How to overcome the challenges of remote recruiting during a pandemic

remote recruiting
© Kritchanut

Chris Farmer, leadership and management training expert and founder of Corporate Coach Group, discusses the challenges presented to recruiters during a pandemic where remote recruiting is now, for many, the only viable option to growing teams

The impact of COVID-19 and the associated national, and now regional, lockdowns has created new challenges for recruiters both agency and in-house. However, the principles of effective recruitment remain the same regardless of how meetings take place.

When speaking to candidates and clients it’s important to consider these four elements:

  • Define the essential characteristics of the ideal candidate: The “essential characteristics” are those which must be possessed by any candidate who is to be considered for a particular role.
  • Attract prospective candidates to apply for the role.
  • Select the best candidate(s). i.e. Those who most closely resemble the “ideal”.
  • Create an efficient “onboarding process” that allows the successful candidates to be integrated (“onboarded”) into the team.

However, it is important to note that the pandemic has created important changes to this process and recruiters must be adaptable to these.

  • The “essential characteristics” of the ideal candidate has changed.
  • The form of the selection interview has changed.
  • The onboarding process has changed.

Let us look at each of these issues separately.

The “essential characteristics” of the ideal candidate have changed

Prior to the pandemic, and the rise of remote working, the essential characteristics of candidates would often for many teams include personality traits such as good social and communication skills, personal likeability and charisma.

These qualities were essential because we were rubbing shoulders and sharing spaces with them, however obviously this changed for now. Consequently, there may now be a new list of essential characteristics:

Self-discipline. The ability to motivate oneself to do difficult tasks without having to be influenced by a manager.

Personal initiative. The ability to see what needs to be done, by one’s own perception and judgement. To do the right thing, before anyone asks for it, and before it is needed.

Emotional stability. The ability to maintain one’s mental health at peak performance levels, without a steady flow of positive social motivators coming from others.

Recruiters must therefore amend their selection criteria to select candidates with the above three personal qualities.

The form candidate selection interview has changed

Remote interviews are not “face to face”. During a face to face interview there are four channels of communication.

  • Words. What people say.
  • Voice tones. The way they say it.
  • Body language. How they look and act before, during and after the interview.
  • Subliminal cues such as scent, proximity, and angle-orientation. These are subtle cues which affect perceptions and how people judge the suitability of others.

During remote interviews, we suffer the loss of cues relating to scent, proximity, angle orientation, most of the body language cues and behaviours, that used to form a part of our decision-making process.

Remote interview decision-making is therefore based upon a smaller number of factors. The restricted amount of available information means that recruiters should be better prepared:

Key points for recruiters using remote interviews

  1. Give candidates sufficient lead time to prepare. We have seen instances of candidates given short notice, sometimes two hours or less to “prepare” for an online interview. This is insufficient to allow the candidate to assemble their resources and give you a true reflection of their abilities.
  2. Prepare the remote interview with specific questions designed to tease out the evidence that the candidate either does or does NOT possess the essential attributes required for the role. Remember that the list of required attributes may have changed, to include the characteristics of self-reliance, self-discipline and emotional stability. We have had many reports of recruiters who appeared to be flustered by their own processes and seem NOT to have prepared their questions. Therefore, they seemed ill-equipped to carry out a remote interview.
  3. Have cameras turned ON. We have had many reports of remote interviews being done on skype, or on ZOOM and TEAMS with cameras turned off. This reduces the flow of information to an even greater degree, and makes the decisions based upon restricted information less reliable.
  4. Keep candidates “in the loop”. We have heard from many candidates who have not received communication for weeks following their interview. Not even a thank you note. This causes upset, uncertainty and doubt and reflects badly on recruiters and their organisation when a simple text message could suffice.

Helpful tips for onboarding new remote workers

Processes for successful “On-boarding” of new remote workers include the following:

  1. Even before they start, give new workers all the I.T. support possible. Issue the hardware; give a thorough “systems-briefing”; give them programmes-access; a list of email addresses for everyone they will need to contact. Help them to navigate organisational security systems. By handling these technical hurdles, before they start, you will make life less stressful for new remote workers.
  2. It is important that, within the first few days, you arrange an introductory video team meeting with all cameras turned ON. Let the new remote worker see and hear the names and faces of their new teammates. New workers need to “get a visual”, on their new colleagues and it is vital that this process starts almost immediately.
  3. In the first week, the team leader should have DAILY video calls with the new worker to set goals, describe plans and explain “the set-up”. After the first week, reduce these meetings to once per week.
  4. Expect the new remote worker to take longer to “get up to speed”. New remote workers may take up to half as long again to reach their full productive capacity, when compared to pre-covid. Remote working disrupts the organic learning process that used to take place naturally in the office environment. Consequently, don’t expect too much too soon.
  5. Arrange a physical tour of the workplace, so that the remote worker can walk around the workspace in person and meet people “in the flesh”. This is an important part of onboarding and you should arrange it as soon as practicable.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here