The pandemic has transformed the way businesses operate, including how they hire new employees. Although virtual recruitment strategies have been in place for some time, many more firms are now actively interviewing, hiring and onboarding without ever meeting candidates in person.
Covid-19 restrictions may be easing, but the shift to virtual hiring is accelerating. According to research by job site Indeed, nearly three-quarters (74%) of employers moved to a fully virtual recruitment process during lockdown, and even more plan to do so in future.
A total of 77% say they expect to make further hires without ever having met the candidate in person, with 48% doing so for all roles and 29% doing so for some roles.
For employers, the most popular benefits of virtual hiring are making it easier to schedule interviews, shortening the time it takes to complete interviews and reducing hiring costs. Of those surveyed by Indeed, a third of job hunters said virtual hiring was less intimidating and quicker.
But how exactly does virtual recruitment work – and does it work as well as hiring in-person?
“Virtual hiring is the process of recruiting somebody for a role without ever meeting them in the flesh,” says professional careers mentor Richard Evans, founder of the education business The Profs. “Usually, recruiters attempt to replicate traditional, in person on-boarding methods with interviews being conducted online, CVs and cover letters being sent electronically and all additional tasks or tests being completed virtually.
“Employers and universities are increasingly holding recruiting fairs online through platforms such as Zoom so that candidates can drop into presentations and Q&As sessions from the comfort of their own homes.”
During lockdown, almost all recruiting activities had to move online, allowing companies to continue hiring and the job market to continue running. However, Evans adds, the benefits extend beyond the pandemic. Not only is it cost efficient, recruiting virtually means employers can hire from anywhere in the world if the job can be done remotely, which increases their chances of finding the right person.
“Holding multiple recruiting events across the country was prohibitively costly for many small firms,” he says. “This meant it was difficult for candidates who were located outside of major cities to meet potential employers unless they were willing to invest large sums of time and money into travelling to careers fairs.
“However, the cost of holding a hiring event online is almost negligible,” Evans says. “In addition, the usual geographical limitations and costs arising from travel distances are completely removed. This means that it is easier than ever for firms and jobseekers to interact from anywhere in the world.”
For candidates, it can be easier and often less stressful to be interviewed online in your own home. It’s also easier to log on to a conference call than travel to an in-person interview.
That said, there are downsides. When interviewing face-to-face, it’s easier to read body language and non-verbal cues to find out more about a person. In some cases, being able to visit an office or workspace to be interviewed can give a candidate more of an idea about a company, and whether they want to work there.
Challenges can also arise when trying to onboard someone without being able to observe their day-to-day working habits.
“Firstly, training is a real challenge when you can’t get your new hires into the office. So much of our training comes from new hires absorbing the good working practices of their colleagues, listening, shadowing and watching senior staff do their jobs excellently,” says Evans.
“There are long-term concerns too. So much of our ‘work hard, play hard’ culture has been lost in translation for our new hires,” he adds. “Historically, our managers have pushed their teams to work intensely during the day and then blow off some steam through socials and after-work games and drinks.”
This is obviously more difficult if employees are all working remotely and interactions with colleagues and managers are restricted to meetings. Although some companies have encouraged workers to socialise online, forced fun on Zoom isn’t always appreciated.
The answer may lie in a hybrid approach, where employers embrace virtual onboarding processes while encouraging employees to spend some time in offices. “I think that the future of virtual hiring is to keep the recruiting online, but to encourage new hires to come into the office as much as possible so that they can learn from their colleagues and get the most out of a company’s culture,” Evans says.
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