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June 16, 2020

Virtual Hiring Amid Covid-19

By: Leslie Shaw, Senior Vice President

While unemployment numbers are rising during the coronavirus pandemic, there are still jobs to be had. So, as the world practices social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, nearly all hiring managers are turning to virtual interviews to fill open roles in all ranks of their business -- from presidents and CEOs to part-time employees. The virtual interview is a practice large global companies adopted years ago to connect with potential employees around the world – flash forward - it’s now becoming the new normal across the board.

The good news is this shift could represent a change for the better in hiring practices, such as the reduction of unintentional biases that can come from live interview; and fostering a sense of normalcy as the candidate is placed in a more casual, comfortable setting, thus allowing for their true self to shine through.

In our experience with video or telephone interviews judgement is one step removed from the hiring process. Hiring managers are no longer taking into account a candidate’s outfit, height, weight, or to a certain extent, their nationality -- the types of immediate assumptions that can be made, even unintentionally, when meeting in person. While some unintended biases can still be present in a video interview, they are less prominent, and even more so in an interview conducted via telephone.

And the biases are removed one step further for the executive search process. Instead of judging a candidate’s physical presence, hiring managers are evaluating their emotional intelligence. They are no longer wondering, “Are they well-coiffed? Wearing the most expensive suit? Do they look comfortable in their chair?”, but instead asking themselves, “Are they articulate? Poised? Do they seem connected and engaged?” This shift means executive presence is taking on a whole new meaning -- one that could be an advantage for candidates who were previously overlooked.

This type of interview process also places the candidate in a more normalized setting, allowing them to be more like themselves while in a relaxed environment. Candidates don’t have to worry about how they’re sitting, whether their body language is translating or if they’re participating properly in small talk. They can feel less buttoned up in their own environment, oftentimes in a personal room with the occasional interruption by dogs or babies, which will help ease their anxieties and allow hiring managers to see the candidates’ most natural selves.

For hiring managers, virtual interviews allow for better time management than before. While an in-person interview process may take half a day or longer to complete, virtual interviews can be done in less time, which could result in additional candidates being considered. Virtual interviews can also be streamlined with a standardized set of questions that will help eliminate biases and target the best choice for the position. And more staff can be involved in the hiring decisions as video interviews can be saved and shared among the decision-making team, without having to coordinate among several different schedules.

Of course, this shift comes with its challenges, namely technology. It’s impossible to predict when a connection may go dark or the internet will cut out during a candidate’s answers or an interviewer’s question. Participants on both sides will need to approach this new process with flexibility and understanding, which will hopefully translate into more benevolent hires that benefit both the candidate and the company.

So, by nature of circumstance most companies are now embracing the qualities of virtual interviewing.  However, and by intent, the most contemporary and action-oriented companies are also making hiring decisions and extending offers for employment based on the virtual interview. While there is truly no replacement for human interaction via the face to face interview, hiring decisions today must be based on the trust of information in a one dimensional setting.

During these unprecedented times, we, as a company have pledged our commitment to our clients’ needs and sharpened our attentiveness to strong communications and unwavering relationship building. As a result, I am happy to report that our recruiting efforts have not been ignored. During the past 90 days we have been tremendously successful in the recruitment, placement, and relocation of multiple executives, and we owe much of the credit principally to the willingness of the client / employer to think outside of the box, work creatively towards a solution, and demonstrate a level trust with all parties.  

Going forward in our new normal we foresee a growing need for virtual recruitment and placement.  During the past 90 days our firm has closed over 70% of executive searches with zero face-to-face interviewing by our client(s). This is a huge shift from what has occurred in the past and we predict the process is here to stay. With that, this is our opportunity to embrace change, build trust, and globalize our practices and processes. We look forward to assisting you with your search engagements.

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