“Lockdown forced us to take our recruitment online – but now it’s staying that way”

For Duncan Short, the pandemic meant making some radical changes to hiring – but many of those changes have become permanent

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and while it might be stretching a point to suggest the pandemic has enabled us to reinvent the recruitment process, it would be true to suggest it has forced us to re-configure and think differently about how an organisation can manage recruitment and, where necessary, accelerate changes that were already in motion.

For years, a core aspect of VIVID’s recruitment was the face-to-face competency-based interview, assessing candidate behaviours against our values. However, at the start of the year, we had already embarked on a change to our talent acquisition to bring it into the modern era of talent attraction. We had plans to improve how we interviewed and selected candidates – bringing in attitude-based interviews, as well as building out other assessment tools, such as a library of online psychometric tests, assessment centres and increasing the number of interactions before making a decision. This said, a key part of the recruitment process remained – the face-to-face interview, with most candidates in ‘normal times’ expecting to meet us in person, visit our offices, and get a feel for our working environment and culture as part of the process. 

At the start of lockdown, like many businesses, we had to pivot, adjust and change. We were in the fortunate position that we had a pipeline of candidates for our vacancies, but we couldn’t bring them into our offices – so what was the answer?

We had to move with pace, coming up with a solution that offered all our managers the ability to conduct interviews with ease, minimising the impact on the candidate experience and maintaining a professional yet agile approach. Microsoft Teams was our answer. We moved to Teams interviews for the first and second stage of the process. We coached our managers on how to do this, with both technical and practical guidance. We were providing one-to-one training, which while time consuming, returned huge value for the overall experience for all parties. 

We increased our use of online psychometrics, enabled online completion of interview assessment papers, maxed out the usage of our applicant tracking system and ensured everything was online. We took this further by implementing a tool that enabled us to manage our onboarding process via mobile devices. Technology was our saviour, but it also allowed us to move recruitment into an era where the experience for both candidate and manager was improved. 

As lockdown eased, we realised that we could legitimately bring people back into the office, but as we reviewed the previous months, we wondered if this was necessary. Technology had enabled us to be more flexible with timing, it was more efficient, and certainly less time-consuming for the candidates, and we realised we could create a new norm that would also assist us in our talent attraction focus.

We are now looking to develop this further through online roadshows, selling the organisation and our roles on offer, implementing a greater use of technology and videos – all of which allows the candidate, as well as us, more flexibility and control over the recruitment process.

We accept that not everyone has the same access to technology, and potentially some could be disadvantaged by an online-only approach. They may not have appropriate broadband speed, easy access or the skills to use the tech itself. Therefore, it’s important that we flex the process – whether it be allowing candidates to visit one of our sites or locations safely to complete the online tests, or interviewing at an alternative location. In all situations, we need to make allowances where possible and ensure our process is fair and accessible.

The reality is that we are never going to go back to what we did before, but will continue to evolve our recruitment process, making use of technology to allow greater flexibility, hopefully with increased speed, and giving more ownership to the candidate, all of which I believe can only be a positive thing.

Duncan Short is director of resources at VIVID