Hiring During a Crisis: Tips for Recruiting, Interviewing, and Onboarding Employees During COVID-19

| COVID-19, HR Resources, News
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With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing businesses across the world to modify the way they operate, the process of recruiting, hiring, and onboarding new staff has undergone a significant overhaul. Here’s how 12 real-world business leaders adapted. 

The pandemic has changed the way businesses are run, significantly and, most likely, permanently. From where we work to how we interact and the methods we use for managing teams, the workplace looks drastically different than it did at the end of 2019. 

And the process of recruiting, hiring, and onboarding new employees is no exception. With the rise in remote work and the distributed workforce, businesses have had to modify their approaches to bringing great talent into their organizations. 

So, what has changed, what’s stayed the same, and what’s the best way to deal with this new reality? We tapped into our network of business leaders, HR professionals, and hiring managers to get their answers to these questions. 

Here’s what we learned. 

3 Ways to Adapt Your Recruiting Process  

When we spoke with our network of experts, the first thing that stood out is the need to adapt your recruitment process to accommodate the new highly remote way in which we work. 

So, what exactly does that look like? 

1. Optimize Your Job Description for Virtual Recruiting 

The first step is to make sure your job description accurately reflects the position and fits with your updated hiring process, according to Marja Verbon, Founder, COO, and Head of Talent at Jump

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“When hiring remotely, the job description is key,” says Verbon. “It can be much more than a list of requirements and responsibilities. It can be a way to make your potential applicants excited about the role, be crystal clear on the hiring process, and support them from the start. For example, the job description should preemptively answer any questions they may have, especially those relating to working remotely and COVID-19.” 

This can include everything from job title and responsibilities to qualifications, working conditions, an overview of the company, and even salary. 

2Think About Salaries for Remote Workers 

Speaking of salaries in your job description, you may also want to consider salaries for remote workers when you’re in the process of preparing to recruit new staff. This is something that Jacob Dayan Esq., CEO and Co-Founder of Community Tax, has come to consider. 

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“With remote employees, we need to determine a fair salary,” says Dayan. “At Community Tax, we usually determine this based off their location, average salary for their position in their area, and the cost of living where they currently reside. That being said, we are flexible in salary negotiations.” 

3Seek Modern Proficiencies in Candidates  

Another important aspect of the recruitment process when hiring during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic is seeking new skills in candidates (and including this information in your revised job description).  

What does this mean exactly? 

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“Recruiters are more likely to look for applicants who have efficient skillset relevant to the digital platform,” says Willie Greer, Founder of The Product Analyst. “Now that the switch is gearing towards all things digital, recruiters assume they will need people who can handle digital deliverables which will help their business stand-out in the digital world.” 

He continues, “Now that the trend is gearing towards a digital shift, employees, even those from the Boomer generation, should start getting a hold of digital knowledge to be able to maximize such a shift. If this digital modernization is implemented well, surely it will make the job flow more efficient. given that it’s the only platform that will connect us to people since we are working from home. Employers should look for these types of skills when recruiting new staff.” 

Ravi Parikh, CEO of RoverPass, feels that it’s more important than ever for employers to seek skills in candidates that will help them succeed in a remote work environment. 

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“At RoverPass, we’re still looking for the same skillset in candidates,” explains Parikh. “But we’re also looking for a little more experience with time management and self-direction. Working independently from home requires one to be motivated and honest. So, we really look for those qualities more than ever.” 

Tips for Making the Virtual Interview Process Work for You 

Finding talent is only the first step in the process—and the aspect of hiring that’s been arguably the least affected by the pandemic.  

On the other hand, conducting the interview process in the midst of the pandemic is one of the ways where things have become a bit more complicated. 

Here’s why—and what you can do about it. 

1. Identify and Implement the Right Tools for Interviewing in a Crisis 

The pandemic has caused interviews to go largely online. And for many hiring managers, virtual interviews lack the vital nuances of face-to-face meetings. So, it’s important to identify and implement the right tools to help you make the most of your interviews, according to Dusan Stanar, Founder & CEO of VSSMonitoring.  

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“During these uncertain times of COVID-19, companies have to rely on virtual interviews for hiring,” says Stanar. “While many hiring managers prefer to have that face-to-face communication during a first interview—because non-verbal cues are just as essential as verbal cues—it’s just not feasible right now. Just as we’ve moved the bulk of our meetings and ‘face-to-face’ interactions to WebEx, Zoom, or the video conferencing system du jour, why not do the exact same for interviews?” 
He continues, “It’s an effective method for keeping the hiring process rolling and, for all you know, it could really expose the more ‘unfiltered’ or authentic side of your job candidates: because conducting an interview from home, for some reason, just feels less daunting than when you’re bound to carry on a conversation in a cold conference room. And this could be the solution to hiring the right person during these uncertain times.” 

2. Consider New Screening Tools for Giving the “Airport Test” 

Another way to help gauge the suitability of your candidates is to utilize practical assessments, according to Marja Verbon. 

She explains, “Practical assessments are more important than ever. Due to the lack of in-person interviews, it can be harder to gauge suitability. A good method is to give a task or assessment to do before the interview, then you can discuss how they tackled it in the interview itself. This will provide a clear picture of their approach to the work they would be doing, and hence help you make a better decision.” 

3. Ask the Right Questions During the Interview Process  

Just as important as having a clear and tailored job description is ensuring you ask the right questions during the interview. 

This is a tactic adopted by Liam Clouds, Project Manager at MiTRADE

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He explains, “Handling the interview process with the new remote team, we asked each candidate questions about their self-motivation skills, resourcefulness, both written and verbal communication, proactive collaboration, and autonomy. After the questioning session on Zoom, we tested their technical skills and how experienced they were with the working tools using the TeamViewer tool. Considering these skills and screening for them is simply a necessity to confirm that they can work seamlessly with as and with a remote team.” 

4. Find New Ways to Test Aptitude and Skills 

For some leaders, like John Ross, CEO of Test Prep Insight, the interview process didn’t change too drastically—but the way he tested the aptitude and skills of his job candidates did.  

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“In all honesty, the pandemic hasn’t really impacted the questions I ask candidates, or the manner in which I analyze a potential hire,” says Ross. “So long as there is a visual and audio connection, I feel that I can still discern a good candidate from a candidate that may not be a good fit. However, because I don’t have a chance to interview and vet new employees in person, we have changed our recruitment process to include a job duties 

He elaborates, “For example, if we’re hiring for a new video editor position, one of the current video editors will send the potential candidate 60 seconds of raw footage and have them edit the video per some basic instructions. This shows whether or not the candidate has the basic skills necessary to do the job. Once this has been proven, they move onto the interview round, which becomes more about personality and fit than hard skills.” 

3 Major Changes to the Standard Onboarding Procedure  

The process of onboarding employees is critical to their success and their ability to become engrained with their colleagues and the business. 

But doing this virtually—which many organizations have been forced to do—makes this pivotal process exceptionally challenging. 

So, with so much riding on your ability to adequately onboard your employees, how can you make sure the experience is impactful, even during a crisis?  

1. Make Sure Onboarding Stays as Personal as Possible  

Losing the ability to do onboarding in-person doesn’t mean it should become impersonal. This is something that Stewart Dunlop, Founder of PPCGenius.io, takes very seriously.  

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He explains, “Although it’s generally easier to conduct new hire onboarding sessions in person, any business that has a remote workforce understands that there are many ways to support employees in ramping up quickly, whether or not they are actually present in an office. Be certain to leverage video conferencing technologies to add a special touch to your onboarding sessions. While much of the training can be conducted via your learning platform, it’s always helpful to be welcomed into a new company by a living, breathing person, even if that person is communicating with you remotely. So, get inventive with this and be careful that how you go about your virtual onboarding will form a great first (and lasting) impression with new hires.” 

This can also be done using virtual social events, according to William Taylor, Senior Recruitment Advisor at VelvetJobs.  

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“Virtual onboarding will allow your new employees to know the nature of the company and their responsibility in the company,” explains Taylor. “Social events are also helpful but these are more enjoyable when teams think outside of the box. This urges us to become creative in making the virtual workplace productive.” 

If you’d like to learn about virtual social events that can help build camaraderie and make the onboarding process more effective, check out our virtual team building activities which can help build soft skills, allow employees to socialize, and support the development of stronger professional relationships.  

For Ryan Naylor, CEO of VIVAHR, creating personal connections in the onboarding process involves getting new hires immediately engrained with the existing team.  

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“The biggest factors for remote training to be successful is communication, availability, and frequent check-ins,” explains Naylor. “The best way for me to get my new team members engrained with the other team members is to have them participate in our weekly video conference meets. They meet the team, and we show them how meetings are typically accomplished. We discuss our tasks for the week, any wins we may have had, any hurdles we are struggling with, and where we could use other team member’s support. My team uses Slack to communicate with each other, and it has worked for us extremely well. We also use Asana for team collaboration and completing tasks, and it has been a great tool for us to work efficiently.” 

And for John Ross, making the onboarding process more personal involves getting all employees involved in some capacity and doing virtual onboarding lunches with his new team members.  

He elaborates, “To better onboard new hires, we have used a rotating team approach to each new employee’s first week. Our team members rotate in one-hour shifts, meeting virtually over Zoom with our new employee to help them onboard and get trained. This prevents any one employee from being overburdened, while providing the new employee a chance to meet and bond with each of our team members and feel like they have a warm and inclusive welcome.” 
He continues, “Another pro tip is to have their manager (me, in our company’s case) do a virtual lunch with each new employee one day during their first week. It’s been pretty fun. I DoorDash lunch to them and myself, and we have a casual 30-minute Zoom call while we eat. We each kick back, tell each other a little bit about ourselves, and eat some lunch while we chat. It’s the next best thing to taking a new employee out to lunch for their first day. I try to do most of the talking and tell stories to take the pressure off the new employee, and it seems to work well for making them feel welcomed.” 

2. Invest in Your Online Knowledge Database  

In order to make the virtual onboarding process informative and impactful, Chris Kaiser, Founder & CEO of Click A Tree, has taken the opportunity to invest more heavily in his company’s self-learning resources.  

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“We massively increased our online knowledge database,” explains Kaiser. “This includes videos, how-to articles, forms, and sheets to make onboarding easier for new candidates. We have weekly video meetings with the team, plus weekly 1:1 sessions with everyone to ensure we’re all on the same page and everyone receives all the knowledge they need.” 

3. Tweak In-Person Onboarding When Necessary 

With such a drastic shift towards virtual onboarding and remote work, it can be easy to forget that many companies still work in-person. 

For companies in that situation, Alison Pearson, Head of HR at Hal Waldman and Associates, would remind them to adjust their in-person onboarding procedures in light of current events. 

“We’re a law firm, so we’ve still been coming into work,” says Pearson. “But with the need to maintain social distance, we couldn’t shake hands, and I realized that a lot of the ways I set people up for onboarding is very hands-on. Without being able to stand over their shoulder, I had to type up everything (and I also made screen recordings) when I normally would have just shown them. The tour around the office was also very funny, and it involved a lot of waves, and a lot of me saying, ‘Why don’t you go check it out, I’ll wait here.’ But I guess that’s 2020. The best we can do is keep a positive attitude and remain flexible. So, that’s what we’ve done, and it hasn’t been too bad.” 

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing businesses across the world to adapt the way they operate, the process of recruiting, hiring, and onboarding new staff has undergone a significant overhaul. 

In order to ensure new hires are successful, it’s critical to modify the way in which your business handles these processes. 

Have you had experience with recruiting, hiring, and onboarding staff during the pandemic? If so, what was your experience? How did your company need to adapt? Let us know in the comments section below! 

Learn More About Virtual Team Building Activities for Your Remote Group      

For more information about how virtual team building activities can benefit your remote group, reach out to our Employee Engagement Consultants.   


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