Vaccine mandates are rolling out across the world and recruiters are feeling the pressure. It's a polarising issue so how do you manage inevitable conflicts as these requirements get folded into your application processes?

This morning, Australia’s Northern Territories has just introduced the strictest Covid19 Vaccine mandate in Aus for jobs that interact with members of the public. That includes people who work in retail, hospitality, banking - it covers thousands of cleaners, healthcare workers, teachers. Essentially, the vast majority of workers in the local communities.

From the 13th of November, any of these people will have to be vaccinated (or have a medical exemption) in order to work in these roles, with “failure to comply” being a hefty $5,000 fine.

Vaccine mandates like this are rolling out all over the world and polarising people left, right and centre. It’s not a simple equation, but regardless of which side of this debate you sit on, as a recruiter you’re likely to hit a moment soon where you’re asked to weave mandate requirements into your recruiting process.

Like with any polarising issue, you’re likely to get some push-back from some candidates.

Here are a few steps we’re seeing work to both pre-empt some of those complaints, or deal with them productively when they arise:

1. Create a dedicated place with lots of clear information about the vaccine and your mandate policy.

This could be a page on your career site that simply and clearly outlines your policy. I could also include FAQs that answer some of the main concerns your candidates are likely to have. This does two things: For some candidates it will address their worries head-on and allow them to either opt out if the mandate is a deal-breaker for them, or come to terms with the expectations early.
The second thing this does is gives you somewhere useful (and fast) to point candidates at when they get to you with questions or issues.

To make this page really effective, make sure:

- The language is really clear and simple. This is not the time for complex sentences. Or, if you need to use legally-defensible wording (read: complicated language) for certain things, follow up with a “this means…” explanation in really simple terms.
- Consider that different people take in information in different ways. Use written words, video, images or graphs to make sure the message can cut through for all groups and is easy to access on any device.

2. Flag the requirement early, and then repeat it.

No-one likes surprises in this kind of situation. Also, when people are anxious, it’s easy for them to skip over messages that escalate that anxiety. Flagging that a role requires a vaccine on your job ad is a great first step. Then repeating that message within your application process gives people who didn’t take it in the first time, a chance to jump into your info page and learn more, before you ask for proof at say, an interview or Working Rights stage.

3. Prep responses, so you can keep your eye on the prize.

Emotions are high on this issue - and not just the candidate’s emotions. We’re human too. As recruiters, we’re used to the constant juggle between our personal values systems, empathy for our candidate, and our professional requirement to KEEP THINGS MOVING.
Some days that juggle feels easier than others. Many of us will have strong opinions on the vaccine that’ll make engaging with this debate on a personal level really tempting.

Like everything, the key to avoiding this is good preparation.

Sit down with your team (virtually, if that’s your jam) for a whiteboard session where you role play being a candidate and throw up every objection, complaint, concern or question you can think of. Then come up with responses you can all use to counter these. The objective isn’t to convince someone to comply or change their mind, the goal is: 

  1. Diffuse: it’s hard for people to hear if they’re angry or panicked. All people deserve the respect of having their concerns acknowledged and noted. Do that and, more often than not, they’ll give you the same respect of hearing your message. 
  2. Inform: Make sure they clearly understand the org’s position - this is not YOUR position. It’s the organisation’s. Keep it impersonal, point them to resources. 
  3. Move on: Allow them to exit the process if this is a deal-breaker and quickly move on. This feels obvious, but there may be times this is hard to do (like, if someone is intentionally trying to provoke you into a debate) so it can be useful to have it explicitly stated.

While controversial requirements in a recruitment process are nothing new (*cough* universal drug testing *cough*), the speed at which these mandates are being introduced adds a whole new level of complexity. We're in uncharted waters.

This give us an awesome opportunity as people-people to share tips and methods as we all learn. Making sure our organisations can operate safely, candidates are heard and respected, and recruiting processes continue to hum.

Here comes the sell: Some of the biggest retailers in Australasia are using Weirdly's configurable workflows to do just this. Here's the clincher - we also have 24/7 candidate help-desk and enable you to proactively communicate with your candidate community. If this could be useful as your team navigates through these Covid-19 challenges, let's chat.