The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the way organizations conduct business. But most affected has been recruitment and hiring. While some businesses have had to shelve or abandon onboarding new staff, others are hiring quickly and without face-to-face contact. For companies that have never been virtual, implementing a fully remote hiring process has proven burdensome.
In some areas, remote work will remain the best temporary option as the country slowly opens. Further, 80% of the workforce reports they would rather work remotely, and businesses are realizing the advantages of having a remote workforce. In light of this, some businesses may keep at least some of their employees working remotely on a permanent basis.
The question employers are now asking is how to create and implement a fully remote hiring process. With an average job search cost of $4,000+ and a total hiring time of 42 days, what does an employer need to do to ensure good hiring decisions when the entire process is virtual?
Where to Start
Virtual Vocations CEO, Laura Spawn, recommends keeping things simple in the beginning:
“Businesses that are transitioning their hiring process to be fully remote should use their current process as a jumping-off point. Then, identify which portions of that process need to be changed to accommodate remote hiring. Ease into hiring remotely if at all possible, keeping current the process in place, while adjusting those parts that were handled in-person, and replace them with web-based options.”
Keeping this sound advice in mind, below are the areas businesses of all sizes will need to address. If considered and mitigated, employers can overcome obstacles and the advantages afforded by a fully remote hiring process can be realized.
Changing the Paradigm
While parts of the recruitment and remote hiring process have been automated and performed online for some time, certain elements of the search have usually been completed in person. These activities include job fairs, skills testing, interviews, and onboarding.
The first challenge faced by businesses—especially those that have not engaged in fully remote hiring before—is to overcome any resistance and negative attitudes about potential effects on hiring outcomes.
“I’d say the main issue we’ve faced in hiring remotely is getting the more traditional managers on board. There are a lot of people who believe you need to physically look another person in the eyes and shake their hand to judge their character…I think the efficiency of it was what finally won them over, though. Our CMS (content management system) makes the process incredibly streamlined.” – Jennifer Walden, Director of Operations, WikiLawn Lawn Care
In addition to changing attitudes toward remote hiring, businesses need to make sure they have access to the right tools. As alluded to in the above quote, technology systems and software applications are key to optimizing a fully remote hiring process. These systems enable the automation of many hiring processes, while also facilitating internal collaboration to create position ads, share files, discuss applicants, and schedule interviews.
“Hiring a person involves activities around people’s schedules, collecting feedback, and decision-making. And here’s where a well-optimized talent acquisition platform like Recruitee does the job…Something that helps us keep our heads above the water when hiring remotely.” – Pete Sosnowski, VP People and Co-Founder, Zety
A positive attitude and the right tools will go a long way toward transforming a traditional hiring process into a remote hiring process. However, employers need to realize that the positions themselves may need adjustments to accomplish business goals in an online environment. Workflows and job duties that make perfect sense in an office setting may not work in a remote setting.
“Our biggest challenge was that our creative employees had multiple roles…This system would break if we did it virtually. We standardized and simplified new roles so they were foolproof…We also created a schedule for production managers to check in every morning and afternoon with a ton of tracking for qualitative and quantifiable data…The result? A fully scalable backend operation that can meet the growing demand.” – Rodrigo Barraza, Director of HR, Ninja Tropic
Once you have addressed the organizational changes necessary to embrace a fully remote hiring process, it’s time to contemplate the best ways to identify and engage well-qualified applicants.
Remote work is not necessarily for everyone. Some people may experience challenges, including feelings of isolation and loneliness. In addition, the lack of formal structure and blurring of lines between work and home life can also cause difficulties. Therefore, employers should consider the inclusion of soft skills in the job ad to enhance the applicant’s ability to succeed in the position.
“A remote and distributed team is the new norm today…That’s why I have shifted my focus and started looking for people with high EQ (emotional quotient/emotional intelligence). Individuals with high EQ build strong, connected teams. And strong, connected teams go on to deliver exceptional results working from home. This is why EQ matters now more than ever.” – Jeremy Harrison, Founder, Head of Content Strategy, Hustle Life Media, Inc.
Another consideration when developing a recruitment strategy is how wide you want to cast your net for applicants. By putting into place well-thought-out parameters, you can screen out applicants least likely to result in a successful hire. Possible parameters including geographic, skills-based, and education-based requirements.
“One of the most significant issues we’ve faced so far here at ResumeLab is the influx of job applicants in response to our job postings. Now we spend every ounce of our energy to pen thoughtful job postings to vet unsuitable job candidates on autopilot. We’ve also tightened up the settings in our applicant tracking system, so our HR teams don’t feel overwhelmed with a number of resumes to wade through.” – Jagoda Wieczorek, HR Manager, ResumeLab
Attracting the Right Candidates
Conversely, companies can encounter difficulties establishing credibility and encouraging qualified applicants to participate in a fully remote hiring process. One method that addresses these problems is to set up an employee referral system. In addition to limiting the applicant pool, employing individuals that have been referred by current employees improves retention. This is because new hires already understand the company culture. They know the pros and cons of working there from the person who referred them.
“We have found when a potential candidate knows someone within our company they are 3 times more likely to apply and are 89% less likely to become a no-show for the virtual interview…This program has been a great success and we will continue to use it post-COVID-19.” – Frelecia King, Executive Event Manager, GO-TAB Luxury Event Childcare
When searching for qualified applicants, companies can list jobs with online search engines such as LinkedIn, Monster, and Indeed. In addition, there are a number of niche websites that can help to more closely target the desired applicant pool. These can include sites that specialize by industry or profession. Also, sites such as Virtual Vocations specialize in finding applicants committed to securing a remote position.
“In addition to LinkedIn and the big names such as Indeed and SimplyHired, we’ve found the niche sites to be a great complement to our recruitment efforts. The results have been stellar and truly prove the adage “quality over quantity.” – Peter Bryla, Community Manager, My Perfect Resume
The job ad has been posted, you have input the applicant tracking system (ATS) settings, and applications are flowing in. The question now becomes how to weed out unskilled and unsuitable applicants and shortlist those likely to be a good match. Fortunately, a variety of creative strategies have been developed to address this challenge and whittle down the number of applications.
Some of these methods rely on testing the seriousness, commitment, and skill levels of the applicant. For example, one technique is to provide detailed instructions and disqualify applications that do not adhere to the guidelines. Another option is to require special submissions such as a video application or essay. Employers can also use several methods to vet the applicant’s skill level. Options include requesting writing samples, asking specific open-ended questions, or getting applicants to complete short assessments.
“We’ve seen lots of candidates with fake resumes, fake references, and fake LinkedIn profiles. When we had this situation the first time, we completely changed our hiring process. First, the candidate has a small test to see if they can read and write code and only then can we go forward with them.” – Dennis Vu, CEO and Co-founder, Ringblaze
Of course, one of the best weeding-out strategies is to conduct your due diligence. Follow up on candidate applications with Google searches, reference checks, employment verifications, background investigations, and drug tests. However, due diligence can depend on several factors including cost. You may want to consider conducting some basic screening prior to interviewing in order to save time and money.
Most companies indicate that a major drawback of a fully online hiring process is the lack of in-person interviews. Hiring managers cite not being able to judge personality, interpersonal skills, and team chemistry as some of the challenges faced. This doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker though. Implementing one or a series of video interviews is becoming a common solution.
When developing a video interview strategy, employers need to take a few things into account. The first is ensuring that the technology is in place. Confirm everyone has access to the software used and an adequate internet connection to prevent frozen and/or pixelated viewing. Also, establish backup plans just in case. When technology is in play, Murphy’s Law always applies.
Next, determine the required number of interviews, who should participate, and the focus of the questions. Employers may wish to include more than one interviewer to split up tasks. For example, one interviewer asks questions and monitors body language, while another takes notes or serves as a second opinion. In addition, more than one interview can be scheduled. Multiple interviews can focus on different topics or introduce the applicant to teams and managers they would be working with.
“We’ve innovated by using multi-phase interviews with different teams…While the first screening interview will be with a recruiter, the successive ones are with specific teams in HR, sales, and other departments. By screening with different managers in the company, we’re able to get a more holistic picture of the candidate.” – Tim Reitsma, Sales and Operations Strategist, People Managing People
Of all the hiring processes, onboarding is possibly the most important as well as the most overlooked when transitioning to online. In fact, 67% of remote workers say they need more work-related training. Before COVID-19, only 27% of employees were onboarded via an online delivery method. Consequently, businesses are stepping up with some unique solutions. These include revamping online organizational information, developing detailed written job expectations, and implementing paid trial periods.
“Provide the employee with easy ways to understand the organization quickly—organizational charts, directories, descriptions of functional areas, and cheat sheets for acronyms that may be unfamiliar for a new person…Help your new employee get up to speed on company culture through one-on-ones with company executives and core team members…Be sure to set a regular series of check-ins so that your new hire may ask you questions of what they have learned and so you can give feedback.” Jim McCoy, General Manager and CRO, Scout Exchange
Putting the Remote Hiring Process into Effect
Businesses overwhelmed by the change to a fully remote hiring process may be tempted to mirror their current hiring and recruitment methods. But with a thoughtful and measured approach, a fully remote hiring process can result in increased retention, job satisfaction, productivity, and a better bottom-line.
Do you have additional tips for a fully remote hiring process either as an employee or employer? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to share your advice. We’d love to hear from you!
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