Recruitment and Onboarding in the Post Lockdown World – Virtual Session in Partnership with ACOSVO

As a strategic partner of ACOSVO, Livingston James was delighted to host a recent online session for senior executives and board members from a range a voluntary organisations across Scotland. The session featured an open discussion focusing on the overall recruitment and induction processes, with organisations sharing their own experiences and lessons learned. Whilst lockdown arrangements are showing signs of relaxing, virtual interviewing and induction processes may still be required for the months ahead.

Here we share a summary of the discussion and advice shared on managing virtual recruitment and onboarding processes


Scoping the Recruitment Process

It continues to be important to ensure that the overall recruitment process remains inclusive and open to as many candidates as possible. Promoting and sharing a role through social media, interest groups, and wider networks not only helps with referrals but also ensures the opportunity is promoted to those who may not see online adverts.

Perhaps now more than ever it is important to keep the candidate pool as wide as possible, so organisations should avoid including limiting criteria that could potentially discount strong candidates. Voluntary organisations often place more emphasis on candidate’s track record rather than qualifications. There was agreement from virtual event attendees that it is beneficial for the appointments panel to have clarity as to what experience was deemed as essential and what areas could be deemed as development areas. Organisations must be clear on exactly what is required to carry out the role and which areas/skills can be seen as a bonus rather than a necessity.

At this stage in the pandemic, it is essential that employers must ensure that the appropriate risk assessment activities have been undertaken for the role being recruited for, that reflect the changed external environment and the safety of employees.

Location can often be a barrier for potential candidates, however with a move to more agile working – perhaps a positive to come from the Covid pandemic, it is important to have a clear understanding of expected hours in the office and flexibility around home working.

For some roles, including those directly working with service users, it was acknowledged that it might not be possible to work remotely. However, it was suggested that for many people, home working could become the new normal, although many people may actually choose a mixture of office based and home working as appropriate for them.

Increased flexible working arrangements will definitely open up more opportunities for people living in remote areas and allow organisations to attract people from larger towns and cities to organisations which perhaps historically only had access to local talent.


Undertaking the Interview / Assessment Process

Due to current lockdown arrangements, online interviews and assessment have become the new-normal. Whilst early on, some concerns were raised that the interview quality would be lost when replacing face-to-face meetings with technology, the general consensus was that virtual interviews have proven as useful and informative as previous face-to-face interviews. This approach has also been deemed a more effective use of time, with panels better able to stick to scheduled time slots and reducing time spent by panel members attending formal interviews.

Virtual interviewing is a relatively new concept for organisations and candidates alike. A structured approach that ensures both candidates and panel members all understand what the process entails removing a level of trepidation. Interviews are often nerve-wracking for candidates and conducting virtually could add to a feeling of apprehension.

Candidates may not necessarily have access to all technical platforms, so organisations should offer  candidates a range of choices (e.g. Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype) and provide an opportunity to ‘test’ the technology in advance of the scheduled interview .

Given that it can be more difficult to build the same rapport online as meeting someone in person, it is important to make people feel welcome. Some panel members have found themselves having to put more effort than normal in to show interest and personality through the screen.

Interviewing can be exhausting so it is important to think about how many interviews you can effectively carry out in one day. Rather than conduct all interviews over the one day, reflecting normal practice, it may be helpful to split them over a couple of days removing the possibility that everyone on the panel feels fatigued by the final candidate interview. This will clearly depend on availability, which is hopefully helped by the increased efficiency of online interviews and lack of travel time.

Interviewers should be mindful that time lags and poor sound quality can be an issue during virtual interviews and make appropriate allowances when assessing / scoring candidates.

An interview process should be about creating the right environment that enables the panel to see the best in all candidates and ultimately to make an informed decision as to the best person for the job. Some organisations have work based tasks which are emailed out 30 minutes before the interview commences, and other organisations have provided candidates with an insight into the interview questions in advance of the formal interview. Interviewing isn’t about catching people out, it’s about allowing candidates to show their best selves and organisations have a role in facilitating this

Missing the ‘meet and greet’ or informal interaction with the receptionist, ensuring synergy between potential candidates and ethos and culture remains a priority for all organisations. Getting to know the candidate as a person rather than just in a work setting, and the candidate getting to know about the company ethos and culture is crucial. Virtual informal coffee meetings are a great way to facilitate this and help build rapport and assurances and can often be more for the candidate’s benefit than the organisation’s.

It is important not to forget the interview is a two-way process and that all candidates feel fully supported and that they are being treated fairly, objectively and consistently.

It was acknowledged that more often the focus is on concluding the recruitment process quickly due to the desire to have the new person start as soon as possible in the role. However it is important to ensure the right appointment is made so taking an extra week to ensure you make the correct hire is no time when you consider the length of time that they will likely be employed by the organisation. If the panel is not 100% convinced on a potential candidate’s fit, whether technical competency or culture, take your time and include a further stage in the process.


Virtual Onboarding

Once the recruitment process is complete, and the ideal candidate has been offered, and has accepted, the new role, the process of virtual onboarding is the next to be considered.

Regular and constant communication is imperative with the candidate prior to start date.

It is important to ensure the overall process is structured and detailed providing new employees with insight and assurance and ultimately help them feel more at ease, avoiding unanswered questions and confusion around the process

This is particularly important for remote employees. It will likely take longer and more effort to organise, but will be worth it long term as they will feel better integrated with the team and your processes.

Organisations only get one chance to make a good first impression and perhaps with the ‘new normal’ greater emphasis should be placed on ensuring people feel welcome and are aware of the support networks available to help them. They should never feel uncomfortable asking for help.

Whilst virtual onboarding brings the advantage of uninterrupted work and focus, new employees can miss out on the casual but insightful conversations around the office, so you may want to schedule informal virtual meetings with various staff members to allow them to feel part of the team.

Thank you to ACOSVO and to all the participants who took part in this very informative session. To discuss your third sector recruitment needs, contact [email protected]

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