The pandemic has brought about unprecedented challenges for HR teams. Indeed, the situation has pushed recruiters to adapt and even reinvent their hiring and integration practices following various public health measures. One of the most significant changes has been the digitization of all interactions with candidates, from initial contact to integration into the team. After over a year now, organizations of all sizes have been considering expanding and preserving remote work after the crisis, to different degrees. So, some of these developments are likely to remain relevant even after the pandemic is over, especially when working with distributed teams.
Evolution in interview practices
Remote recruitment has become the only method for HR teams to carry out hiring processes safely and predictably in these times of health crisis. Although certain stages were already often done remotely (sorting of CVs, telephone interviews), it is now the entire process that must comply with digital constraints. As a result, video-conferencing interviews now mostly replace traditional face-to-face interviews. Nevertheless, it is essential to note that although different, this stage retains the essence of its primary purpose, i.e., establishing the first contact between candidate and recruiter and assessing the suitability of the position and its environment. Even if the form is different, the substance remains the same.
Adoc Talent Management CEO Dr. Amandine Bugnicourt, who runs training workshops on the best practices for successful remote recruitment, gives us some perspective: "Recruiting in a completely remote manner is a challenge, as it takes us out of our comfort zone: We had well-honed interview processes for years, and then we were forced to change them overnight. However, even with virtual methods, you can and should look for the right fit for you and your team. It is possible with insight and thorough investigation. I strongly believe that even if your habits are disrupted, you must keep following best interview practices. Every element you usually use to make up your mind about a candidate can be harder to gather. You might need to ask more questions to compensate for the fact that non-verbal communication is more difficult! To this end, as with a face-to-face interview, prepare yourself properly: have an exhaustive list of the necessary key skills and plan strategies to assess them. Put yourself in a position of active listening. Conduct each interview with a few relevant questions and probe with "hows and whys" to get factual answers and understand how the candidate works. More questions should be asked, especially ones related to interpersonal skills. This can help clear out points that might seem more obvious in a traditional interview. Also, make sure that the candidate has a sufficiently clear understanding of the job, the environment, the team, etc., to be able to make a decision as well."
Pitfalls to avoid; focus on the candidate experience
Hiring is a highly human process. Interpersonal relations and emotions count a lot when it comes to selecting a future employee. Indeed, when choosing between profiles with equal technical competencies, a candidate seemingly prone to have the best working relationship with the existing team and fit the organization better is likely to be a more obvious pick. The introduction of remote interviews and virtual tools can present a challenge by making human contact feel more distant. To address this, it is crucial to design and use a human-centred method. From this perspective, it is fundamental to care more than ever about the candidate's experience throughout the recruitment process.
In this regard, it is essential to include discussions with members of the team as part of the interviewing process. Meeting managers, future colleagues and discussing with them is necessary to help the candidate understand what the position and the work environment truly entails. This is especially true for Generation Z candidates, who rank their relationship with their recruiter as having the most significant impact on their decision to accept a job (according to a Yello Survey 2020).
Excellent candidates have other job offers and may be apprehensive about starting in an environment they will not have "really" seen. Hence the importance of giving them the best possible outlook over the job and the work environment (people, place, work methods, internal culture, etc.). This can take different forms (meetings with team members, a virtual visit to the workplace, presentation of specific projects, etc.). It is critical that the candidate feels guided and supported despite physical distance.
Sometimes, candidates who first seemed optimal for a given position stop responding unexpectedly. Indeed, the digitization of the process leads to some degrees of disengagement among certain profiles. The hiring process seems too theoretical to them because of the lack of concrete contact with the recruitment teams. Although their level of motivation may be sufficient at the beginning of the hiring procedure, it can decrease throughout the process. This can be due to the fact that the candidate is not as motivated to change position or location as they thought they would be. It is not always as engaging to do an hour-long interview remotely as it is to travel 1,000 kilometers to visit a new potential workplace. To avoid this situation, it is important to keep candidates well informed at every stage to engage and inspire them. Maintaining interactions is crucial. There is a risk that candidates will mistakenly feel that the recruiter is not interested in their application if communication is too sporadic. In the same way, a recruiter can attract candidates by showing interest and commitment to the quality of interpersonal relationships.
Prepare onboarding in advance
The normalization of remote work has happened in a matter of weeks, even as it was still unusual for many organizations. Many employees had in fact experienced it for the first time. A lot of them embraced this alternative way of working. According to a joint study by BDO and HR Square, 9 out of 10 Belgian workers and managers want to continue working remotely one to three days a week, even after the pandemic. This interest in remote work should be an opportunity for HR professionals to innovate at the different stages of the process (meeting the candidate, welcoming, integration).
Just like hiring, remote onboarding takes place mainly via digital channels. Consequently, the new recruits must have easy access to IT tools and softwares from their first day on the job. Furthermore, remote contact should not hamper the friendliness of welcome rituals. For example, although a traditional welcome at the office is impossible, it is perfectly feasible to send a welcome pack by post to welcome a new employee. This is an excellent way of receiving the recruit and it helps to create a sense of belonging to the company from day one. To make the first day of work more relaxed and smooth for the candidate, the recruiter can send an email with all the relevant information and the schedule for the first day. The new employee may then be better prepared to start their new job in optimal conditions.
Integration must be based on sustained communication between the future employee and the recruiter. As with any traditional entry in position, the recruit will ask many questions. Because of the distance, they may feel alone or helpless. This is why it is crucial to support them as they take up their position: plan ahead conversations with the manager and HR, an exchange with a founder in the first few weeks or months, etc.
Tools are also used for successful onboarding. Even at a distance, a welcome booklet is essential; it facilitates integration by presenting an organization’s codes and values. It is an absolutely necessary resource for new employees. Mentoring can be a complementary solution to facilitate a smooth transition into the new position. Also, contacts with other team members should not stop at the recruitment process! Introduce the new recruit to their colleagues, organize a welcome event and/or informal meetings with senior and newer team members. Although discussions at the coffee machine are not possible right now, it is essential to keep similar rituals and digitize them.
It is necessary to keep in mind the influence of digital in the context of successful onboarding. Nevertheless, it is helpful to vary the means of contact to prevent virtual fatigue ( or Zoom fatigue). While not all activities are carried out in the company in the same place, sedentariness is much stronger when working in a confined context. This fact must therefore be kept in mind when proposing a balanced onboarding program.
Despite the prolonged period of uncertainty, recruitment activity need not be reduced. Simultaneously, the extensive state support package coupled with the flexibility of the technology boom means that recovery can be considered and prepared for today. The digitization of processes should be seen as an opportunity to learn and evolve. The circumstances create a moment of introspection for employees and push recruiters to reflect on tomorrow's workplace because the aftermath is being built now!