Virtual Recruitment: How to Hire from a Distance

Published July 9, 2020

Have you hired someone without ever meeting face-to-face? With COVID-19, businesses can’t recruit in the same way they once did—but that doesn’t mean they can’t find the best candidates for the job now. 

In fact, at Comhar Partners, we recently concluded an executive search that has been conducted completely virtually. Every step of the interview process was done with Zoom, the video conferencing tool, and the person’s first day will, in fact, be the first time this person will have ever gone on-site, will meet a board member or part of the management team. 

As is with any major change, we did have to make some adjustments to the processes and recognize some hesitancy among board members and stakeholders. When we did complete the process, however, we found that you can find the best candidate, despite a lack of direct interaction during interviews. Here’s what we learned.

Get Crystal Clear on Your Assessment Criteria

Now more than ever, you need a tight connection with and a deep understanding of the assessment criteria for the candidate. Knowing exactly what you want and being thorough with this assessment process is key, because, as we found, the virtual interviews are all about proving a cultural fit and getting a feel for the chemistry, rather than hard skills. 

While this is often true in a standard in-person interview as well, it can be harder to create the connection digitally. Knowing you have every piece in place in terms of hard skills and the ability to do the job allows you to fully dial in on the conversation with the candidate. Instead of re-checking facts from their resume, you can focus on questions and conversations around behavior, personality, and management style.

In developing your process, consider implementing a strong assessment process. For us, that assessment process involves:

  • Culture match: This is challenging to quantify but a broad sense of the cultural drivers and values that guide the employer is important to present.
  • Traits requested by the employer: This is based on both the experience requested and a match with soft skills. Soft skills include leadership versus management stylings, communication effectiveness at various levels, change management, strategic versus implementation tendencies, and vision sharing.
  • Prior experience: This includes a review of historical business experience that matches the scope and scale of the new company. It’s also wise to look at prior experience solving new company challenges, among a number of other career-matching factors.
  • Compatibility review: Will this person’s personality and characteristics pair well with the new employer leadership team? Do their career goals line up with the new employer’s strategic direction with candidate goals? Creating a collective view of life and the future, followed by reviewing any knockout factors, is key.
  • Compensation fit: This is impacted by state/local government based legal limitations, but is essential in this virtual process.
  • Motivation alignment and personal life factors: These can influence the candidate’s commitment to the new role and employer.

Don’t forget about third-party tools that provide support in assessing motivations, traits, and situational compatibility, such as Meyers Briggs.

Create a Winning Experience

Just because it’s virtual, doesn’t mean you can overlook this critical piece of the executive search process. While the candidate is trying to impress you, you’re trying to impress them as well. That means you need to do your prep work, including specifying clear and concise questions ahead of time and getting candidate information correct and into the hands of interviewers.

Most importantly, part of this virtual experience is getting the tech right. Preparing for a seamless and glitch-free interview process requires some upfront work including:

  • Vetting your software of choice, including phone and video platforms.
  • Testing the sound and technology before the interview. 
  • Finding a quiet and private space. If you’re interviewing from home, this can be challenging but is critical.
  • Ensure everyone is invited to and has access to the right meetings. 

Get Everyone on Board

The board we worked with for this virtual hiring process was initially uncertain about taking a digital approach—until the right candidate was found. Similarly, you may not be able to get your team on board right away, so it’s wise to find the right candidate first.

Our client was looking for someone to drive the business forward, so instead of stalling, we found that person and brought them the opportunity. Knowing that a great candidate was on the line and that hiring someone in this position sooner than later would be advantageous, it was easier to convince any potential naysayers to move ahead with the virtual process.

Proving the value of the candidate and moving ahead with a virtual experience goes back to developing a strong assessment process before starting any recruiting. Knowing the candidate is the right fit on paper may help justify investing in and setting up the virtual interviews.

Virtual Recruitment is Possible

Don’t stall on that critical new hire because your entire company is now working from home. Instead, use the tools available to you, including thorough assessments and telecommunications software, to find the best candidate and get them into the position now, ensuring your company remains strong and competitive, no matter what.

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