The coronavirus and the UK lockdown has had an extraordinary impact on the world of work, and it is likely that it will shape the future of work too. It has forced a considerable amount of us to adapt to working at home; having to find virtual and remote solutions to our day to day activities. For many, recruitment has not been a priority, and HR have had to deal with both redundancies and the process of furloughing staff. Despite what you might think, there are companies that have not been as affected by the pandemic or that still have critical positions that need to be filled. As we start to navigate our way through this in the medium to long term there are companies starting to look to the future.
Slowly but surely, recruitment is on the increase and from the start of May it was reported to be going up by 28% week-on-week. Recruitment is on the agenda, the only difference being the processes that are now in place as we adapt to a virtual world.
The concept of telephone or video interviews is not new, particularly in global businesses, they have often been used as an initial screening process or as a meet and greet with the CEO at that final hurdle. Before March 2020 I doubt that there were any jobs offers without a face to face meeting having taken place during the recruitment process, but now the entire recruitment process including onboarding is successfully being completed virtually! That’s been a real challenge for candidates and employers alike as many people are not as comfortable doing a video interview, as they are in a face-to-face meeting. Candidates are trying to put their best selves forward and showcase their personalities, demonstrating that they are the right culture fit for a business they can’t see or feel. And on the other side of the screen employers are trying to establish the same thing across a 2D platform without the benefit of seeing how candidates interact physically with their business.
For those that are successful in securing new roles, they find themselves joining companies in a virtual setting rather than a real one. Simple human interactions like the day one office tour, the hands-on induction or getting a cup of coffee with a new team member are being replaced with technological alternatives. Which begs the questions, what are companies doing and what is the experience like for the new employee?
Companies adapting with change...
Career Moves recently partnered with a fast growth tech company to hire a senior HR leader, a company that has continued to grow throughout the pandemic.
‘We had pretty aggressive growth targets for 2020, and we are fortunate that business hasn't slowed significantly for us since the outbreak.
The main challenge has been the ability to be able to manage the interview process while everyone is entirely remote. We normally host frequent hiring events, which give candidates the chance to find out more about who we are. We have transitioned this online to be an interactive video call with one of our Leadership team and so far, this has worked really well! Candidates have given really positive feedback and said it's helped cement their decision when making a move.
Candidates often need to perform a case study, or coding challenge as part of our interview process. We have been able to utilise software to allow candidates to seamlessly perform and deliver these tasks to interviewers, even when they aren't in the same room.
We have been surprised to see that a lot of candidates we are interviewing have multiple opportunities. While this is a good sign for the job market generally, this could also be due to the fact that candidates who are currently employed have more time while at home to consider opportunities’.
From our first-hand experience with our clients, we know that they have been able to speed up their recruitment processes, as scheduling a video call is easier than booking in a physical meeting that requires several people to be in the same place at the same time. That said, the process has become longer as employers have been organising more meetings with the wider team, both to get a rounded opinion of the candidate but also to help the candidate engage with the business effectively.
Candidates have had to gather enough information during the interview process to be confident about accepting a job offer at a time when they may not have visited their future place of work or shaken the hand of the people they will be working with. Due diligence is the order of the day. Leigh-Anne Jansen a Global Director of People and Talent, currently on the market for a new opportunity suggests researching on Glassdoor and LinkedIn, Googling news articles, reaching out to your own network and making sure you do a deep dive on what you have found out about the company by questioning thoroughly during the interview process.
Leigh-Anne is quite familiar with the virtual recruitment experience as an employer, having built global teams in the past, so she has found the experience as a candidate interesting. “It is a great opportunity to ensure you are well prepared and in fact it was less stressful for me as there was no journey to contend with, no coats or bags involved. I dialled in early for all my virtual interviews and ensured I had good sound and video by testing things out in advance which reduced stress’.
Career Moves key takeaways when preparing for a virtual interview
Treat your video interview as though it is a real life one. Whilst the commute to a physical meeting can be stressful particularly on public transport, it does give you the head space to mentally prepare. You should treat a video interview in the same way, don’t go straight into it 5 minutes after finishing with the kid’s homework! Shower and dress as if you were visiting the office and take the time to prepare for any technical hitches in the same way you would for any transport delays; combat potential hiccups by giving yourself more time beforehand. Test that your video and microphone work and that the lighting in your room doesn’t cause a glare on your screen.
This may just be the hardest thing to prepare for as there are some distractions that are out of your control. Anything from the doorbell ringing, to wandering children to absent minded housemates. Trying to keep your composure when you’ve been thrown off your game is difficult, if you can arrange a time to do your interview when you know you will have your home to yourself, you’ll be far more likely to relax.
Take advantage of your situation
A video call gives you an opportunity to create the right impression and you can be creative with your situation. Make sure that what your camera picks up in the background is a suitable backdrop for an interview. You could have flashcards stuck around the screen of your laptop that will remind you to ask certain questions or share anecdotes that you’d otherwise forget.
Once the interview and job offer process has been successfully navigated, we find ourselves in uncharted waters… Onboarding a new starter from home!
Anna Saller, Head of People had to do just that when she joined Hudson Sadler at the end of March just after the lockdown came into force. (Anna has written about her own experience on LinkedIn which you can read here)
‘I think one of the biggest challenges with starting remotely has been getting to know my new colleagues without being able to physically meet them, chat to them around the office and capitalise on those 'water cooler' moments which can be such a critical part of relationship building. Thankfully Hudson Sandler has embraced technology such as MS Teams so within my first month I had 'met' every member of the team through video calls. As well as these introduction calls, pretty much every time I speak to one of my colleagues it's via video and full of 'water cooler chat' as well as the work at hand. Six weeks on and I really feel I'm getting to know everyone’.
The virtual shift to remote working…?
At Career Moves we have long embraced remote working in order to retain the best talent and in doing so we have created a happier and more productive workplace, with a mutual respect for trust. Whilst we are London based, one of our Executive Search team lives and works in Newcastle and a Senior HR Consultant does her job from her home in Madrid. In fact, as a result of this pandemic we have already decided that our next recruit into the business does not have to live within a daily commute of the office; it will be exciting to see how this opens up our talent pool!
Employers who have been reticent about allowing their people to work from home have now seen that they do have the technology and the infrastructure to make it happen. Communication has been key and to that end we all pray to the new gods – Zoom and Teams! What has become apparent is that despite this being thrust upon them, work is still getting done. Accepting, even embracing the fact that remote working can work effectively, opens up all sorts opportunities from cost saving on office space to hiring good talent from further afield, those are pretty powerful advantages in business so it will be interesting to see what longer term shift we see in companies recruiting decisions.
By Jason Willis & Charlotte Moncrieff