Best Practices for Hiring During COVID-19 (and Beyond)

These are far from normal times, and organizations are finding they have to navigate virtually every aspect of their business operation differently, including—perhaps especially—the hiring process.

Despite many businesses being closed or reducing operations, there are still a wide range of companies that are adding to their workforce during the pandemic. Doing so presents some unique challenges.

But Elizabeth Mye, SVP of global Human Resources with cloud communications provider Intermedia, says there are a number of best practices companies can follow to boost their effectiveness in recruiting and interviewing during the COVID-19 pandemic. In truth, these same best practices will apply long after the pandemic has passed.

Coach Hiring Managers to Identify Blind Spots

We all have them: misperceptions and misconceptions, often unknown to us, that can cause us to overlook top talent. Mye says, “The pressure of filling a resource quickly to cover the urgent business need detracts from many hiring managers’ ability to have clarify in finding the right new team member. Many hiring managers are in such a hurry that they don’t stop to reflect past what the current skill requirements are for the job.”

Learning and development (L&D) staff can play an important role in teaching hiring managers to understand their potential blind spots and related biases.

Identify and Rank Top Skills Needed for the Position

“Hiring is difficult enough, never mind adding in this COVID-19 pandemic, 100% remote work, and the stresses of keeping things going,” says Mye. Having clarity is critical, she adds, especially when many of these decisions are being made without the ability to physically meet the individuals being considered.

She recommends coaching hiring managers to answer the following questions:

  • What skills and experience will not only solve for the current business need but also take us to the next level to meet future goals?
  • What is missing from the team? Consider type of experience, personality, leadership, gender, ethnicity, energy, and working style.
  • Have I truly considered internal candidates? Could I shift the work to provide a high-potential worker with an opportunity?
  • Are there unique backgrounds I should consider that would bring something new to the company that we don’t currently have?

Conduct a Lot of Interviews

That may seem a bit counterintuitive, especially in these hectic times, but putting the candidate before a number of people can help you make better decisions, Mye suggests.

“Seeing how a candidate responds during the interview process with iteration is critical,” she says. “It provides a real time way of seeing how the candidate responds, learns, and adapts.” This can help both the candidate and the company understand if there is a mutual fit and alignment.

Instill Rigor and Discipline in the Interview Process

This is particularly important now, as the hiring process for so many companies has changed significantly. “Interviewing remotely requires great coordination and predictability in order to ensure that the candidate has an amazing candidate experience,” says Mye. She recommends the following:

  • Ensure that several virtual interview rooms have been set up and are available to run multiple and concurrent interviews.
  • Validate that the interviewers are set up properly (technical connection, professional interview background, focused interview strategy and behavioral interview questions, uninterrupted interview time, note taking, and promptness to the interview).
  • The recruiting administrator should monitor and check in to make sure interviewers are prepared and ready at the time of their interview.
  • Conduct roundtable debriefs after interviews are completed. This step is really important for aligning the assessment and calibration of the fit, says Mye.

Ask Questions Designed to Assess Ability to Work Remotely

Not everyone can work remotely as effectively—and independently—as others. While many companies have been forced to have their employees work from home, even if it wasn’t optimal, further assessment of these skills should be done when hiring new candidates.

Mye suggests asking some cultural behavioral interview questions like:

  • Help me understand when you’ve worked 100% remotely. What did you put in place to help you manage your work? What difficulties did you run into?
  • Have you worked in distributed teams? How did you build connections/relationships with teammates and key stakeholders?

Mye adds that it’s also important for interviewers to share information about the company culture and their own experiences. “In a 100% remote workforce, this is critical so the future employee will understand how they can become involved, feel connected and supported within the environment.”

Conduct Rigorous Reference Checks

We all understand the importance of reference checks but still sometimes fail to be as thorough as we should. While this seems like an obvious best practice, Mye says that references are often overlooked.

“This is a critical step that can help fill in the gaps for any unanswered questions and can help seal the deal to confirm whether the candidate will be a good fit for the role,” she adds.

Don’t Move Too Quickly

While you may be anxious to get somebody on board, it’s never a good idea to rush the process. “Time and time again I see hiring managers rush to get feedback in a disjointed way so they can make a quick decision,” says Mye, noting that this is often the case when they believe they’ve found “the” candidate.

But, she stresses that “conducting candidate debrief roundtable sessions provides the balance needed through multiple interviewer perspectives.”

Gaining these inputs from everyone who has interacted with the candidate can help avoid the potential for bias that often emerges, however unintentionally.

Mye says that debriefing sessions “allow for shared impressions that further uncover patterns of confirmation, impressions and concerns of the candidate interactions.”

What resonates with candidates in this unprecedented hiring environment is “consistency in the candidate experience, and interviewers who are authentic and advocate in helping the candidates truly understand what embodies the company culture,” says Mye.

“If the hiring manager has taken the time to truly know what they are looking for in a candidate, has developed an interview plan and strategy, defined interviewers and focus on technical and cultural fit, this will resonate with the candidate that the company is professional, organized and transparent,” Mye adds.

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