As organisations continue to surf the waves of change swelling in the wake of COVID-19, recruitment is experiencing the peaks and troughs simultaneously. The region has seen Cathay Pacific employees opting to take three weeks’ unpaid leave in an attempt to assist the business through the pandemic and Australian retailers like Myer and Cotton On shedd tens of thousands of workers. On the other hand, Tesco is looking to recruit new workers in Malaysia while Lazada, Amazon, TikTok and food delivery services are recruiting throughout ASEAN to meet our changing lifestyle needs in isolation.

The shift to virtual recruitment in today’s environment is an essential safety measure, but it could also herald a longer term change. While commonly used to screen candidates in the pre-corona economy, organisations are now grappling with making important talent decisions without ever meeting individuals face to face. But successful adaptation to our new virtual recruitment reality requires planning. It’s not about simply transposing an existing process to a new channel. Instead, it requires a new way of engaging and interacting that should be carefully planned upfront.

Data is king

Beyond the news headlines focusing on the mass job losses and sector-based recruitment drives, our clients are telling us they’re continuing to recruit for critical roles. All interviews have gradually transitioned to video conferencing over the past few months and most are now fully virtual. Despite this, some resistance lingers around making a final decision without meeting a candidate face to face. At the same time, many companies are choosing to move forward to ensure they secure their candidate of choice and enable their businesses to move forward – the talent crunch hasn’t evaporated in the face of the pandemic.  

This mindset of hesitation often stems from the perceived greater risk involved in hiring someone whom the hiring manager hasn’t met in person. However, a shift to virtual interviews can provide organisations with an opportunity to eliminate unconscious bias. Now is the time for hiring managers to focus on analysing all available data points beyond the typical technical competency criteria and industry references. One way to mine better data throughout the interview process is by designing a concise interview approach tailored for the success in this position as well as the changing operating environment. Building a hiring process that includes assessments for agility and an ability to lead in ambiguous circumstances can provide high quality data for making business critical hires that a face to face interview will not necessarily yield.  Incorporating these elements will go a long way in enabling business leaders to feel confident in making critical talent decisions that take the organisation forward through the crisis.

Mindset over matter

The success of recruitment in COVID times is predicated on organisations taking a deliberate approach to recruitment in a completely virtual environment. Interviewers can contribute significantly to obtaining high quality data points by being appropriately prepared for each interaction. This includes reading any candidate reports prior to the meeting. This not only helps in making the meeting more efficient, but also allows for the interviewer to identify points of commonality that can help to build the personal connection that’s essential for enabling a qualitatively valuable interview.

Virtual interviews also require an increased emphasis on active listening and remaining completely present in the interview. It can be more difficult to read another person’s body language virtually, so being mindful of an equal conversational flow and asking for feedback is recommended. Secondly, it bears mentioning that people can see if you’re not present; the interviewee will know if you’re checking your messages on your computer or your phone and this will likely diminish the interview experience for both participants.

Riding on momentum

Making a successful move to a virtual recruitment environment requires more careful planning and deliberate effort in terms of how to structure the flow of the interview to get the most out of each interaction. Done well, the changes implemented to deal with current restrictions can set the foundation for a fairer, more objective recruitment process. 

Moving to virtual recruitment doesn’t need to simply be a reaction to the circumstances – it can establish a new paradigm for fair and objective recruitment.

To learn more about navigating the crisis and the path to recovery, download Crisis Proofing your talent processes.


Watch on-demand: To embrace the opportunity to redesign your talent management, start with our webinar on leading through the crisis and beyond.

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About the contributor

Tamara is the Market Leader for Consumer, Singapore and ASEAN Lead for the HR Center of Expertise for Professional Search, Korn Ferry. She has substantial experience working with consumer clients on assignments identifying high performing and high potential talent across Asia.

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