Over the last few weeks, newsfeeds have been overrun by posts stating that COVID-19 will greatly impact hiring, and despite my overwhelming urge to prove these doomsday forecasters (as I like to call them) wrong, they’re actually kind of right.
After conducting hundreds of successful executive-level searches (during my time as a recruiter, before founding The Suite), I’ve learned a thing or two about how the hiring process works. I suppose you could say I’m somewhat of an expert on the topic. Perfect, we’ve established my credibility on the matter, now let’s get to the good stuff. I’m going to start with the impact COVID-19 will have on companies and the new challenges they will face when hiring, so if that doesn’t interest you, feel free to skip down to the next section where I discuss the effects to Job Seekers.
Offices are closing, flights are cancelled, the world has gone digital. Talent teams are scrambling to change their onsite interviews to video-conferences and what they are discovering is how easy the interview process is actually becoming thanks to COVID-19 (did I really just write that?). If you’ve ever organized interviews before you will know that one of the most complex issues to solve is travel. You have flights and hotels to book, calendars to align, and oh a person you need to convince to invest their time to meet you. Sound easy? Then you probably haven’t done the bookings yourself.
With people working from home, organizing an interview is as simple as finding an hour between video meetings. Privacy to take calls is no longer an issue and finding an excuse to visit a doctor on a Wednesday is no longer needed. In fact, when you look at it from this angle, it’s never been easier to interview, meaning internal talent teams are about to have a lot more people flooding into their candidate funnels. Where companies will feel the effects of COVID-19 is in the offer process. Despite people’s comfort with interviewing remotely, there is almost always a final onsite that includes a tour of the office and a switch from interview mode to “we could be colleagues” mode. Sure, interviews have been conducted remotely for a long time, but an executive hiring process rarely, if ever, concludes without a face-to-face.
Companies are going to have to get creative in order to ensure they’re hiring the right person. At The Suite, we surveyed 300 of our members who work in HR, and they almost unanimously agreed that culture fit is the hardest thing to accurately assess in an interview. So if it’s that difficult to assess culture fit during a traditional interview, I can’t imagine our new digital-only reality is going to make it any easier.
I will admit, I was feeling a tad more optimistic when I first started writing this article, but this is bad regardless of how you try to spin it. That said, here are some concrete actions companies can take to minimize the increased risk of making the wrong hiring decision (and don’t worry, I won’t use this as a chance to sell you on The Suite).
1) Conduct every interview over video (people have been saying I should be investing in Zoom Video stock…). Now that onsites are out of the question for the foreseeable future, you’re going to need as much “face time” as possible to effectively replicate that “gut feeling” that the person you’re speaking with is right for the job.
2) Do your homework, references were important before all of this went down, but they will be even more critical going forward. The new limitations on person to person interactions will mean you really need to dig to understand the people you are interviewing. Pro tip: Don't just rely on mentors and managers, speak to the people they have managed and mentored themselves (360 degree-referencing) to really map out the type of leader they are.
3) Lastly, but probably the most important point I will make. Actively listen to what people are saying and don’t get distracted by navigating the awkwardness of making eye contact over video. Articulation and enunciation are difficult to execute over video for even the most adept orators.
That about covers it for companies, now let’s take a look at the effects COVID-19 will likely have on job seekers.
No, absolutely not. Job searches are all about momentum, and taking your foot off the gas now could ultimately delay your search process by several months. If you read the section above, you know that interviewing is about to get a whole lot easier (and if you haven’t, you probably should - don’t worry, I’ll give you a minute to catch up). For those of you who are actively looking for a new job, this probably sounds like the silver lining of an otherwise terrible situation; however, I urge you to exercise caution. The general difficulty in making time for interviews is often what forces us to be more selective when deciding whether or not an opportunity is even worth exploring in the first place. Now that this barrier to entry has essentially been removed, you run the risk of advancing in processes that you never would have entered into in the first place.
So really, the question you should be asking yourself is: “Would I be comfortable accepting an offer from a company I have never actually stepped foot in?” Strange, I know, that this is our new reality. Below are some tips learned during my years as an executive recruiter to help you get the most out of each conversation and properly assess cultural fit during the digital interview process.
1) Listen to the person who is interviewing you, and take note of their speaking patterns. Without the ability to read body language, you will need to react to tone in order to build rapport.
2) If you receive an offer, don’t be afraid to ask for a little extra time to think it through. You don’t want to make a rash decision and end up back at the start of your search when things settle a few months down the road. You may also be able to use this time to negotiate
3) Most important of all - do your due diligence. Get as much information about the company and the people who work inside it as possible. Pro tips: Leverage your network and speak to those who have knowledge into the inner workings of these companies. Ask to interview with as many people as possible, especially those who would report into you (they know what the real day-to-day is like).
The effects of COVID-19 are only just beginning and whether you are a company hiring, or an executive looking for a job, you will need to adapt in order to thrive (surviving just isn’t good enough). Looking for further guidance? The Suite is here to help (see, I saved my shameless plug for the end).
Need guidance? Feel free to reach out to us contact us and we will do our best to help you navigate these choppy waters.