Safe Search – Executive Recruiting and Covid-19

18/03/2020By Octavian Donnelly
Executive recruiting thrives on specialised industry knowledge, extensive and well-maintained networks, and that most human quality, getting to know each other face to face.  At least until now.  Octavian Donnelly, Senior Recruiter, on how to recruit people in a Covid-19 world. 
executive recruitment covoid-19 coronavirus

COVID-19 will almost certainly change the way we live and work.  It’s certainly establishing a set of protocols to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, ranging from simply washing our hands properly to avoiding public transport, non-essential travel, large gatherings and even busy offices.  

Our clients rely on us to find, sift through and qualify applicants with the right “cultural fit” – not just technical skillset. The latter is increasingly being done by artificial intelligence, but the former stills needs us. It’s much easier to understand who our candidates are and how they interact with others in a  face-to-face meeting. Beyond the interaction between recruiters and candidates, removing the interaction between candidates and future employers further complicates an already intricate connection.   

In a world where we are instructed, and morally obligated, to reduce unnecessary movement and social interaction, a world where the handshake becomes an irresponsible act, how do we adapt to make the recruitment process safer and more effective for clients, candidates and recruiters? 

Skype and video interviewing are used often in recruitment. Besides solving geographical and time difference issues, there are other benefits, such as cost savings and a smaller carbon footprint due to less travel. However, recruitment is human-centric and impressions are everything.  

For Clients 

Use your recruiters to do even more of the steps you would normally bring in-house. Cutting lengthy internal processes and removing external interactions that cannot be done remotely will narrow the pool of candidates that will come into contact with your organisation. Search firms are managed by highly experienced recruiters who are subject matter experts in their specialist fields. This expertise and the process of candidate mapping & benchmarking, behavioural selection, evaluation and referencing means that you will only be presented with the best.  

It may be pertinent to consider how much preliminary training and induction can be done remotely, as it could become the new norm that new starters must self-isolate or work from home for the first 1-2 weeks regardless of having symptoms or not – better safe than sorry.  

For Candidates  

Expect to see a significant increase in digital interaction. Coffees and informal chats will make way for calls, certainly for initial stage qualification. This has positives and negatives – you won’t spend money and time getting to and from meetings, or risk additional exposure to COVID-19 on public transport. On the flip side, you may need to be more open as a candidate and willing to proffer information on calls or video chats that might be easier to offer up in a free-flowing conversation over a coffee or lunch. Be smart and approach a call like you would a final round interview. Video conversations are shorter on average, and less personal – so you will need to find more hooks or common ground in advance – there is no excuse not to be prepared, whether it’s for a call to a recruiter or directly to a client – in which case your recruiter will help you to prepare!  

Be smart and approach a call like you would a final round interview. Video conversations are shorter on average, and less personal – so you will need to find more hooks or common ground in advance.

None of this should be new to anyone that has gone through a job transition before. However, as interaction between candidates and recruitment consultants, and candidates and clients, reduces (or changes) candidates must be even more clued up on future employers than before. You may no longer have the opportunity to meet a potential employer multiple times over a hiring process – thereby reducing your contact and ability to get a better sense of their culture.  

As for candidates who might be slightly less comfortable with technology – call us. It’s our job to present quality candidates to our clients, and to prepare and ‘polish’ you.  

For Recruiters 

I expect to see the following trends emerging: 

  • Recruiters transitioning away from majority office-based work to working from home, reflecting moves being made globally across every industry. Less blocked landline numbers, more video calls and traceable mobile phones!  
  • Be prepared to increase subject matter knowledge – we make architects and designers keep portfolios of their work as proof of their capabilities. Expect to see that becoming common place across an array of industries. If clients cannot meet applicants, they will want their recruiters to reference candidates to a higher level, and that may include technical verification and testing.  
  • Expect to take ownership of more phases of the selection and interview process. 
  • There may be more costs needed in audio visual facilities to enable higher fidelity interview processes, or to boost remote working options (though the likes of Microsoft and Salesforce are offering remote working solutions for free).  
  • Replace client contact meetings with a regular call. 
  • Qualify candidates to a higher degree on the phone before running a final round of face to face interviews, if deemed to be necessary. Otherwise eliminate all face to face meetings where possible, for the foreseeable future.  
  • Do not hold group recruitment or profiling events. 
  • Ban unnecessary inter-office and client focused travel.  

The reality is that technology has advanced to a stage that almost every recruitment function can be run remotely. For that final human touch though… keep a safe distance and keep hand sanitiser close by!  

Remember – keep calm and follow the advice of your Public Health Authority and the WHO.  

About the author

Octavian Donnelly Recruiter

Octavian Donnelly

Senior Consultant – Professional Services

Octavian is a Senior Consultant in the psd Professional Services Practice, specialising in international Digital Change, Technology Transformation and Innovation Advisory executive recruitment.