a furlough and a layoff: “While a furlough is meant to be a temporary arrangement, being laid off is quite the opposite: a permanent termination of one’s employment, including salary and benefits. The door is open for one’s return when furloughed; when laid off, that’s very rarely the case.”

This distinction is essential. Hiring a furloughed employee means that you are likely hiring a temporary one. Furloughed workers remain employed and often expect to return to their employer once the furlough period concludes.

But during an economic crisis like the one we’re experiencing now, this arrangement may be mutually beneficial. Just as a furlough is temporary, it’s likely that the boost in demand for your goods and services are as well.

Since furlough periods will likely conclude once businesses are allowed to open and social distancing policies are eased or lifted, the furlough timeline should map nicely onto your period of increased demand. 

In other words, furloughed workers are likely looking for temporary jobs for roughly the same amount of time as you need them. 

The CVS Model of Recruiting and Hiring Furloughed Workers

So how do you hire them? Well, it’s useful to start with the strategies major corporations are already utilizing. 

Hilton: Hilton Hotels has furloughed over a quarter-million workers. 60,000 of those work directly in corporate offices; the other 200,000 work at Hilton franchise hotels. 

As numerous news outlets have reported, Hilton has partnered with a number of corporations, including Amazon and CVS, to find temporary work for their furloughed workforce.

This partnership has enabled both sides to implement procedures that have eliminated bureaucracy and promoted greater connectivity between organizations to allow Hilton employees to quickly and easily transition into their new temporary roles. 

The major component of this partnership is the creation of a “shared online resource center.” Providing further detail, CVS describes the partnership as constructing a “technology-enabled hiring process that includes virtual job fairs, virtual interviews and virtual job tryouts.”

CVS’ success is remarkable. They’ve hired more than 60,000 new employees, far in excess of their goal of 50,000. The increase marks more than a 25% expansion in their workforce.

“We went to virtual almost overnight,” said Jeffrey Lackey, CVS’ VP of Talent Acquisition. “We have something that would normally take a large corporation months, years potentially…In 48 hours, we created an accelerated hiring process.”

The other key component in this partnership is an agreement on shared competencies, skills, and experience between Hilton and partnering corporations.

Explaining why corporations were willing to partner, Nigel Glennie, vice president of corporate communication at Hilton, in an interview with USA TODAY, stated, “The recognized quality of our team members, including their hospitality and service culture training, make them ideal candidates to quickly step in and assist organizations in these temporary assignments.”

As the Hilton case study reveals, the two most important components of constructing systems and methods to hire furloughed employees are:

  1. Finding workers with shared skills, competencies, and experiences.
  2. Designing technologies that streamline the identification, hiring, and transition from furlough to temporary worker. 

How to Proceed with Talent Communities

We think there are three basic steps to begin the recruitment of furloughed workers. They are:

  1. Identify desired workers
  2. Forge partnerships with appropriate organizations
  3. Strategize streamlining the hiring and transition process

Start by identifying the workers you’d like to attract. An important early distinction is whether there are furloughed workers within your industry. Ask yourself questions like:

  1. Are there furloughed workers that work in our specific field and industry?
  2. If not, are their furloughed workers in related industries, which require similar skill sets and knowledge bases?
  3. If not, what industries are furloughing workers and how can we leverage their skills and experiences to help meet our increased demands?

Additionally, keep geography in mind. A competitor may have furloughed hundreds of ideal workers for you to hire, but if they’re located on the other side of the country you’re out of luck. Workers are unlikely to relocate for temporary work. So look locally when examining the previous three questions.

Building Recruiting Partnerships

From there you can forge partnerships with appropriate organizations. The Hilton case works so well because there is mutual benefit on both sides. Amazon isn’t trying to poach Hilton workers and Hilton isn’t trying to offload healthcare costs onto Amazon.

In other words, everyone wins— Amazon, Hilton, and workers. As you identify organizations you’d like to partner with, be sure you approach them with a plan detailing how all sides will benefit. This is, after all, a partnership, not a competition.  

A Platform for Talent Redeployment

Lastly, once you’ve established partnerships you need to find creative ways to identify, attract, and hire furloughed workers. As the Hilton case shows, a shared database of some kind is particularly useful.

In fact, SmartRecruiters has released a talent redeployment platform to minimize the impact of layoffs and create talent communities for employees to enjoy priority hiring by recruiters in, across, and/or outside of your organization.

The tool enhances in-placement and outplacement functionality, and improves the overall experience by enabling employees to opt-in to the talent communities of their choice.

The platform helps promote greater visibility to the internal skills of your employment, more accuracy predicting the skills you lack, and helps rapidly mobilize and redeploy talent to mitigate loss of functions. 


Remember, in order for hiring furloughed workers to work most effectively, it has to benefit all sides. Each organization should find the arrangement desirable. More importantly, workers should feel comfortable that the pursuit of temporary work with a partner organization is encouraged by their employers and will in no way have an adverse impact when they are able to return to their employer. So do your homework and be creative!

P.S. there’s no better time than the present to reassess your ATS. For a limited time, SmartRecruiters is offering eligible companies a below-market-rate offer for a complete and flexible talent acquisition platform. Designed to drive technological change, this stimulus package will help businesses that want to take advantage of the hiring slowdown to upgrade their ATS and reduce costs. Benefits include:

  • Contract buyouts and zero transition costs
  • Significant savings on technology, people, and sourcing costs
  • An accelerated path to Hiring Success

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