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UK Recruiter: Interviewing in a post-Covid world

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Will it be different? Should it be different? And can it be different? Yes, yes and yes. And here’s why I think so.

We published an article recently about different questions that we predict will become included in a post-Covid world, encouraging people to explain what they did during the pandemic. Did they volunteer, take a different job, or become a homeschooling ninja? Maybe all 3. Or maybe none of the above and they simply followed advice to stay home and save lives. I’m not to judge which would have the most impact or be seen as the ‘best’ answer but mark my words, I believe those questions will come, and everyone will need to be prepared to answer them.

But is that the only change that’s likely to come from this? This is a time to radically change how we interview. It’s happening already. Most people are now convinced that video interviewing (Zoom/Skype/Teams) is perfectly viable and is likely to form the basis of many 1st interviews from now on. I agree – it’s more time-efficient, cost-friendly and can cut down a lot of unnecessary activity.

There are plenty of options to automate this part of the process if you feel inclined (and there’s some brilliant tech available to do so), as more redundancies occur, application numbers have a canny knack of soaring. And thus presents an opportunity to embrace a broad range of people, skills and capability, and so whichever way you wish to tackle it, tackle it you should.

But mostly it’s the format I think should change. Now, don’t get me wrong, competency and biographical interviews allow the interviewer great insight into experience and capability, and in turn, whether the candidate has suitable skills to fulfil the role they are being interviewed for. However, we are moving towards a world where many people are being displaced. Airlines, for example, are laying off swathes of staff, some of whom may never return to the world of aviation, and will be seeking roles in different industries, sectors and disciplines. They will have a multitude of transferrable skills, and while a well-structured competency interview will pull some of these out, plenty may be missed.

So what to do about this? How can we, as recruiters, lead the way in challenging the norm in interviewing? While many dread the ‘Tell me about Yourself’ question, I think we should embrace it. Fully.

Let’s give candidates the chance to talk about themselves openly and what they value, what they can bring and ultimately, how they can be an amazing addition to the business – your business and your team. I’m not advocating hour-long presentations here with power-point galore…that would be too much. But it’s about giving people that chance to really think about the skills they have for a role, why they want it, and how they can contribute. Proper job descriptions and an insight into the business and the team to be shared with the candidate before the 1st interview (using technology of course) with a brief to prepare a short piece about yourself and your suitability will allow them to do this.

I hear you mutter – candidates will hate this. Possibly some will. But some will embrace the chance to have a voice, show capability and strength, and actually talk about things that they might never be asked. If you gave me this chance, what might you find out that’s not on a CV? You’ll find out that I’m actually a qualified fitness instructor (not relevant to my recruitment job), but it taught me to be able to speak to groups of people with confidence and encourage engagement, and that I used to be in the Royal Naval Reserve. Both of these experiences built me as a person yet are so unlikely to come out in an interview, and won’t feature on a CV necessarily.

This won’t suit every role of course, but I think it could open the doors for candidates who are changing sector, to demonstrate capability and strengths which may not be evident. In fact, in the recruitment sector, when I recruit for my team, I’m not looking for people who have necessarily already been in recruitment. I’m looking for the skills and aptitude to be able to build relationships, be resilient and hardworking. There are plenty of people who will have these skills and be able to show them off using this approach. And that’s why I think we should give candidates more of a voice. To tackle assumptions that can be so easily made when a CV is read. I’ve heard some shocking preconceptions recently which I won’t repeat, but this could also ‘weed out’ people who aren’t really dedicated to the cause.

There’s a danger with a video 1st interview that candidates won’t take them seriously. Too easy to ‘no-show’. In fact, I quake in fear that we’ll get dropouts at the last minute that will disrupt and disappoint. That’s a tale for another day…but to ask candidates to put in a small amount of effort prior to a Zoom will surely tackle those who are ‘in’ and those who are ‘out’.

I suspect not everyone will agree with me. But I listened to a talk last week by Grant Leboff who said:

Covid 19 changes nothing. It has simply accelerated things. I agree.

 

This is a guest post provided to UK Recruiter‘s: Recruiting Weekly Series by Caroline Vooght, Director at Expion Search & Selection.