The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is bringing about large-scale changes in business operations. Social distancing is the new norm and businesses are waking up to the idea of remote/virtual operations to manage certain aspects of their operations. The hiring sector is also going through its share of challenges – while some companies with global operations have put a temporary freeze on their recruitment operations, there are many others which are trying to develop a framework based on technology to ensure business continuity.
One of the important aspects of recruitment is scheduling in-person interviews at least once during the hiring process, notably before the actual hiring decision is made. However, the current situation has put brakes on in-person iinterviews. While virtual interview platforms have been in use since long, there is a general uptick in terms of adoption and use of technology to conduct interviews. Apart from the social-distancing norms that are in place, there are other reasons why companies are weighing their options. Cost-reduction aside, there can be a number of immediate business advantages that may accrue due to higher adoption of technology. In the times going forward, recruiters will use virtual tech to conduct more and more interviews. The current situation has created demand for more professionals in a few industries. According to Glassdoor, job postings in the public sector, government, health-care, pharmaceuticals, and the biotech sectors have tripled since the first week of March in the US. Many organizations such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Amazon are asking their employees to work remotely. These organizations and also some of the prominent recruiting firms such as the Page Group and Robert Walters are conducting virtual interviews.
In the past four weeks, virtual interviews have increased by 67%. Companies are not willing to lose out talent to the competition and are increasingly using virtual recruitment platforms.
Virtual Interviews in practice
Virtual Interview is not a new method of interviewing candidates. For many years recruiters have been conducting telephonic and online interviews to screen candidates. However, conducting full interviews across the different stages remotely using virtual tools such as Skype, Google Duo/Hangout is where the current focus is. In recent days, Amazon has kept face-to-face interviews on hold and are setting up meetings virtually with the recruiters and candidates using their own videoconferencing tool Amazon Chime.
Candidates attending interviews in Google have the option of joining through Google Hangout or the videoconferencing tool, BlueJeans. On the other hand, LinkedIn has decided that candidates can attend the interview virtually through Bluejeans or have an option of delaying it till the market condition improves.
Virtual interviews is not limited to the larger firms only; they are also being adopted by smaller organizations like Helios HR, an HR outsourcing and talent acquisition consultancy with 40 employees. They have decided to conduct their internal interviews using Microsoft Teams. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the company used to perform initial phone screen, then move on to in-person interviews and candidate presentations. However, post the outbreak, it has decided to move the interviews and presentations to video using Microsoft Teams. It is also encouraging their clients to perform the same process while hiring the candidates.
Virtual interviews are not confined to firms located in the US or Europe; even companies from the Asia-Pacific region are conducting large-scale online interviews. Japanese e-commerce firm Mercari Inc. has started conducting job interviews online from February, and it is expected to continue in to the near future. Another Japanese firm Basic inc is also following in the footsteps of Mercari and are scheduling interviews online with the students irrespective of their area of residence, even though they are used to interview students mostly from local regions.
Opportunity for head-hunters
For recruiters, COVID-19 presents an unique opportunity to connect with high-profile candidates who were previously not reachable for interviews. Before the outbreak, the majority of the executives were busy with meetings, traveling, etc. However, the scenario is much different now as these executives are working from home and will generally be available for interviews during their working hours. As many companies are offering their employees the work from home option, it is easy for headhunters to get in touch with these executives. Still, on the flip side, it is difficult the close a deal without a final round of face-to-face interview with the candidates.
Virtual Meetings Apps are leading the charge
Companies worldwide are struggling and some are even losing their ground. Still, the usage of teleconferencing apps such as Slack, Tencent Conference, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams have risen nearly fivefold since the start of the year as many companies are opting for these technologies when it comes to meetings and hiring. Moreover many of these tools such as Zoom, Microsoft, and Google are free. After the outbreak in China, Zoom was one of the earliest to offer “unlimited video calls” for its free version for users in China.
March 2020 onwards, Google started providing advanced features of Hangout Meet to all its G-Suite users free till July 1st,2020. Google used to charge US$13 per user each month to provide access to these features. Technology giant Microsoft is also offering its tool, Microsoft Teams free for six months. Furthermore, Microsoft is also planning to launch an update that will allow any number of users to take part in the meetings for the free version. Cisco owned Webex is also offering its product free, resulting in a 700% jump in the number of users for Webex, especially in the affected countries in South East Asia (Singapore and China).
How can recruiters benefit?
For any recruiting firm, using these apps to conduct interviews may be a pricey affair. However, due to changes in the market conditions, recruiting firms can look at the evolving options for the near-to-medium term. As long as the providers are offering free service, recruiters can arrange virtual calls with the candidates and close the positions. It will not only benefit the candidates, but also the recruiting companies, and their clients. Over a period of time, recruiting companies can take advantage of cost savings in other business functions to work out a longer-term plan involving these technologies. During times such as these, recruiting companies will need to maintain healthy relationship with their clients while ensuring business as usual. In the current context, virtual apps are one of the best available solutions which recruiting teams may leverage.
When the COVID-19 fears continue to plague the world, it is time for the recruiters to start looking towards virtual hiring as a viable, low-cost option. As businesses become more ‘Digital’, recruiters can industrialize virtual meeting technologies to not only stay in the game but also be ahead of the curve.