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For many organisations, it’s business as usual under circumstances that are far from usual. Not only are many people working differently, but actually looking for work has changed dramatically. Gone are in-person meetings, face-to-face presentations, conversations over coffee and opportunities to see where you’ll be working. Remote recruitment has been a big adjustment for a lot of people in 2020, but it’s also been a great learning experience for Chris Wilcock, Canon EMEA’s Talent Acquisition Lead, and his team.
With over 700 hires across the territory since the pandemic took hold, it’s been a busy year with a great deal of adaptation as talent specialists hiring managers and the candidates themselves all now largely work from home. Not to mention the swift strategic shifts that have taken place in response to a changed working world. “The year has been thoroughly unpredictable and has changed the dynamic of the market on its head, both from an employer and employee perspective,” says Chris. “Employers are making lots of changes of posts and shifting headcount plans and hiring strategies at quite substantial levels.” In an incredibly busy few months, Chris and his team have adopted some new ways of working, all the while championing the agile mindset that Chris believes is the future of for hiring teams everywhere. He has some helpful advice for businesses planning a recruitment drive in 2021.
Successful remote hiring takes patience and clarity
Working out your processes, trialling technology and rolling them out swiftly is a challenge, but equally there are some simple adjustments that make all the difference. “Give candidates a clear idea of what the process is going to look like now and set clear expectations up front,” advises Chris. “Explain the tools that you’re going to use, how everything is going to work and what you want your candidate to do.” Canon has adopted new video interviewing technology, where at the beginning of the process some candidates receive a link through which they answer questions on camera. This can be achieved via any enabled device and at the candidate’s convenience. The hiring manager can review this video and make the decision who to take through to the next stage. Further interviews are then conducted more traditionally through Microsoft Teams. “There is something to be said for being able to do things remotely,” adds Chris. “In that it adds a degree of flexibility that perhaps we didn’t have before. You can put someone through more stages with more stakeholders at less inconvenience and less expense.”
Suit the process to the person, not the person to the process
New technology is useful, but Chris and his team are keenly aware that one size certainly does not fit all when it comes to recruiting. “Reviewing our processes means that we made them more bespoke” he explains. “Previously, it would’ve been two or three stages of in-person interviewing and now we ask, ‘how flexible do we need to be?’” In a market that’s competing for the best talent, this also extends to adapting the interview process to one in which your candidates feel most comfortable, and accommodations can and should be made where necessary. This is particularly important where candidates may find non face-to-face interviewing difficult. “It’s no longer sufficient to say, ‘this is the process and it’s only ever going to be this way’. When our interaction is defined by a 13-inch screen, a lot of the body language and visual cues can get missed. There needs to be flexibility to accommodate people’s needs and preferences.”
There are more candidates, but even less room for assumption
While there are, sadly, a lot more people looking for jobs, this doesn’t necessarily translate into a perfect match of people, skills and roles. This is something that should be communicated to hiring managers early on, as application volumes may be extremely high as to be misleading. “Unemployment is rising, yes, but it does not follow that this means it’s easier to hire people,” stresses Chris. “Hiring managers need to be really clear in articulating exactly what they want.” Equally, when those candidates are ‘in the interview room’ it’s important to remember that these are not normal circumstances. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of having the same outlook that you would have in a normal interview. You have to put aside some of the expectations you might have about the way a candidate delivers, for example – whether they have children who walk in, or other circumstances that couldn’t possibly happen in a normal scenario.”
Take candidates through a positive hiring experience that respects some of the challenges that we’ve had to deal with this year.
Wise organisations understand that they too are in the hot seat
“There is still fierce competition for talent and candidates and more information out there than ever before on employers.” The digital skills gap means that candidates with the right experience can afford to ‘shop around’ and routinely research potential employers on social media and review sites. Company culture is a chief concern, and the recruitment process plays a big part in how an organisation is perceived. Job ads, interviews and levels of responsiveness must all stand up to close scrutiny and reflect positively on the organisation. “Hiring managers are an ambassador for their brand and the interview process is very much still a two-way street.”
Hybrid working and hybrid recruiting
Can you hire from anywhere now? It’s a straight yes from some organisations and a little more of a mental hurdle for others. However, 2020 has proved that people can work in a combination of ways and still maintain productivity. The ‘hybrid’ approach is fast becoming the acknowledged future and this not only means flexibility in how we work, but where from. “The world has changed and the social contract between employee and employer is changing permanently,” explains Chris. “The focus is now on what we do, not where we do it.” Candidate expectations in this respect are high and organisations can expect to receive applications for their roles from all over the world.
In this and many respects, it may be the most challenging year for recruiters and candidates alike, but the necessary acceleration of tech adoption has also been a blessing. Chris predicts that early remote screening of candidates via asynchronous video interviewing will become a mainstay of the process. While the flexibility to interview candidates by Teams or similar will address the changing needs of new hires. “Competition for talent is going to intensify as hybrid working becomes a more comfortable proposition,” he says. “And a lot of our current work here at Canon is in recruiting people with skills new to the business.” It’s a combination that the team are navigating with enthusiasm and one eye on the future. However, Chris is also looking forward to a time when interviews can be conducted face to face. But for now, he welcomes the new tools that support him and his team while things show no sign of slowing down. “I don’t think we’re ever going completely back to the old school way of doing things. The industry is changing fast and there’s more technology in recruitment than there ever has been.”