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How to hire in a world changed by coronavirus

Video interviews and virtual onboarding are now a permanent fixture in the hiring process, but how can leaders prepare to hire post-covid?

Words by Jade Burke | Design by Lucy Bick

Perhaps most indicative of the dynamism and strength of the pre-pandemic recruitment market – driven, of course, by candidate movement – was the value of the industry, growing year-on-year for half a decade to hit £38.9billion in 2019. In fact, despite productivity wobbles and fears over Brexit, candidates were moving freely, employment was at a near record high and organisations were fighting over top talent.

Now, it’s a different story. Unemployment has risen to hit 4.5%, as per latest ONS data. Driving this high figure are waves of redundancies, but also hiring freezes – Adidas, BuzzFeed and Etsy are some of the big names to put a hold on recruitment as the coronavirus crisis continues. In fact, most firms are expected to make fewer forays into the hiring market. Recent LinkedIn research shows that more than half of the talent acquisition professionals believe their companies will make fewer offers going forward.

Even for firms that are still hiring, the process will look a lot different. It’s unlikely that big recruitment days, with candidates coming forward en masse to compete with each other, will exist. Introductions will be made over video conferencing and talent pipelines will have to aim at different areas. And with the pandemic set to continue at least until next year – with impact on the world of work likely to be largely permanent – HR leaders and recruitment experts will have to take a look at how they can adapt their methods to a world changed by coronavirus.


Adapting in uncertainty

When uncertain times hit, the ability to adapt and move with the times is essential to success. This is also the case for recruitment, and for the majority of hiring managers and recruiters, the way in which this has been possible is by leaning on technology. For example, with face-to-face hiring no longer a possibility due to social distancing and varying UK restrictions, technology has played a huge part in allowing recruitment to continue. This has led to a surge in video interviews taking place – in fact research shared by Gartner in a poll of 334 HR leaders on April 13, 2020, found that 86% of organisations are incorporating new virtual technology to interview candidates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reflecting on these adaptations, Zareena Brown, Chief Human Resources Officer at British soft drink producer Britvic, believes it’s important that hiring managers and recruiters do not revert back to their old ways once coronavirus has passed. “Companies have turned to technology out of necessity and with this has come many other benefits. Post Covid-19 it will be important to build on these, rather than reverting to how things were done before,” she says.

Brown notes that to do that would see recruitment take several steps back, and post-covid will see recruitment take on a very different outlook. She illustrates this by sharing details on how Britvic has adapted, which has seen the business embrace remote onboarding, video interviews and telephone calls to maintain communication. Brown continues: “Our adapted recruitment process for engineering apprentices has been a great success. A longer process, but one that has included telephone calls to keep in touch, remote shortlisting and interviews on Microsoft Teams, has seen us fill roles at all three factories in Beckton, Leeds and Rugby.”

How can teams prepare?

Hiring managers now have very little choice about how they recruit and onboard a new candidate. For many, this means turning to technology for assistance, and for Mulberry’s Roberts, equipping teams with the correct tools is fundamental in building a successful future. She continues: “Having the tools set up and available will mean we are not only ready for any future pandemics or lockdowns but also in world where working from home or global mobility are likely to become more common, there will be no barriers to a succinct and engaging onboarding process.”

This is a notion recruitment expert Burdis also supports, as he also points out that organisations should review their onboarding process and make sure it is fit for purpose, as he says: “Ensure you have the right tools, such as a good video interviewing platform, in place with which to manage recruitment and onboarding. Remote working means your new hire feels less connected at the same time as reducing your team’s ability to effectively onboard them. You need to double your efforts here. Understand and plan for longer and more structured onboarding. Used in the right way, this exercise can be something which helps renew and reinforce remote team culture and productivity.”

Driving diversity

Various studies have highlighted the business benefits of hiring diverse teams; it can massively boost revenue, generate new discussion points and ideas and it can increase employee engagement. For example two Fast Company studies found that a higher representation of women in C-suite level positions results in 34% greater returns to shareholders, while another discovered that businesses with above-average gender diversity and levels of employee engagement outperform companies with below-average diversity and engagement by 46% to 58%.

Similarly, Sarah Roberts, Head of Recruitment at luxury fashion company Mulberry, states that now is the time for more to be done to hire diversely. With more opportunity now to hire outside of a company’s ‘preferred’ talent pool, organisations are now opening their virtual doors to individuals who are potentially from anywhere in the world. This, according to Roberts, means that resourcing teams should be thinking about how to tackle this by asking themselves the right questions.

She tells HR Grapevine: “Internal talent teams should be undertaking a full review of all of their employee processes and asking the following questions: are you attracting diverse talent? How are line manager biases influencing hiring processes? How are you engaging with underrepresented groups within your business? What are you doing to retain your talent from underrepresented groups? Are your succession planning and talent mapping processes fair and inclusive? We all need to do more and the time for action is now.”

Brown also echoes this sentiment, noting that “the ability to attract diverse talent is crucial to the success of a company,” something that is now more important than ever during these unprecedented times.



While the future looks incredibly uncertain, with localised lockdowns occurring regularly, national lockdowns happening, and employees being instructed to work from home where possible, the way in which organisations hire looks set to change forever. But, James Burdis, Co-Founding Director of recruitment firm Hanover, states that now is the time for HR leaders and talent teams to start their preparations to equip themselves for every eventuality.

Burdis adds that some elements of the hiring process will return, but that these will be less often and limited. He explains: “In the longer term, post pandemic, we will see a return to face to face interviews, but likely only for the final stage. We will also see a return to offices and in-person onboarding, but not in quite the same way as before.”

He stresses that adjusting for these changes in the future will ultimately pay-off for any business looking to hire post-covid, adding that their “effort will not be wasted”.

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