+ Point of view

Strange times – how recruiting in lockdown has changed

Written by Rebecca Radcliffe

February 2021

Part I: From the recruiter’s perspective

In all three lockdowns, Positive has found itself in the fortunate position of needing to continue building our team. The success of B2B technology as a sector brought Positive increasing opportunities to build its content, influence and PR business. To do so, we needed to make sure our teams were resourced to deliver.

The ‘perfect’ pre-lockdown process
In ‘traditional’ times, our process was straightforward. A combination of professional networking, previous client referrals, inbound website queries, recruitment agents and social media outreach ensured we have had brilliant people joining the business after a lengthy, in-depth recruitment process. 

Our selection process is rigorous and straightforward. An initial chemistry meeting with me, the Head of Operations, where I was able to deduce whether the candidate would be the right fit in terms of character, capabilities and  charisma, followed by a time-tested writing test, taken from home at an agreed time.

With a writing test successfully completed, it’s time to meet the senior management team. This would be an individual session with two senior members of the team, with a third member joining for a further discussion and balance. 

If all goes well, all that remains to test is team chemistry. Candidates meet more junior members of the team to talk about what it’s like to work at Positive, over coffees or cocktails as they prefer. This final element was a key part of our recruitment process; the insight from the junior members as to whether the candidate could work well as part of the team was invaluable. Candidates could and have fallen at this stage.

What did all elements of this process have in common? Every stage was done face to face. Face to face had key inbuilt tests of its own. Could candidates navigate to our office unaided? Did they arrive on time? Had they turned up ‘dressed for success’? Did they take notes, ask intelligent questions or bring relevant examples of their work with them?

The results of this process were that we had built an excellent Positive team with candidates who had been through an in-depth experience which meant that they knew we were right for them and vice versa.

The new reality – virtual recruitment
During lockdown how could we maintain this well-honed process? What is the best way to recruit people that you have never met face to face?

Well actually, it has been more straightforward than we thought and resulted in excellent additions to the team, and more we hope to appoint imminently. What is the secret? (apart from a stable internet connection, a quiet room and an over-familiarity with Zoom). 

For us it has been about trying, as much as possible, to replicate our successful process while having to provide an additional reassurance to the candidates that we are ‘for real’, especially for candidates who apply via our website or via social media. 

Being able to meet more and more members of the Positive team as the successful candidates went through the stages, not adapted for online working, helped greatly with that. Conducting some of our executive interviews from the Positive office, with background branding and a more professional working environment, helps candidates  see Positive in a way more aligned with both our growing reputation and candidates’ longer-term career aspirations. 

Adapt and adopt
But where were the simple inbuilt tests? Did they turn up to the Zoom on time? Was their mic on? How did they present themselves (top half at least)? Were they undisturbed and focused? Did they take notes and did they have pre-prepared questions? How much research had they done? 

Obviously, key normal indicators such as making eye contact are harder to judge, but it moves down the scale in terms of importance. After all, a lot of the work we are doing now is remote and over Zoom.

So meeting me, the writing test, meeting the senior team, followed by the chemistry meeting for the successful candidates are still fundamental parts of the process. And doing it virtually has actually highlighted other key skills which are important for working in the ‘new normal’. Are they able to contribute effectively to a ‘many people’ Zoom call? How confident are they to speak to strangers? How stable is their internet connection? ;-).

The key thing virtual recruitment enables is flexibility. Avoiding travel time, booking meeting rooms and coordinating diaries means we are able to conduct urgent recruitment processes much more efficiently, without losing rigour. On a basic level, fewer latecomers saves the management team time and missing a call altogether tells its own story….

These days we always seem to be speaking about what life will be like when we go back to ‘normal’, and I still don’t think we know what this looks like. However, I am sure that we will take some of the elements of our ‘lockdown’ recruiting process – virtual introductions, online chemistry – through to In Real Life, once lockdown is over. 

While we now attract, then try to hire and strive to retain the best talent in the business, with the most interesting work in B2B Tech Marketing, we maintain the humility to learn lessons along the way. We have learnt in lockdown to try to  never let the perfect get in the way of the good enough.

Part II to follow; from the candidate’s perspective