Recruiting Goes (On) Zoom

Shiran Danoch | I/O Psychologist

July 20, 2020

As we seek the “new normal” in all areas of life post-COVID-19, the HR world, and hiring in particular, is also changing. There are some obvious difficulties: the challenges of remote recruiting, identifying candidates who are likely to thrive working from home, and the time and resources necessary to sift through the growing pool of applicants.

Survey Says...

But the COVID-19 reality has also created some major opportunities for a “growth spurt”, according to a survey we conducted recently with over 300 talent acquisition leaders in the tech industry in the US and Europe (over half of the participants were from companies with over 1000 employees).

The most prominent finding from our research is that REMOTE RECRUITING IS ON! 83% of respondents are already recruiting remotely or intend to do so. This opens a world of opportunities for talent acquisition, but also requires the hacking of a few challenges. Here are a few words on each.

A World of Opportunities
1. Choose From a Larger Talent Pool

In a significant change from past practices, many companies now believe that working from home is effective, saves money, and allows for greater employee well being. Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, announced that workers can keep working from home “forever”. Google, Amazon, Slack, and Microsoft, among others, have also expanded work from home options. This trend has another major benefit: removing geographical barriers and significantly growing the pool of relevant candidates, creating new opportunities to bring non-local, top talent on board.

2. Diversify Your Funnel

Some industries, specifically tech, are mostly white and male, and have struggled to diversify their workforce. Now that hiring is no longer restricted to a specific geography and office, it is possible to meet many of the diversity goals companies have set for themselves. This is particularly true for people who may have unique skill sets, but are unable to work in an office setting for various reasons, from health and accessibility issues to caregiving responsibilities.

3. Shorten Time to Hire

The majority of TA professionals (54%) believe that remote recruiting will result in shorter time to hire. Going remote allows a streamlining of the recruitment process, making it much more timely and efficient.

Hacking the Challenges
A Bit of Context

After years of low unemployment rates that resulted in a candidate-driven market, the trend has shifted. There are now 36.5 million Americans and 2 million Brits who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. It is an employers' market (at least for now), where companies have plenty of candidates to choose from. But while a glut of candidates can be a blessing (for companies), it is also a challenge. In our experience, smart technology has the power to offer some very useful hacks:

1. Prioritize the CV Pile

The Issue: It’s always been difficult to prioritize the CV pile, and with the expected rise in applicants for each position, the task will become monumental - 48% of surveyed organizations are still conducting manual CV screening.

The Hack: AI tools can automatically extract the relevant data from each CV and present it in a user-friendly format, eliminating the need to read through piles of CVs. In addition, AI tools can determine go/no go, based on your criteria, and even show you which factors actually correlate with performance at your company (are salespeople with more than 5 years of experience really likely to sell more than those with 2 years of experience?).

If your company is not yet ready for an AI-based solution, try working with application forms - they are much more structured than CVs, are easily gradable, and allow for quick comparison of candidates on relevant criteria.

2. Drill Down Into the Soft Skills From Afar

The Issue: Assessing “soft” skills - things like positive attitude, growth mindset or adaptability - is critically important and is often the difference between a great hire and one that falls flat. According to our survey, a vast majority of companies (71%) place high importance on soft skills in their initial screening. In fact, companies place higher importance on soft skills compared to hard skills (59%) and credentials (56%). A recent study by IBM reveals that a shift is occurring: executives’ views regarding the priority of critical skills have taken a turn from digital and technical to behavioral.

But soft skills can be frustratingly difficult to assess, even in person. Candidates are often on their best behavior during the interview process and provide less-than-accurate self-reporting on their capabilities. Assessing soft skills is even more difficult in remote settings. In our research, most TA professionals expressed concern about accurately assessing soft skills in remote settings. As one interviewee stated:

"There are some qualities, like charisma, we cannot measure via Skype."

The Hack: A smart soft skills assessment looks not only at a candidate's self-reporting ("I'm obsessed with details") but at how they actually perform on relevant tasks, self-awareness gaps, their level of social desirability when answering questions, etc. This, together with the data from candidates’ CVs, the interview process, recommendations, etc, creates a highly nuanced and complete 'digital portrait' of each candidate.

If your company is not yet ready for an AI-based solution, collect 2-5 scores from each stage and from each evaluator in the hiring process and average them out in order to make data-driven decisions on whom to hire.

3. Remote Interviewing Challenges

The Issue: 40% of respondents believe that remote and face-to-face interviews are equally effective. The most prevalent concerns about remote interviews are:

A - Technical issues - poor connection, struggle to understand the language, sound delay, etc.

B - Establishing rapport - TA leaders expressed a need to “feel” the candidate and determine chemistry and team fit.

C - Lack of information from body language and micro-expressions that are harder to see via video.

D - Overcoming biases - 63% of respondents believe that face to face and remote interviews are equally biased, and feel the need for tools and knowledge to overcome bias. As one respondent said:

"Bias factors are shifting from the physical world to the virtual environment – body language, background (family, pets, pictures, messy room), look, clothes, technology orientation, voice… so it [bias] will remain the same, and we need to train managers about how to deal with bias that occurs online"

The Hacks:

A - Technical issues - allow for a “demo interview” - provide the candidates with several video conferencing options to choose from (Zoom, Skype, Teams, etc) to choose from, and allow them to join the call 15 minutes early in order to test connectivity and audio and adjust their camera, sitting position or background.

B - Start with a few minutes of small talk. You can ask about the experience of remote interviewing and “normalize” the situation by admitting that it's also new to you and that you are in this together.

C - Getting at "body language" information - surprisingly, not a lot of information is lost, and you can learn a lot about how relaxed/stressed/friendly/rigid/distanced a candidate is just by listening to their voice. You can also incorporate a task that will require the candidate to stand up, such as pitch an idea or describe a work/thought process with visual aids. Make sure you prepare the candidate in advance if you want to incorporate such tasks in the interview.

D - Overcoming biases - working with a structured or semi-structured interview has been proven to significantly reduce bias. By standardizing the questions interviewers ask and scoring the answers based on agreed indicators of good/bad answers, the interview can become much more accurate, efficient, and fair. Candidates can be easily compared and the interviewers themselves are constantly analyzed to identify interviewer biases and provide feedback so that they can improve over time.

The Bottom Line

COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it, at least for now, and the recruitment world is no exception. These changes offer a valuable moment in time to re-think HR processes, platforms, and technology.

By adopting smart technologies, companies can make each step of the process smarter and more efficient - from prioritizing candidates to getting a complete and accurate understanding of each, to standardizing the interview process, to ensuring greater diversity and a bias-free process.

Stay posted on Empirical’s research and insights from the hiring trenches. Or reach out to us if you have any comments, questions, or you want to learn more.