Recruiting and on-boarding in a new remote world: part one

Nponano Maikori

By Nponano Maikori
Communications and Talent Manager

Recruiting and on-boarding in a new remote world: part one

While some companies were already doing some version of their recruiting online before COVID-19 came along, by now most (including us), are actively recruiting, hiring and on-boarding without ever meeting candidates face to face. Like many, we are finding that this “new” all virtual world of recruiting can have great benefits once you figure out what works best for your company.

Many companies will go back to business as usual, while others will have developed and implemented a more effective way to conduct business. Recruiting a remote workforce isn’t a new practice. Certainly not for us, as we’ve done it multiple times in the past and hired some amazing talent. What is new for us is recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, and training that new employee while never actually meeting them in person. Sounds daunting right? Don’t worry. We’ve found a process that works well for us and we hope that it can work for you.

Photo by Prateek Katyal from Pexels

We’ve created a 2-part series designed to guide you through the remote recruiting process as we’ve experienced it. In Part One (that’s this article), we’ll focus on our best practices for recruiting and interviewing. In Part Two, we’ll dive further into details about on-boarding and training once your candidate has accepted your offer of employment. 

Take your time, assess your need, then build a pipeline

When determining whether to fill a position, time will always be the greatest resource in finding the right candidate. Hiring in a reactive and urgent fashion is difficult and prone to result in issues throughout the process. A lack of time can cause you to hire on emotion rather then reasoning. This can lead you to make a selection that satisfies your short-term need but often leads to possibly recruiting for the same role 6 to 12 months later.

When making the decision to post a position, it’s important to evaluate your current staff to ensure they don’t have the skills to accomplish the work needed. Hiring when there isn’t an absolute need can leave you without enough work to go around and result in layoffs from being overstaffed down the road. Urgent situations (unexpected leaves of absence, etc.) are inevitable which is why having a pipeline is crucial. After you’ve conducted interviews, if choosing the right candidate is difficult because each one is high caliber, you’re on the right path. Should the need arise in the future for a role similar to the one you just recruited for, those candidates who weren’t selected should be among the first you reach out to before posting a new requisition. 

Have the right job description and know what success looks like

No job stays the same. They consistently shift and evolve as your company changes and as the talent you have comes and goes. If you aren’t the person primarily responsible for hiring, work with those who are to ensure the roles and responsibilities match the needs of the position you’re trying to fill. We recommend looking at your current job descriptions and updating them at least every 6 months.

Many times we’re looking for candidates to check off certain boxes to measure the experience and skills necessary. Do they have 5 years of experience in healthcare? How proficient are they with Adobe Photoshop? What certifications do they have? We often don’t factor in the characteristics of the people who are currently successful in those roles.

As you are preparing the job posting, ask your team, “What are the characteristics of our best people currently in this role and what should we look for in the next candidate?”

Asking this question will help everyone have a common understanding and push the candidates to dig deeper during the interview process. 

Be efficient with initial outreach and scheduling phone screens

By now you’ll have narrowed down the influx of resumes to a select number of qualified candidates, on paper at least. The best way to determine who is actually a viable fit is to conduct an initial one-on-one conversation. This should be done by the recruiter or the hiring manager, dependent on how your organization is structured. This virtual meet-and-greet can be a phone call or a video call (we prefer video calls in the current professional climate). Candidates will get accustomed to what the rest of the process will be and you will see if their skills, location, and compensation requirements are a good fit.

Scheduling meetings with a dozen or so candidates (potentially in different time zones) can be cumbersome. We have been using Calendly, an online service candidates can use to schedule time with the recruiter/hiring manager directly. It helps minimize the back and forth emails and makes scheduling a breeze. They have a free version available for a single user, so it’s a huge benefit if you’re the primary scheduler. Calendly integrates with most calendar programs, as well as, Zoom and GoToMeeting to make setting up that video call extremely easy. 

Interviewing via video conference 

With your initial screens complete, you should have 3 to 5 (we don’t recommend more than 5) prospective candidates for the next set of interviews. Since there is no certainty as to when you could actually meet this candidate, the recommendation here is that these interviews be done by video conference. In the past we’ve had more than one round of interviews but to be efficient and mindful of everyone’s time, it’s easiest to schedule these over a 1 or 2 day period and include all participants necessary for each individual interview.

It’s best practice to have an interview guide with set questions (both behavioral and functional) that allows all interviewers the opportunity to uncover information and rate candidates on the hard and soft skills needed for the role. A scorecard baked into the interview guides will allow you to measure all candidates on the same scale and captures any notes the interviewers have simultaneously. The nonverbal cues we get from these face-to-face meetings (i.e. eye contact, body language, mannerisms) give us another layer of personality and insight that we can’t get from verbal cues alone. These small bits of information can play a big part in the decision making process. 

If necessary, put them to the test

For various roles at Local Wisdom, we have a test that we give potential candidates that several of our team members have taken as well. Whether it’s a writing test for a Communication Specialist, creating a design on the fly for a UX Designer, or a coding test for a Developer, we have several ways to test a candidates functional skills.

Photo by Retha Ferguson from Pexels

This allows us to measure each candidates knowledge level and compare it against the other candidates, as well as, our current team members who are succeeding in that role. Depending on the role and test, it’s not always about the final deliverable, but the thought process behind how the candidate arrived there that we’re looking at. This can be done before the final interview or after. Again, this depends on the role.

Choosing the right candidate

If you’ve done a good job, it should be difficult for your team to decide on which candidate to hire. This is where we rely on intangible characteristics to guide our decision. We ask questions like, “Who would fit in best with our company culture?” or “Which candidate would best handle the situation we recently had with ___[fill in the blank]___ .” Looking at the final candidates through a variety of lenses and situations will help the team to make decisions based on how candidates bets fit into your current organization and how they can impact future growth.

Finding great staff is one of the toughest but most vital parts of an organization’s success. Everything starts with your people. We’ve had a tremendous amount of success with this process and we hope you will too. “Some may call it luck, but we like to call it…well luck.” Bonus points if you guess the movie! We hope these steps encourage you to continue your recruiting efforts even in these uncertain times. Be on the look out for Part 2 where we’ll take a closer look at on-boarding and training new employees remotely.

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