Recruiting Remotely – Building Your Team From Home Can Reap Benefits

In the midst of furloughs, layoffs, and terminations, companies are still hiring. While the pandemic forces us to change the way we recruit, it also provides an opportunity to make the process a smarter, more efficient, and more equitable one for everyone involved.

Hiring was always difficult – but the challenges are new

Whether you head Human Resources or sit on the hiring committee, you know that there is no good time for an interview. The process can be long, tiresome, and awkward. Depending on your company’s protocol, you may find yourself engaged in a panel interview, a one-on-one, and a lunch. As luck would have it, your scheduled slot will appear on your calendar wedged between an important meeting and a crucial deadline. You will move the interview only to cut it short when you do meet the candidate. “It’s usually not this crazy …” you’ll say as you usher them to the elevator.

Now, we truly know crazy. Some employees are engaged in a bizarre “work from homeschool,” others are grappling with tragedy or anxiety over it striking. Applicants are not immune, and may be dealing with the effects of lost income as well. How should you go about interviewing in this new, fraught world? Do the same rules apply? Will you get to know candidates when you can’t take them to lunch? What do you do if references don’t call you back because they are between jobs, juggling remote learning, ill, or too overwhelmed by 2020 to talk? With Americans increasingly questioning their choice of residence, career, and even spouse, how do you know that this candidate really wants this job? Nobody wants to be a COVID-19 rebound.  Here are a couple thoughts for a remote employer hiring:

  1. This can be the time you get to know your applicants
    Onsite interviews are formal and stressful. Enjoy getting to know candidates on their own turf. If you live in a warm climate, take two folding chairs to a park, sit six feet apart, mask up, and have a long, fulfilling conversation without the din of diners and the staccato of stories interrupted by refilled water. You didn’t really know the candidate after one lunch. Why not try something new? If it’s too cold for this idea to take form, videochat is always available. If they cite “Zoom fatigue,” they aren’t interested enough in the position. People show up for what they want.
  2. This can be the time you look for resiliency
    Who do you need to round out your remote team? COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon – just ask Bill Gates. Today, we need flexible people, who grow with challenges and enjoy learning new things. You also need better talkers and listeners, who can deftly navigate the telephone and video chat with ease and a bit of humor. There are dozens of well-regarded online assessment tools (industry and skill-specific) that can help you target particular talent. Even when COVID-19 is a distant memory, remote work will not be. Fill your team with people comfortable in different settings.
  3. This can be the time to get serious about diversity and inclusion
    Let me put it bluntly: friend-of-a-friend hiring perpetuates the Old Boys and Girls Club. As it turns out, so does a rigid onsite schedule. Take the opportunity that this new world presents and look for people outside your network. Look for diverse candidates – in race, ethnicity, age, and parental status. With a thoughtful recruitment process, you can attract candidates who you would not otherwise find. Do you need tips on how to get started? Talk to a diversity and inclusion consultant.
  4. This can be the time to become efficient
    Poor commuter trains. Until recently, a large portion of American society just assumed that they have to be boarded Monday through Friday in order to get to work. Now that many of us commute from bedroom to office via a ten-second walk, we should consider other ways to speed up processes. How can you streamline interviewing? Take stock of old techniques, ask hiring committee members about their experience, and develop a process that gets what you need out of the interviewee. When you are looking for a good fit, it is often quality over quantity.

This is not an easy time to get to know your applicants, but there is hope. A global pandemic has a way of peeling back the layers of your process, your work, even yourself, until you get to the core of what makes it tick. Let’s use COVID-19 to grow our teams to be better than ever.