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  • Writer's pictureEmmanuel White

Recruitment: Is interdependency and trust the new norm?

Following this unprecedented situation, the recruitment industry has faced several challenges over the last few months. Have you ever hired someone without a physical meeting, no real human interaction? This was our new reality and we quickly faced many issues we had to adapt to in our recruitment process.

Firstly, most employees were confined. Even for essential businesses, the number of attendees was rarely over 30%. By employee, they were defined as every seniority layer of the company, from the workers, PMET up to the C-Level suites. All of us had to work from home (WFH) or limit our attendance from complying with strict regulation. No gatherings and physical meetings were allowed and this greatly impacted our mindset from top to bottom.

Secondly, trusting that your employees were doing the best of their abilities to make things happen became the norm, whether your business was negatively or positively impacted. In spite of having to divide their time between childcare and working from home, computer timeshares, the lack of physical connections and many other disturbances at home, everyone played their part in the community and adapted to a novel situation. On the other hand, time saved on commuting, colleague lunches, and the need to stay focused and disciplined has urged companies to reconsider a Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA). (we will tackle this in another post).

Geographic Boundaries and Role Relocation: Later, people quickly realised that virtual hiring is an opportunity to recruit anyone anywhere. In the case of MNCs, the hiring manager began to get used to the idea that most of them were already in a remote location. Why couldn’t this specific role not be the same? Even though business trips were impossible in Singapore, the idea of having people collaborating in different locations could enhance geographic coverage remotely.

Chemistry and Personality: Remote recruitment that relied on video conferencing also prevented people from getting a feeling of their personality and building chemistry. The amount of information gleaned from a video call is much, much lower than you would in real life. Will this candidate fit our culture, our DNA or the way our team works?

Reference Checks: Another way to check the soft skills of a person, such as personality, reliability, teamwork ability, was to assess people of trust who knew the candidate professionally. Networks became necessary, as of company or school alumni networks, past colleagues, clients and auditors were called for a reference check to vouch for these human beings we met only on screen. The goal was to offer a role, responsibilities and sometimes a team in a new environment without meeting face to face- We needed to trust others' opinions to compensate for our own feelings of uncertainty.

Reference checks are now more crucial than ever and networks have become highly leveraged. Despite all these reinvented changes, it has been proven that we can still recruit people without meeting with them physically. Still, this is impossible without the reassurance of the network that were built on and based on human interaction; this is called trust.

Job Offer Management: Assuming you were convinced and offered the job to the successful candidate, many offers were still rejected. Despite all the risks our clients were taking in offering the job, it was still unsuccessful. The process was very frustrating on the client’s and our end. To prevent this, we had to map, screen, assess, sell, and conduct video interviews several more times to understand their intent.

So why were job offers not accepted? It turns out that their families were the root of their hesitation. Are you willing to get relocated for an uncertain time frame, with so much uncertainty on even moving in the first place? Are you prepared to move your whole family to an unknown country based on a video interview done three weeks ago? Are you sure? It was not an option for many in this pandemic. The risk was extremely high to move away from their family or relatives in this climate. Was the risk even worth taking? We needed to build trust with the family too and it was not as easy as bringing them around for a sightseeing tour. Candidates were also asking around for feedback from friends of the company and jobs in some networks in the region. Again, it was based on trust and interdependence. We are now faced with unprecedented uncertainties that we attempt to compensate with other resources, but ultimately we had to trust our own instincts and most importantly, other people we were collaborating with.

Recruitments processes were profoundly impacted in the last four months as most companies were working at saving cash flow and jobs. However, some companies were still recruiting actively, and we had to reinvent processes. Recruitment firms could no longer meet candidates face to face; hence video interviews became the new norm. Everyone became experts on Whatsapp, WeChat, Zoom, Whereby, Microsoft Teams, Chime, Meet or Enablex. This brought about a world of adaptation and considerations for everyone: what backgrounds, how to dress, and how to articulate your ideas efficiently. The 3 C rule of communication applied: Be Clear, Concise, and Consistent. We even used video shortlists of candidates to get a feeling of the personality behind the skills. The feedback we received from candidates was interesting: it takes time, rehearsal, and thought processes had to be carefully planned and written down with the right timing. Employers were positively surprised, but unwilling to spend too much time on a recorded video. Therefore, we gave candidates 10 minutes to present themselves to explain the why and how they could add value in the role. This helped companies to select the candidates for the proper video interviews.

Since the end of the circuit breaker, many processes have gone back to normal, but many of these changes will remain. Video shortlists have been incredibly useful as it immediately gives insight into the level of energy, motivation, and eagerness of this candidate about the role. Virtual shortlisting is also much more time efficient as we are now able to sort out dozens of applications in a much shorter amount of time.

Nevertheless, in the last few months, physical interviews have returned. Meeting face to face will always prove that human contact is the most natural and efficient way of understanding one another. However, new recruitment processes such as the video presentation will be requested from us from now on out of convenience, clarity and efficiency.

Ultimately, this pandemic has brought out that interdependence in our networks is inevitable in difficult and changing times. It has also further highlighted the need for everyone to maintain quality, trustworthy relationships with our partners as we will possibly have to rely on their opinions and resources in times of uncertainty.

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