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Recruitment reinvented for the 'new normal'

Ben Mannion and Laura Hewett, Directors of Hewett Recruitment recently participated in a Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce webinar, covering the changes in recruitment during the lockdown.

They discussed how companies have harnessed technology to attract and engage talent in the face of the challenges presented by Coronavirus. 

This includes practical advice on how to manage recruitment processes virtually, as well as how companies have changed their working practices to meet their requirements. They will also cover some of the pitfalls of recruiting in the current climate and provide case studies of local businesses that have changed the way they work in order to be successful.

Recruitment market update with Hewett Recruitment

Recruitment Market Update with Ben Mannion

At the end of March recruitment fell off a cliff – the majority of Temps stopped and almost all Perm recruitment was put on hold as people grew accustomed to working from home.

The REC’s Midlands specific ‘Report on Job’s reported drastic changes in April:

  • The biggest drop in Perm placements and Temp billings in the history of the report (over double that of credit crunch)
  • The biggest drop for Job Vacancies in the history of the report
  • The first increase in staff availability for over 7 years

Fortunately, since then we have seen gradual improvement. Temporary recruitment has been driven by businesses providing essential services and online orders, as companies adapt to ‘the new normal’. On the Perm side, after the initial shock many businesses still needed to recruit, particularly in the IT sector due to the increased need for remote working and IT support. This shifted processes, with many moving quite swiftly to a “virtual recruitment process”.

This trend has continued across many industries- for example Hewett had furloughed all Consultants during the majority of lockdown, but as off next week all but 1 are back in the business.

We are seeing demand across all types of roles from businesses that just can’t put recruitment off any longer- there has been significant spikes in June and July. As previously mentioned, the most obvious demand has been in IT and Engineering where skills shortage remains a key issue.

Long term picture of virtual recruitment processes

Long term picture?

The long term picture is more unclear, however after speaking to many clients and local businesses, it’s reported that many had a fantastic June following an awful April & May. So what could this mean? Is this just pent up demand that will fall away?

We’re still trying to understand the real impact on jobs following furlough, and this will only became clear as it further unwinds.  We can expect significant redundancies in August, July and September as furlough costs are passed on to the employer.

Overall it’s fair to say we’re seeing what is perhaps a more positive picture than where we had initially anticipated at this point, but with significant challenges expected over the coming months, the economic support that Gov announces over next few weeks will be very significant to long term impact.

Changes in recruitment during virtual recruitment processes

How Recruitment has changed during lockdown, with Laura Hewett

This has been a really interesting few months for Ben and I. When lockdown hit, we saw our business severely impacted in March and April so made the decision to furlough all of our recruitment consultants and do everything ourselves. Thankfully most of them are back now, but that period gave the two of us an amazing opportunity to see first hand the impact on all different types of jobs. We both normally only do Executive level recruitment, but we have genuinely covered everything from cleaners to payroll temps to software developers, so feel that while we are still adapting and learning ourselves, we are fairly well equipt to share with you some of the things we have learnt.

So what’s changed since lockdown? We've highlighted 3 key things are we've seen in the recruitment process;

  • Flexible working!

Something we at Hewett’s have been doing seminars on, encouraging companies to adopt for the last couple of years. It has suddenly landed to the extreme! Flexible working does suggest an element of choice in the matter – whereas we had it rather thrust upon us, but given pretty much every viable business now has developed the capability to offer flexible working, most are planning that once the pandemic subsides, flexible working will be here to stay. Whether that’s People working from home completely; or a mix of home and office; altered hours of work to accommodate childcare.

From a recruitment perspective, there are clearly many benefits to this in terms of attracting a much broader pool of candidates, but the remote recruitment process, onboarding and working all come with their challenges and considerations… and let’s face it, we are all still learning on this front. So we will share with you a few case studies today from examples we have been working on.

  • Use of video

In many cases people have been resistant to video meetings/interviews even though we have had the technology for years. Video interviewing was something that was talked about in seminars but only the most high tech / modern companies would actually consider using this method. Now the majority of people are comfortable on camera and we think it will be here to stay. Not necessarily to replace face-to-face interviews once all this is over, but probably as a way of accelerating the recruitment process and making it more efficient.

  • Increased applications

A higher number of applicants for each role sounds great, but there are definite plusses and minuses to that. We are seeing a real mix of people in different situations, including:

  • People who have lost jobs and are worried about their financial security – will take any job, but it's likely they will continue looking for the ideal role. Similar situation to 2008 recession.
  • Furloughed workers in the market – looking for a back-up-plan after hearing in the press about redundancies. Realistically, they are happy where they are, but are looking at other opportunities, just in case. This is a new element that we have been dealing with and we will touch on that later

Similarities in recruitment process during virtual recruitment processes

How recruitment hasn’t changed during lockdown, with Ben Mannion

What hasn’t changed in recruitment and what remains important?

  • At the end of the day, good people are still in jobs.

Whilst ad response has increased and will continue to do so, this won’t necessarily relate to an increase in quality. When recruiting, you must still make sure you cover the whole market to reach the very best talent.

  • Remember candidate care is still important, perhaps even more so.

Communication is key! Many will remember the “candidate strikes back” and nothing has changed here regarding your employer brand. Effective communication is essential to get across your employment brand and culture during a remote recruitment process

Think long term. Whilst we may see a flurry of applicants over the coming months, in the long term it will come full circle and the market will be candidate short once again. Candidates have long memories and will tell their friends – so always act with them in mind.

  • You’ll still need the proper checks and balances.

Do not rush things important processes. Some processes will still need a face to face meeting due to nature of the role and that is OK! Don’t try and skip essential tasks just for convenience, it won’t work out in the long run.

Benefits of remote hiring during virtual recruitment processes

The benefits of remote hiring, with Laura Hewett

Remote hiring increases accessibility and diversity in recruitment processes

  • Diversity and Inclusion

We’ve seen some benefits regarding diversity and inclusion – remote working allows employers more accommodating, appealing to more people with disabilities and potentially more women as travel and childcare is less of an issue

Remote hiring increases speed of recruitment processes

  • Speed of the recruitment processes

The pace of the recruitment process has really picked up in some cases. You can instantly flip a telephone interview into a video interview, rather than booking an appointment in a few days time. Companies seem more willing to fit video interviews in with less notice too.

One of the biggest frustrations we normally have in a recruitment process is pace, when in competitive markets, great candidates are lost to other jobs due to clients not moving quickly enough and having clunky processes. Video interview stage is really helping with that

Remote hiring geographic reach

  • Geographic boundaries

Location is no longer a barrier for true remote workers – the world is your oyster! 

Case study of when remote/virtual recruitment has really worked:

One case study on where we have seen it working really well, is not one you might expect. It’s actually the project we have been promoting for Platform Housing Group, who needed several telephone based customer service people for 6-12 months contracts.

This was a really interesting project as the whole recruitment process was remote and the roles themselves are to be remote as well. This process has worked really well. Read more about what made the Platform Housing project so successful here.

Pitfalls of remote working during virtual processes during lockdown

When remote recruiting doesn’t work so well, with Ben Mannion

The pitfalls and red flags to be aware of when recruiting virtually, with real-life examples.

  • Candidate commitment

Particularly those who are furloughed or not certain if they will be losing their jobs. They may just be dipping their toes in the market and not actively seeking work. We have been stung by this already. Candidates are only human, they’re simply looking for security in unprecedented times, but it’s important to bare this in mind.

  • The “informal formal” interview

Video is often seen as an upgrade to telephone “chat”, but those conducting interviews must ensure it is done with good structure and depth. Why?

  • To allow you to get out of it what you want, an answer to all your question
  • To give the candidate a chance to get out of it what they want, an answer to their questions and a full understanding of the role and company
  • Give you a chance to get across the culture, offering a sense and ‘feel’ for the company.

Additional pointers that are essential to consider during remote recruitment:

  • If it still needs a F2F then don’t skip it…your recruitment process should achieve everything you would normally expect it to!
  • Check the tech works!
  • Consider how realistic is remote working?
    • for the role – can it be done remotely?
    • for the individual- are they set up for it? Logistically and psychologically

Some real examples of when issues have arisen with remote recruitment during lockdown:

It’s easy to miss the ‘magic’

An example I am currently working on closing is for a technical manager within a large software business. This role is to be office based, but as everyone is currently working from home, the whole process has been remote. So, an interview from me, then telephone interview followed by video interview with the client. The candidate was offered the job.

Some great touches this business added during this process were:

  • A ‘meet the team’ session via teams with her would-be peers.
  • Presenting  a video of what a ‘normal day in to office’ looked like

However, the candidate is struggling to make a decision on the role, so a further video chat was set up with HR to discuss. The challenge here is that she’s missing that ‘magic’ you get when you go to the office of a prospective employer, meet people face-to-face, see people working and get a real sense of the culture and think “I can really see myself working there”.

‘Real-life’ intuition

For example, recruiting Industrial Temps can really fall through the cracks with video interviewing. As temporary industrial roles are generally unskilled roles, candidates often don’t have a CV to talk through. In this case, much more of the decision making is done based on a real skill for intuition, reading body language and gauging who is going to be reliable, meaning video interviews do not lend themselves.

This is a real challenge without seeing the whole person in person! Thankfully we still have to do testing and inductions in person, allowing us to catch any mistakes.

We continue to manage that particular issues by having only our very senior and experienced consultants conducting video interviewing, plus expecting more fall out at the face-to-face induction and testing stage.

Summary of virtual recruitment during lockdown from Hewett Recruitment Direcotrs

Summary of virtual recruiting and remote working during lockdown.

We are all living and working in such unprecedented times, we are all learning and finding out feet and recruitment is just one in a whole host of things that we all need to get familiar with.

While this certainly won’t have given you all the answers, we hope it has been useful to share our experiences – both our successes and mistakes, so it helps you avoid the pitfalls.

For further information and advice, please do get in touch.