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Recruiting Remotely: Current Challenges & Future Opportunities

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The way we hire has changed overnight. 

Traditional hiring methods now hold little value and recruitment teams have been presented with the challenge of doing a very human role from an entirely digital standpoint. 

Recruitment challenges & opportunities with WFH options

Two people on a zoom screen with brand shapes
Working remotely brings new challenges and opportunities for candidates, recruiters and hiring managers.

Without being able to eye-ball candidates, trust and robust systems have never been more important and that fine-tuned human instinct that recruitment and HR professionals have developed over the decades has to be adapted to work within a virtual environment. 

Having clear processes and technology in place will be more important than ever, to:

  • keep things moving, 
  • maintain consistency across team work, 
  • consolidate reporting,
  • create the best first impression for new hires. 

Ensuring recruitment teams know the exact purpose of every process or tool, and best practices for leveraging them, will be critical to delivering results. 

This will also be key to continuing to offer a positive candidate experience, and ensuring that the effort put into engagement in a normal, “offline” hiring journey is reflected in the steps a candidate will go through with you in your new, virtual existence. 

But working remotely isn’t new or bad, it’s a different way of working for a large percentage of the population but it could become a new norm and a better way of operating should this “experiment” go well. 

The reality that we are now having to find talent remotely, engage them remotely, hire them remotely and then ask them to start a new role…remotely, could be daunting but, if embraced, it could also be something we take advantage of for future success. 

The Challenges vs Opportunities of Remote Hiring  

While there are many stages to the hiring process, there are a number of difficulties that recruitment teams could now face across the process as a whole, while getting up to speed with new ways of remote working

However, by embracing the changes we are essentially being “forced” to adopt, there are also several opportunities for HR and recruitment teams to build better systems, adopt different approaches and learn new skills for the future. 

Challenges and opportunities table

Learning From Companies with Remote Teams

While the majority or organisations are going through a period of adjustment, there are many that have already embraced remote working and operate with entirely dispersed teams. Here’s what we can learn from a selection of them. 

Collage - this online retailer, which creates and distributes a variety of photo and home products, says: 

“We'll give you the autonomy and resources to do your job well. We believe our team is happiest and most effective when everyone has control over their own working conditions and the freedom to make decisions that impact our company.”

Key in this message is the mention of resources. Nothing will make or break your attempts to operate remotely more than the tools you provide your team. From office chairs that will save their backs to the platforms that will help them continue with their day job, you need to make sure the working environment feels as comfortable and familiar as possible. 

Automattic - the company behind WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Simplenote, Longreads, VaultPress and more employs people in more than 70 countries and their approach to onboarding is interesting for everyone bringing in remote recruits: 

“When you make it past the interview stage we’ll do a project together on contract, typically lasting between two to six weeks depending on how much time you can spend, to see how we work together.”

This trial period gives Automattic the chance to ensure they have made the right hiring decision in an environment where the cultural fit of a new hire might not be so apparent given the lack of face-to-face interaction with the rest of the team. This “cooling off” period could also be something for remote recruiters hiring new, remote staff to consider.  

MeetEdgar - remote working is all about the opportunity to streamline processes and keep things simple, for social media management platform, MeetEdgar, who says:

“Working remotely helps us stay organized and limber, and our processes as simple as possible.”

When your whole team needs to be able to operate at the same time from different locations but maintain the productivity and efficiency they are capable of when they’re all together, simple, clear and constructive processes are critical. 

InVision - digital product design platform, InVision, sees the value in hiring from overseas, which is massively increased when there’s no need for new recruits to relocate, stating: 

“Who says you need to move to work at a great company? Not us. We know there's great talent all over the place and we are a completely distributed company.” 

As companies adjust to remote working they will start to see the benefits of being able to offer employees the opportunity to work from their location of choice. Once “forced” remote-working becomes a thing of the past, many organisations will continue to offer overseas talent the opportunity to join the company without moving. 

FlexJobs - it’s perhaps no surprise that a company which helps jobseekers find flexible working opportunities is also 100% remotely operated. The company’s approach to finding the right talent focuses on a number of important soft skills: 

"Throughout our hiring process, we are specifically looking for people who are great at communicating, who are drawn to the mission-driven aspect of our company, and who show an ability to collaborate with a team, as well as work independently."

This statement highlights the importance of drilling down into remote hires’ ability to fit in with company culture and ways of working, while operating independently without the support of a team around them. 

Four Process Changes to Consider When Hiring remotely 

1. You’ll NEED technology 

While many recruitment teams have already started to adopt technology in order to add efficiency and consistency to their hiring processes, there are still many that are using it for only certain steps, or relying heavily on traditional, manual approaches.

As we attempt to hire from afar, technology will become essential. Luckily, technology adoption no longer needs to be the lengthy, daunting process it once was. We’ve shared a number of articles and resources in the past that provide tips on finding the tech that you can implement quickly and rely on into the future: 

2. Address gaps your hiring process 

Although efficiency is key to ensuring you manage to engage, attract and hire the best talent before your competition is able to reach them, a remote process may require you to include additional steps to ensure you’re confident in your hiring decisions. 

Adding in a step to measure soft skills, for example, could help to add depth and context to your understanding of a candidate’s suitability. According to the LinkedIn Global Talent Trends 2019 report, 63% of employers said one of their biggest interviewing issues was the inability to identify soft skills. So, it’s hard at the best of times but becomes even more difficult and important when conducting your hiring remotely, since the opportunities to connect with candidates will be fewer. 

You may also come to find that your due diligence is lacking and opt to find better, more robust ways to conduct processes such as CV screening, reference checking and ID checking that will ensure you are creating the most informed picture of your candidates, as employees and as people. 

3. You may need to reconsider your employer brand 

Once upon a time (not so long ago!), the opportunity to work remotely was a major competitive advantage for employers looking to attract the best talent. But, in today’s market, remote working was unexpectedly enforced and continues to be something that companies are learning to manage and do well. 

In order to stand out from competitors, as an employer you need to quickly take a close look at what it is that sets your company apart. There are many questions surrounding employer branding and the best way to tackle it, in this article we discussed exactly what an employer brand is and how best to handle the process of identifying and managing yours: Employer Brand: WHAT is it, WHY is it important, HOW do you improve it?

4. Your questions will be more important than ever 

We are strong advocates for the importance and art of asking the right questions during any recruitment journey. But, when you have fewer opportunities to experience the non-verbal cues of face-to-face interactions, making the most of your questions is more important than ever. 

In order to leverage the full value of your interaction with candidates, your questions must be carefully planned to deliver the data and offer the insights you need to form an accurate picture of them and make a confident hiring decision. 

Our Template Builder tool is a great resource for anyone wanting to make sure they get their reference checks right every time, offering a database of best-practice questions that will ensure your references are compliant, unbiased and insightful.  

Tackling Four Key Hiring Stages Remotely 

1. Attraction

What’s different? 

  • A lot of people will be out of work and you may find that the number of applications you receive increases - ensuring the value and validity of them will be key. 
  • Everyone’s offering a remote working opportunity at the moment, you’ll need to do more to stand out! 
  • Candidates will be nervous about the security of a new position, give them confidence in the future of your business and the role they’re applying for.
  • There’ll be no opportunities to use face-to-face networking as a way to find potential new candidates, explore your online options.

Tips and tools to help you adapt:

> Carefully craft job ads

Your job ads will be more important than ever. In a market where candidates will be increasingly anxious about finding a role and ensuring it is a good, long-term fit, you must offer transparency and clarity in the first piece of information they might come across about your company and role. 

On the most part, the same rules that are relevant in a normal hiring market, apply here but the importance of getting them right has been heightened. Consider the following to add as much context and assurance as possible: 

  • Be clear about the job title to avoid any confusion and time wasted on both sides. 
  • Be empathetic and consider what the candidate is looking for - it’s not all about you and what you need!
  • Highlight key aspects of the role or brand that you want to draw a candidate’s attention to. They might be skimming through multiple ads, make sure they take the key points away from yours. 
  • Be clear about the next steps in the hiring process, including how and when each stage will be completed so they can be prepared both mentally and technically.
  • Provide assurance about the future of the business - if you are hiring in these uncertain times, make sure candidates know their job is secure. 

> Identify and promote your culture

If you haven’t already, now’s the time to define your company culture and establish an employer brand. What do you stand for, what are your values and how do you want to be perceived by potential employees in the market? 

Once you have established who you are, think about how you can best promote that to an online audience. In a world where we are all more reliant than ever on the information shared online, social media platforms are the best place to start: 

  • Consider using photo-driven platforms such as Instagram to share images of the team in either less dispersed days or as they continue to drive the business from remote locations.
  • For networking and promoting vacant roles, LinkedIn has been a longstanding go-to and, as people continue to be inundated with emails updating them on the current status of the global crisis, LinkedIn is a great place to engage with job seekers looking for other (perhaps happier!) connections. 

> Define your candidate personas 

As important as it is to identify your company culture, now is also a great time to really understand what candidate personas you are looking for. 

Much like a buyer persona used by marketing teams to know who they are targeting with messaging about a product or service, candidate personas will help you to develop a clear picture of the person you are looking to hire, and ensure that you are using the right communication in the right place to attract them. 

And remember, the process of identifying candidate personas is not designed purely for your benefit. If you understand exactly the type of person that will be right for your role, what makes them tick and how best to communicate with them, you will offer a great candidate experience from the word go. 

2. Interviewing

What’s different? 

  • There will be no in-person interviews (that’s the obvious one!) - you’re going to need to embrace virtual, video meetings with candidates. 
  • Including multiple people in the interview process will be logistically more difficult. 
  • Candidates may be apprehensive about using technology to ‘meet’ their prospective employer for the first time, adding to an already nerve-wracking situation. 

Tips and tools to help you adapt:

We spoke to Jane Bianchini. Founder of on-demand video interviewing platform, Alcami Interactive, to understand how we can all make the best use of video interviews. Check out the full interview here to hear Jane discuss the value of: 

> Giving candidates time to consider their responses 

In a pre-recorded interview, the temptation can arise to allow candidates only limited time to provide their responses but try to imagine the timings you would typically offer during a phone or face-to-face interview and create a digitally conversational experience for candidates.

> Tailoring questions to suit your audience and the virtual environment 

To make the interview experience as natural as possible in a virtual context, think carefully about the questions you ask. There will be no opportunity to probe or discuss a candidate’s responses so keep your questions clear and concise. Start by understanding exactly what you want candidates to tell you and ensure the questions you ask make the most of the opportunity to demonstrate a bit of what it would be like to work for your company - don’t limit yourself to boring, operational queries! 

> Embracing video interviewing for all roles 

While some candidates might struggle with their first video interview, try not to make assumptions about the type of person or role that the digital experience would be best suited to. In our interview with Jane, she shared a great story about a role a client used Alchemi for with some surprising results - check it out! 

> Recognising the efficiency benefits of video screening

When we consider how the changes we implement to meet immediate and enforced working requirements might continue to impact us in the future, efficiency is definitely one of the key benefits that stands out. And the enormous time-savings that video interviewing can offer are not to be ignored, giving businesses the opportunity to assess hundreds (if not thousands) of candidates in hours rather than weeks. 

> Focusing on candidate experience 

As Jane discusses in our interview, video screening enables employers a much more immersive experience for candidates, by enabling them to include branding, images and videos that offer candidates more of a sense of the culture of the business. Key to getting the tech selection right comes from picking a tool that will make the process as frictionless and effortless for the candidate as possible, to leave them with the best possible impression of the business.  

3. Candidate Verification

What’s different? 

  • Having a consolidated record of all verification will be more important than ever, making it easier to share updates with the rest of the team and hiring managers. 
  • There may be a need to increase the number or type of checks done on candidates, to ensure the validity of their claims. 
  • A sensitive approach will need to be taken when trying to communicate with references who may be even busier than usual and trying to navigate through sudden changes to the working environment. 

Tips and tools to help you adapt:

> Automate your processes 

There’s never been a better time to automate candidate reference, background and ID checks. No matter what role you’re hiring for, doing these checks using an automated process will take the legwork out of a critical recruitment task and ensure it is done quickly and with compliance.

Xref offers an online, automated referencing solution that provides a faster, safer way of collecting valuable insights, helping hiring managers make quick and confident decisions. We process more than 12,500 references every week and offer always-on referencing checking. As a result, 60% of our references are completed outside of usual working hours. Our clients experience faster turnaround times, receiving completed references within, on average, 24 hours of the initial request. Click here to try Xref for free today.

Through integrations with leading background checking providers, including CVCheck, uCheck, ScreeningCanada, and Checkr, we can also offer more than 200 global checks directly from the Xref platform. 

> Add additional assurance to your hiring 

While background and reference checks can tell you where someone has been and what they have done, when you’re operating in an uncertain environment, you may want to go one step further and verify a candidate’s ID. Through our acquisition of RapidID, this is another solution that is available via the Xref platform. 

RapidID provides ID verification and fraud prevention with a platform that simplifies identification, screening and compliance in an all-in-one, integrated solution, offering: 

  • Global ID Checks 
  • AML & KYC Compliance 
  • ID Document Verification 
  • Biometric Verification

4. Onboarding

What’s different? 

  • Any of the usual in-person drinks or lunches you would arrange to introduce a new starter to your team are off the cards! 
  • You won’t be setting up a desk with a pile of swag for your new starter’s first day. If circumstances allow, get it all in the mail in plenty of time for day one. 
  • You won’t be able to sit down with new recruits to take them through the platforms and tools they’ll need to use in their role. 

Tips and tools to help you adapt:

> Introduce tech-based onboarding

A great onboarding experience requires frequent, consistent and tailored communication from the moment an offer is made until the new recruit’s first day. And, while this is important for any hiring experience, it is particularly critical at a time when the first day could be done from home. Without the milestone of meeting new colleagues and setting foot in the office, starting a new role could seem like a bit of an anti-climax and just a little bit daunting!

Automated onboarding solutions like Enboarder make the process smart and simple, turning the period between an offer being made and the first day in a role into an experience reflective of the organisation, with: 

  • Tailored and engaging content 
  • SMS-driven communication 
  • Support for hiring managers 
  • Programs designed to make the transition into the role smooth and exciting 

> Use video to connect with new hires 

It’s likely you and your team are becoming very familiar with hosting remote meetings on video platforms, such as Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams. And, judging by some of the posts that frequently pop up on social media, we’re getting very comfortable with these virtual gatherings. 

So, why not turn your usual “meet the team” drinks into a digital meet and greet. You’ll need to make it a BYO situation but it’ll be a fun and engaging way to allow new starters to meet their colleagues and share in a casual conversation.

> Make a plan for day 1

This is a good move in any situation but when you and your new colleague are both away from the usual workplace, having a clear plan for what you want to get them across in their first day is the best way to ensure they quickly feel settled and confident in their new role. 

Take a few simple steps to get prepared and make the start of a new hire’s journey with you as smooth as possible: 

  • Make sure their accounts and permissions are all set up and good to go. Spending the first day staring at a “software updating” screen can be hard enough in a new office, but doing that remotely on your first day could be a little sole destroying.
  • Make time to take them through the tools and platforms they’ll be using daily. They’ll pick up the intricacies as they use them but understanding the basics is a good way to get them up to speed quickly. 
  • Arrange meetings with immediate team members so they can meet them again (having already met them at the virtual meet and greet) and get across roles and responsibilities on the team. 
  • Provide them with an organisational chart so they know who’s who and can start to understand where everyone fits in the business, even if they’re not passing them in the corridors. 

Key takeaways 

While COVID-19 came out of nowhere and required us to be extremely agile and adaptive, sometimes you won’t see the opportunity in change until you are forced to embrace it. It was only through the unwelcome spread of Coronavirus that we were able to really embrace the positive improvements to the way we will continue to work in the future. 

Having looked at the challenges and opportunities presented by acting quickly and adapting to remote hiring conditions; some examples of businesses that are nailing the dispersed workforce model; what you might need to change in your hiring processes; and some tips for adapting to your new ways of working, here are our top four takeaways.

  1. Technology is your friend - tech platforms will go from being an added benefit to your recruitment process to a necessity to keep you moving. And they don’t have to be hard to implement - there are a number of tools that can be introduced with ease and speed to provide immediate support to you and your team. 
  1. Understanding your employer brand is key - when the challenges of attracting and hiring talent are heightened, knowing who you are as a business, your values and what you are looking for in your people becomes exponentially more important. As does ensuring everyone on your recruitment team is well-versed and aligned on it so that they can continue to work independently but with consistency.  
  1. Candidate experience has to be a priority - candidates are nervous about the market and the security of any opportunities they apply for. And, as you’re trying to get up to speed with new processes, so are they. Ensure you are empathetic, always have their experience at the front of your mind and do whatever you can to engage on an emotional level as much as possible. 
  1. Data and evidence will add assurance - in a world where our human judgement is compromised by having a screen between us and our candidates, we need data to help inform and drive our decisions. Consider the steps you would typically take to painting a clear picture of candidate suitability and how you can use tech-driven processes to not only mimic them but add greater depth and context to the insights you take from them. 

The Benefits of Automated Reference Checking  

Xref is proud to offer customers a number of key benefits during the hiring at any time but when dealing with the unprecedented circumstances we’ve all been faced with globally, these benefits become even more important. 

With Xref, organisations globally benefit from a reference checking process that is: 

"The first time we used Xref, we put the requests in on Friday afternoon and by Monday morning they were all complete. It was absolutely wonderful!" - Connect Hearing
"A candidate had informed us that her referee was overseas but Xref flagged with us that the reference had been completed from the same IP address as the candidate. Given this, there was no doubt that the reference had been completed fraudulently." - Legal People
“My team grew by over 400% in 12 months, so we needed to find efficiencies wherever we could to manage that growth.” - WilsonCTS
“Xref enables us to eliminate bias from our reference checking process. It’s crucial for us to get a snapshot of a candidate’s background and verify their work history, but Xref also creates a sense of privacy and security in the process.” - Planit Software Testing
“The data provided by Xref helps us to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of new employees before they join us. We are now able to plan our training and management requirements to support the growth and development of each employee.” - APG & Co.

These will be reflected in the services offered by all leading HR technology platforms and, by building a robust and considered tech stack, you and your team will be able to handle the current situation will ease, and move into life beyond COVID-19 with a strong, process-driven recruitment function. 

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