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Recruiting During COVID-19

Published September 15, 2020 Author: Employsure
employer recruiting during COVID

The impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had – and continues to have – on the world will be felt for many, many years to come. But even during what are undoubtedly tough times for the economy, it’s still business … just not as usual. Some organisations are still hiring (and some industries are even booming), but with more businesses encouraging staff to work from home and the general reluctance of people to travel long distances or to crowded areas, video job interviews are fast becoming a popular alternative to the traditional face-to-face interview.

So how do you, as a business owner, best conduct interviews under these new conditions?

Adjust Your Hiring Process For COVID-19

Even though some businesses have had to slow down or completely stop recruiting during COVID-19, some industries, such as healthcare, information technology, mining and community services, have seen an increased – or at least, steady – demand for candidates.

However, for those businesses who are still recruiting, the hiring process has changed radically from what it was even six months ago. From the initial screening and interviewing process right through to remote onboarding, businesses and organisations are needing to adapt and adjust their hiring processes in order to find the right candidate while still adhering to the COVID-19 safe practices.

So how can businesses go about effectively recruiting and onboarding talent in this new environment?

The first step is to specify working arrangements in your job ad. Where previously the possibility of flexible working was a nice carrot to dangle in front of a candidate, now, more than ever, candidates need to know about your commitment to COVID safe working arrangements. As such, it’s worth referencing during your recruiting how your organisation is managing health and safety for staff during the pandemic in your job ad, including if you’re asking employees to work from home.

Getting the Most Out Of Technology

The pandemic has changed many things of course, but if there’s one thing that 2020 has done, it’s made everyone used to talking on camera – even those who were previously incredibly camera shy. Catching up with family and friends has often times meant doing so over the internet, with everyone talking at once and half your grandmother’s head out of frame.

But video interviewing is the ‘new normal’ , so how do you make the most of the technology?

  • Give your technology a ‘trial run’. Test your internet connection, webcam and audio inputs and outputs. Make sure you and the candidate have the same video-conferencing software installed, and if possible, do a trial run to make sure you know how it all works.
  • Remove as many distractions as possible, including alarms and phone, pets and children switched to silent!
  • Make sure your area is well lit. You’re not trying to win the Academy Award for Cinematography, but you’re also not trying to give the impression you’re in witness protection. Good light, sound, and a plain backdrop are enough to improve the video interview experience.
  • Be prepared. If possible, have your questions ready and prepared for the particular candidate.
  • Create a connection – and not an internet one. Everyone is still trying to come to grips with video interviewing, and it’s tough when most of the non-verbal communication cues are suddenly taken away. What would pass for interested in a face-to-face interview may come across as intense on screen, so nod, smile and give plenty of cues to show that you are engaged and listening. Address the web cam when speaking to make it appear as if you are maintaining eye-contact.

Effective Virtual Interview Questions

A virtual interview is still an interview: the basics still apply. Your interview should have a pre-planned structure, outlining how many topics you plan to discuss, how many questions for each topic, and in what order do you want to cover the topics?

You should also consider scripting the most essential questions, making sure the questions will illicit the desired response from the candidate so you can assess their ability to perform the role in question.

However, how do you specifically tailor your virtual interview for the COVID-19 reality?

Consider: 

  • Testing applicants skills before interviewing them, via online skills-assessment tools that can help identify the strongest candidates.
  • Cull your questions to the most essential. Focus on the most important questions and think of creative ways to cover the rest of the interview content.
  • Be transparent and make sure applicants have a clear idea of the process. Outline how many rounds of interviews you anticipate, which technologies will be used and how they will be evaluated during each step of the process.
  • Remotely introduce prospective employees to key members of your company by having drop ins, or even by emailing a profile of your organisation along with short bios of key personnel.

As for the questions themselves, the standard questions of all interviews are a good starting point (Why do you want this job?, Why are you the right candidate for this job?, etc), but the current climate puts more focus on questions about soft skills, such as:

  • Are you a self-starter/self-motivated?
  • Do you collaborate well within a team?
  • Can you adapt to change effectively?

These questions will give you an idea how flexible the candidate is, in a time when flexibility is key.

Is Your Recruitment Strategy Effective?

 Here are Employsure’s top 10 recruitment strategies you can use to optimise your hiring process this year.

Video Interviewing Tips

  • Find a quiet, private, well-lit place, free from possible interruptions.
  • Remove any inappropriate items that might be visible once you are on screen.
  • Ensure your internet connection is stable.
  • Check that your computer’s audio is working.
  • Test your computer’s webcam.
  • Close any unnecessary web browser tabs and applications.
  • Dress professionally and avoid bright colours.
  • Have a pen, notepad and copy of your resume on your desk.
  • When listening, nod and smile to show you are engaged.
  • Use hand gestures when appropriate.
  • Place your phone in silent mode.

Screening And Processing Candidates

A positive of virtual interviewing is that, generally, the interview process is now moving faster, with fewer scheduling challenges.  Effectively screening and processing candidates can be done by including role requirements questions that help you sort and rank candidates easily. Once potential candidates are identified, you should quickly contact suitable candidates outlining next steps, or close the loop with candidates who you deem are not suitable.

Virtual Onboarding

Virtual onboarding is exactly like traditional in-person onboarding – only virtually. Virtual onboarding allows you to engage new employees while catering to new flexible working arrangements.

To successfully onboard an employee virtually, a company should use all or a combination of video conferencing, webinars, videos, websites and interactive exercises that new hires can access via their desktop, tablet, or mobile devices.

The quality and timing of the new hire’s onboarding will play a huge part in their long-lasting opinion of your company. As such, it is best not to bombard them in the first week, and spread the onboarding – either through a combination of virtual and in-person or completely virtual – over several weeks or even months.

One of the hardest aspects of onboarding to replicate virtually is the ‘water cooler’ conversations – letting your new starter get to know their colleagues and helping them build strong working relationships. Make sure to set up some virtual catch-ups so that they can meet any colleagues they’ll need to regularly interact with.

As your onboarding will be virtual, there’s nothing to stop you from starting the process even before the employee’s official start date – obviously with their permission. This can generate excitement and make a new remote employee more engaged and productive from the start.

Actions to take for a successful virtual onboarding:

  • Create a guide to your company, key personnel, challenges, etc
  • Set the new employee up with essential hardware and tools
  • Set up catch ups and ensure they are invited to any team meetings
  • Share company culture as quickly as possible so as to make the new employee feel part of the team – even more important in this time of remote working

Hiring In The Future

Even if you’re business is not recruiting right now, it’s vital that you’re thinking about building your future recruitment strategy. To set yourself up for future recruiting, consider:

  • Identifying which roles, behaviours and skills your business will need in the next phase, be that recovery or (pessimistically) further lockdown. If one were to happen tomorrow, would you know how best to react – and who would need to be added to your staff – to best place your business for success?
  • Perform a skill gap analysis. Where are the gaps? Is it a matter of replacing what’s been lost or are new roles and skills required?
  • Consider if ‘soft’ skills will be at a premium in the future, such as the ability to be agile and collaborative? If so, do your employees currently possess these? Is in-house training required?
  • Ensure your recruitment and business strategies are aligned, and get proactive in identifying and finding the talent segments you need to target in order to achieve your organisation’s goals. Where does your company want to be in 6 – 12 months? Do you have the talent in your organisation now to get there? If not, where will you find this talent?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Do I Prepare For A Virtual Interview?

    Remember, preparation is key!

    Here are the steps to take to ace your next video interview …

    • Test Your Technology
    • Minimise Distractions
    • Be Prepared – you can’t google mid-interview
    • Practice, But Don’t Memorize. You’re not a robot
    • Monitor Your Body Language – no slouching, plenty of smiling and nodding
    • Dress to convey your company’s image
    • Make a Connection to try an allay any of the candidate’s nerves
  • What Is A Virtual Hiring Process?

    It is the hiring process that most people are used to, except taken online as much as possible and without actually meeting the candidates face to face. Instead, you or your hiring manager will rely on technology to host video interviews, virtual events, surveys, and assessments to evaluate the applicant’s suitability.

  • How Do Video Interviews Work?

    A virtual or video hiring interview takes place over a web-based platform. Rather than meeting face-to-face, you and candidate will connect with each other at an agreed time, using video software. The interview then proceeds as per any other job interview.

  • What Are Some Top Video Interview Software?

    • Microsoft teams
    • Google Hangouts
    • Skype
    • Zoom

    Note: these are suggestions, and not necessarily Employsure’s recommendations.

  • What Should I Consider Before Hiring During COVID?

    You need to consider practical considerations, such as:

    • Any references, background and/or qualification checks that need to be done prior to hiring will likely be slowed, due to the organisations you need to contact also operating under coronavirus restrictions.
    • Will your new employee be required to work remotely, work on location, or a combination?
    • Are there Work Health & Safety concerns that need to be discussed if the hire is to undertake remote work?

    You also need to consider other considerations, like in addition to the requirements of the role, does your new employee need soft skills such as:

    • Flexibility and the ability to adapt to rapid change
    • Creativity, in order to innovate processes and problem solve
    • Empathy, so as to develop camaraderie and trust in a team

About Employsure

Employsure is Australia’s largest workplace relations specialists. We take the complexity out of workplace laws to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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