Interviewing and hiring in lockdown

6 months ago, many companies wouldn’t have even considered allowing regular homeworking, never mind hiring people they’d never met! Whilst many businesses understandably wish to bring furloughed staff back before making any recruitment decisions, many have needed to build their teams, regardless of lockdown. In order to secure the talent they need, these organisations have had to make swift and fundamental changes to both their hiring practices and – in many cases – their mindset. One of the silver linings of this pandemic is that hitherto sceptical employers have seen that flexible and remote working can work very well indeed. Whilst the logistics have been a challenge, lockdown may be the dawning of an exciting new era in how people live out their working lives.

Change is not easy and there are many obstacles; how can you support remote-working for those who are living in cramped flat-shares or who have young kids, how is it possible to keep teams feeling motivated and connected, how soon should you think about downsizing your office space, what new technology might you need? Despite numerous hurdles, business must continue and sooner or later this will mean bringing new people on board. Due to the current climate, candidates are generally easier to reach;  those who are still working are not stuck sitting next to their boss and those furloughed have more time on their hands to ponder their future.  Having said that, so many of those attractive ‘passive’ candidates have firmly put their search on hold and won’t be making a move anytime soon . So as ever, our industry is candidate-short!

Great talent still needs to be enticed and the interview process has to be tweaked in order to make successful hires remotely. We’ve gleaned some useful tips over the last few months which I hope are helpful, once you’re ready to start interviewing again

-Being a strong communicator and team player has never been more important; make sure you gain a good sense of how your potential employee intends to keep in touch and stay ‘present’ – and demonstrate how you would do this too

-It may be useful to investigate what experience the candidate has had to date with working remotely and what they perceive as the pitfalls and the benefits.

-Take your time – for the sake of you business and the candidate,  it’s better to introduce an additional interview stage than make the wrong decision.

-Even with the benefit of technology, building rapport over Skype or Zoom is not the same as in a one to one situation – give your candidate the benefit of the doubt and try and put them at ease. If in any doubt, more informal mini-interviews with a range of stakeholders will help build a more rounded picture of your applicant

-Candidates’ expectations and priorities have understandably changed and many will be keen to understand how financially stable the business is, what measures you have in place to enable effective homeworking, when and how you’ll be returning to your office, or how flexible you can be going forward. Decisions will be made accordingly, so make sure you respond to these questions as specifically as possible.

-Be prepared to articulate what culture your company has and what constitutes a good team fit; revisiting your company values might be a useful starting point (as long as you feel these are authentic!)

Last but not least, put yourself in your candidate’s shoes; it will probably feel daunting to commit to a new job in lockdown so you will need to be able to convince them that you’re a good match – and that your business is future-proofed, agile and supportive.

Good luck and here’s to exciting times ahead!