Business management

How to: start recruiting again

As the UK eases lockdown measures, we run through best practice on how to recruit to meet your needs – while adhering to government guidelines.

Source talent

Rebecca Siciliano, MD, Tiger Recruitment says it’s vital to ensure that job adverts are well written and that they outline the organisation and what it offers.

“Candidates will then do their own research, so make sure your company website and social media channels are up to date,” she says. “If you haven’t got a dedicated careers section on your website, set up a page on your site where potential employees can find out more about your business.”

She also recommends thinking carefully about where you place adverts to reach your target applicants.

Company image

Emma Robinson, co-founder of Red Diamond Executive Headhunters, says it is crucial for businesses to have a strong presence online. 

“Social media is a fantastic way to engage with potential employees, with posts providing an opportunity for them to gain a clear picture of the tone of the business,” says Robinson.

“But with each platform vastly differing in audience, it’s vital that business owners understand the type of candidates they’re trying to attract, and which platform they’re most likely to find them on. For more senior level, corporate roles, for example, LinkedIn would be the most appropriate to focus on.”

Virtual interview

While video interviews are trickier for candidates battling nerves and technology, interviews should be approached in the same way as the face-to-face equivalent, says Robinson.

“This means being presentable, respectful, compassionate, and well-prepared. Making sure the candidate is comfortable can be facilitated by clear communication in advance, setting out exactly what will be required – including a good internet connection in a quiet space, with minimal distractions.”

Ask whether they are happy using the platform you suggest – and make sure it won’t cut out after 40 minutes.

James Didgiunaitis, director, Expion Search & Selection, says interviewers should prepare the flow of the interview and the questions in advance, but leave time for questions.

“Remember that video calls are not the same as a face-to-face scenario and you need to allow breaks in your questions to allow the interviewee the opportunity to speak clearly, and make sure to give them the opportunity to finish before jumping in with the next question.”

Legal implications

Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo (the Association of Professional Staffing Companies), says that regardless of whether an employee is on furlough, it is important to appreciate that employment law has not been suspended and that normal notice periods apply.

And Didgiunaitis notes that while a candidate is on furlough – with associated contractual obligations – a candidate’s current employer may be happy to negotiate notice periods.

“If you are recruiting for a short term or temporary role, it may be within the candidate’s contract that they can undertake additional work while on furlough, which is in line with furlough rules, but this is only if they will be returning to work for their primary employer at some point in the future,” he says.

Application management

Teams working remotely may mean applications take longer to process. Swain urges those recruiting to maintain contact with candidates.

“Make sure candidates have multiple touch points to keep them engaged,” she says. “This could involve a home-based task as part of the interview process or a video meeting with a selection of other employees so they can ask questions about what it’s like to work for the company.”

Charles Hipps, CEO and founder of Oleeo, says it’s important to be realistic with timescales and to be transparent. “Use automation as much as possible to help shortlist candidates against preferred criteria and create identifiers so that any top performers who you do not want to lose to competitors can still be nurtured,” he says.

Remember that how your talent is treated throughout the recruitment process reflects how they will be treated as an employee, says Mandy Watson, founder and MD of Ambitions Personnel: “Ensure you manage expectations, and if your response times are longer than usual, be honest about it, and try to deliver information and updates on the dates you say you will. If you can’t, apologise.”

Embrace new working practices

Many companies have successfully navigated their way through lockdown and have had to embrace working in new or different ways, says Michelle Dixon, senior employment law & HR consultant, NatWest Mentor. She says: “Where we used to find resistance from SMEs about homeworking and hiring part-timers, there has been a huge realisation that with the correct procedures in place this can be an amazing and cost-efficient resource to the business, which is both great for the employee and for the employer.”

She says there is a huge pool of untapped talent – people who want to work, but need to work flexibly to juggle family commitments – so it’s crucial to cast the recruiting net wide to ensure you get the largest audience and make it easier for them to apply by getting rid of unnecessary barriers.

Virtual onboarding

Once someone has been recruited, not being able to see the building or meet colleagues can be intimidating.

New starters may feel anxious due to worries about their health or job security, so regular check-ins and extra learning time are vital, says Siciliano. 

“Whoever leads the onboarding process – typically a member of HR or the line manager – will need to be quite hands-on during the first month as they’ll be busy facilitating regular video calls and training sessions. They should create a four-week agenda for the new starter to help structure the process.”

Laptops and any other equipment needed should be organised, and sending a starter pack out can help the new employee feel excited and welcomed.

“Typical contents include an agenda for the first month, your staff handbook, details of your HR policies, a personal welcome letter from the CEO or MD – even branded merchandise,” she says.

“Organising virtual coffee dates and team-building activities can go a long way to helping new starters familiarise themselves with your business.”

Without the chance to connect in person, helping new staff feel like they belong to a team is crucial. Tools such as Slack and Trello can help to ensure that everyone is equally involved in team projects – but you should make sure new recruits have a chance to connect on a personal level.

As well as scheduling non-work related team catch-ups and regular check-ins with managers, you could try implementing a buddy system, whereby you pair new staff with a member of their team at a similar seniority level for regular chats. This would give them the chance to create a one-on-one connection and informally find out more about their team.

Seeing the benefits

Paul Williams, director of Highstream Solutions, says the benefits outweighed the challenges when he used virtual recruitment.

“We used Microsoft Teams to conduct our interviews and found that this in many ways levelled the playing field for candidates. More concentrated time is spent focusing on the questions in the interview, which means the entire experience as a whole is more focused and informative.”

“I found it much easier to draw things to a close on a virtual interview compared to your traditional, face-to-face interview,” he says. “Despite the candidate not sitting across the table from us, we still got a good indication of personality and professionalism, so the fact that the interview took place virtually had no bearings on the overall outcome.”

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