Leader Recruiting in the Covid Era: Finding Silver Linings

By Jack Messerly

One of my favorite (and one of the most important) parts of the Apogee off-season is recruiting the next batch of Apogee leaders and staff – and that’s not just because I get to see my family in my home state of Minnesota or enjoy a week of warm Virginia weather in February. While those are certainly nice perks, what I really love is the opportunity to connect with so many enthusiastic and talented applicants, and I finish each recruiting swing energized and more excited about the summer than ever. Plus, we have current and past leaders attending many of the colleges and universities that we visit, so it’s always an extra bonus to catch up with those wonderful folks.

As you may have guessed, we’ve transitioned to entirely virtual leader recruiting this year due to Covid-19. This means that we’ve lost some of our favorite aspects of recruiting, and we’ve had to adapt and overcome several new challenges. Yet, as has so often been the case with Covid, we’ve discovered several silver linings while adapting to these new challenges.

Trip leader hug
We <3 our leaders, as evidenced by Marie and Anna’s bear hug. We can’t wait for hugs again!

One of the most surface-level added benefits of virtual recruiting is the time we save by conducting our recruiting from the comfort of our own homes. During in-person recruiting, in addition to the many hours spent on the road (or in the air), we also had to simultaneously find time to stay up to speed on our other work – trip logistics, family communications, etc. – and it should come as no surprise that I’m more productive working on the three monitors in my home office (which doubles as my living room) than on my laptop in a hotel room. So we’ve found that virtual recruiting is a much more efficient use of our time and money. Additionally, and more importantly, we’ve found that our applicant pool is just as robust – in both numbers and quality of applicants – as ever before.

In some ways, our applicant pool is actually more impressive than in years past, which leads me to the next silver lining of Covid-era recruiting. In pre-Covid times, we focused our marketing efforts heavily on the 40 or so colleges and universities where we were recruiting in-person. This year, we cast a wider net to advertise more broadly to over 60 schools across the country as well as other job boards and job sites. This new approach has resulted in an applicant pool that includes more colleges and university representation, more varied applicant backgrounds and experiences, increased geographic representation, and more racial diversity. This aligns with one of our equity goals, too; the transition to all virtual interviews allowed us to reach a wider, more diverse applicant pool by removing barriers and increasing access to our application and interview process.

Finally, I think it’s worth emphasizing that despite this new approach to leader recruiting, we’ve been more impressed than ever with both the quantity and quality of our applicants. Over the last five months, we’ve met with hundreds of incredibly qualified, capable candidates and still have our final application deadline ahead of us. Now, we’re just a few weeks away from putting the finishing touches on what we feel is one of the strongest teams in Apogee’s 20-year history. And if you’ve heard us say it once, you’ve heard us say it 1000 times, but it still bears repeating: the quality of our leaders defines the quality of our program, and we’re confident that we have the very best leaders out there.

So what does this mean for recruiting when we’re not as limited by Covid restrictions (a time that can’t come soon enough!)? We expect to be able to recruit in-person again for the summer of 2022, and while we absolutely plan to be back on campuses around the country, I imagine that a hybrid approach is in the cards for us. There is no question that the pandemic pushed us to this more inclusive, more flexible approach to hiring. Indeed, this is one of several true silver linings we’re finding as we adjust to the many changes, large and small, coming out of the last year.