Opinion: Lockdown is no barrier to recruitment

Kevin Woods, manager – global packaging division, Mercury Search
Monday, May 18, 2020

It is clear that Covid-19 has impacted every area of business and recruitment is no different.

Kevin Woods, manager – global packaging division, Mercury Search
Kevin Woods, manager – global packaging division, Mercury Search

We have all always relied on people’s abilities to meet face to face in order to successfully service our customers needs. Central to this, of course, is the ability to communicate effectively.

Necessity has paved the way for an interesting new perspective on the options available to us when we communicate with our colleagues, customers, suppliers and everything in between.

There has always been a strong conviction that there is no substitute for face to face interaction and I still maintain this today. What has changed however is the understanding of the cost and time / reward balance. ‘Do I need to drive five hours for a coffee meeting that could potential be done over Zoom or Skype? Did I need to fly overseas for a one-hour meeting when I could have quite effectively done this remotely?’ All of these highlight the opportunity to reduce the time and cost of travel versus the judicious use of technology.

Interestingly, on the flip side of this, ‘can I enhance the experience of what would have ordinarily been a quick telephone call with the use of video conferencing?’

In a way it's rather like the initial introduction of digital printing. The initial linear thinking leads us to look at how we can make the same things cheaper with this technology. The more imaginative quickly moved on to ‘how can this technology add more value and offer something better?’

As a keen observer of the industry I have noticed interesting trends and a wide range of approaches.

Whilst some have indeed placed their requirements on hold until movement restrictions have eased, just as many have been keen to embrace a fully remote process to ensure that they are using this period to source and secure the top talent that they know their businesses will need for the future.

There is no right or wrong choice, but what it has done is highlight a range of interesting ideas and options when it comes to running a successful recruitment campaign remotely. In addition, it has also changed or removed many of the negative assumptions once held around this format. Despite this, we have also encountered many of the pitfalls that can occur when trying anything new for the first time. Below, I have shared some of the key lessons in organising remote interviews.

Ensure you understand and can use your system
This may seem obvious but it happens a lot. First impressions count and the inability to actually connect effectively, always sets a bad tone for a remote meeting. Whether you are using Zoom, Teams or Skype, make sure that you understand how it works and test it with a colleague beforehand. In addition, make sure that your candidate has all of the information needed to successfully join the call. Your chosen format may not be theirs so offer them the opportunity to contact you if they are not familiar with the format.

Beware of your surroundings
Again, an obvious one but something people do forget to prepare for. Visually check with your camera that what is behind you is appropriate and ensure that the image is getting enough light so that the other person can see you clearly. Test the microphone before starting the call to ensure that you can be heard clearly.
At present, most of us are conducting meetings of this nature from our home offices so ensure that meetings will not be disturbed by other family members.

Structure is key
Face-to-face meetings tend to be broken up throughout the course of the process. Reception, site tours, a trip to fetch coffee or food. These natural breaks allow both parties to relax into the environment and subconsciously helps to set the tone for the meeting. Video meetings begin the minute that they connect so it is important to have a structure prepared to avoid any uncomfortable silences. Make sure that you take the time to talk through the structure of the meeting so that they understand their requirements over the course of the meeting. Additionally, taking the time to talk through the brief and company in more detail before moving into a Q&A will help the candidate to settle into the conversation.

Be prepared with the questions that you want to ask. Again, video interviews may not initially start and flow like a face-to-face interview, so knowing where you want to go with it from the outset will help to yield the information that you need

Prepare colleagues
There can be no doubt that having more that one person conducting the interviews has proven beneficial. People focus on the process, more-so over video conferencing, so it can help to have a colleague who can observe proceedings and draw some thoughts regarding the interaction overall.

It is however imperative that your colleague/s are fully prepared for the format and questions that you will be asking in the meeting. In addition, you also need to highlight the key information points that you are looking to gain from the interview.

If your colleague decides to ask their own questions at conflicting times to yours then the flow and organisation of the meeting may be interrupted; so co-ordinate / script when each of you will speak and what areas you are going to cover. Additionally, it is important to outline the general mood that you are trying to create for the meeting to ensure that all parties are aligned.

Take the time to get to know them personally
The biggest surprise over recent weeks has been people’s ability form genuine and positive professional relationships over the format without ever having met face-to-face. As in any interview, if you take the time to show a genuine interest in them as a person then they will relax and give you the best version of themselves.

Setting expectations
Again, as with any interview it is important to set clear expectations of the next steps and stick to them. If you have made the decision to conduct the full interview process remotely then outline when they will gain feedback and what the next steps will involve.

If however you feel that a face-to-face meeting is required in order to progress further it is important to outline that the conversation will be picked up as soon as the lifting of restrictions allow. If you feel that you have identified a candidate with real promise then make sure to keep in regular contact to see what else they have going on and to reiterate your strong interest. Be aware of the competition, if other organisations are conducting full campaigns remotely then this may result in the loss of the candidate.

Own the process
If you have made the decision recruit remotely then own it. Trust in your instincts and the technology to perform in the absence of face-to-face meetings. It is uncomfortable because it is different but the biggest recruitment success stories so far have been achieved by the individuals and organisations that have accepted the challenges, not been frozen by indecision and have formulated a plan that they are comfortable with.

Seek advice
We are all learning and reacting as we go but I am happy to give advice and direction where I can to anyone that is interesting learning more about a remote recruitment process. If you have a need and the time, now could be the perfect opportunity to source your next superstar!

Kevin Woods
manager – global packaging division, Mercury Search

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