The Times, They Are A-Changin'
The writer Maya Angelou had this to say about challenges: "If you can't change it, change your attitude." We are in a time where we will be forced to listen that advice often over the coming weeks, and possibly months. We are living in interesting times, and we will need the ability to be flexible.
As the coronavirus continues to spread globally, one of the key ways to fight it is to slow its transmission - in order to keep hospital systems from getting overwhelmed as they have been in Italy, and to buy time for the development of a vaccine. By now, most if not all of us have heard the phrase "social distancing". Basically: keep every human at least 6 feet away from you; avoid crowded spaces; hide in a bunker and wait. It's a bit extreme, but it's proven effective in China and - it looks like - in South Korea as well.
This makes things like in-person interviewing, well... problematic. It's a situation tailor-made for transmission: close contact, hand shakes, stranger after stranger walking in off the street. And, to make it more fun: a growing number of employers are setting up strict work-from-home policies. Harvard, MIT, and a number of universities for example are shutting down entirely. Italy is closed.
Everyday, We're Pivoting
This past Friday, the campus leader for one of the Big 4 communicated to their vendors that campus recruitment was still going forward. 48 hours later, they reversed that entirely. Earlier in the week, UNLEASH London announced they were still very much moving forward with their conference event. Thursday, they announced the event was off - at least, the live one. Unclear if they'll follow ERE and SourceCon and make it an online event.
Fluid - that's the name of the game here. Staying loose and adapting to change.
Adapt Your Process
A few things to keep in mind - no plan survives contact with the enemy. The plan you make in the morning may well need to be torn up and remade in the evening. But that said? A few things to keep in mind:
Keep it Simple
If you're someone with OCD, or just someone who loves a solid process, this is going to be harder for you. There's a temptation to get buy-in from across departments, for committees, build process plans. Basically: have a lot of meetings. Some of those meetings are usually meetings to plan meetings. It's almost meta. You can't do that now.
Here's the thing: it's still a tight labor market. That may change as things move forward, but even then, it's not like we're going to see a sudden surge in available data scientists with app dev expertise and Top Secret clearance (totally made that up, but I bet it's a real req, and I bet it's a doozy to recruit for). You're still going to need to execute on your core role: high quality butts in seats. Only now you're going to be doing it with new and unexpected obstacles. Removing unnecessary meetings, overly burdensome process, etc, is going to become a bandwidth necessity.
All that said: you may be surprised by how supportive IT, Legal, etc are going to be here. According to Ashley O'Connor, VP of Business Development and Partnerships at Brazen, the key thing her clients are telling her is "engage IT, legal, etc, get approvals quickly. Even clients who know how to do this are having to - I don't want to say scramble - but having to move very quickly. Get internal partners engaged early to triage risk, and accept low risk items as safe for now. IT gets it and they are pivoting, it's been impressive."
It's Still the Same, Just... Different
Even as employers move to virtualize their interviews, and streamline their process, they may win the fight and still lose the war. Hoffman adds that the worry she's having is that companies are being forced to spend so much time with short-term, reactive activities that they're going to suffer over the long run.
"The activity I worry about is the top of the funnel. Video interviewing is great and has high value right now, but the worry is that proactive marketing dips, and in three months there's a crisis in applicant flow... Over the past few years, companies have invested a lot in thinking about top of funnel, recruitment marketing, etc. We don't want our clients to lose that momentum. Having a virtual events option available as a tool in your toolkit is a huge advantage in a time like this."
And, speaking of that funnel? You know the part of the funnel at the bottom, that short straight bit? Think of that as onboarding. That's where Jennifer Taylor, Chief People Officer at SQA in Providence, RI, sees issues: "It's impacting onboarding more than interviewing... as we shift to a fully remote team, who is there to onboard, and what is the new processes for systems, tech, etc etc. Having a cohesive process for remote onboarding should be a priority in order to continue to allow for continuity in the growth strategies of the organization.
This Video Thing...
That said: short-term, burning bridges do need to get put out. One of the most obvious parts of the process (along with the above-mentioned virtual events/ top of funnel fun) to digitize is the interview itself. It's a lot easier to avoid contact through a computer screen as it turns out. If you're reading this, and you're with, say, PwC or one of the other Big 4, it's a pretty fair bet that your team has virtual events and video interviewing worked out. In fact, LinkedIn, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, PwC, Intel, and many more are now strictly doing video interviewing. There's a machine-like element to it that's impressive. If, however, you're with an organization that's not quite as familiar with the what's and hows, fear not: there's help out there. Vendors are working hard to offer help, either in the form of advice and flexibility, to offering large discounts.
If you aren't sure what tools to use, start by keeping it simple. Again: bandwidth. As one HR leader who's in a hot zone told me recently "The one thing not considered is the toll and fatigue all this new standard work is taking on the leadership team. I'm so tired I could cry." For simple, consider what tools you already use - GoToMeeting, Skype, Hangouts, etc can all be triaged into adequate video interviewing tools. If you need to think about solutions that are geared towards recruitment (so they'll play nicer with your ATS, are built with compliance in mind, easier to schedule out of etc), there are several excellent options. Just to get you started, HireVue, Modern Hire, and OutMatch HCM all offer solutions you should be looking at. Having worked with all three in the past as a practitioner then consultant, the experience was uniformly positive across them all.
What's interesting is that this experience has the potential to shift how we interview even past the current hootenany. William Wiggins, Human Resources Manager at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle (so ground zero) has shifted all interviews to video, and will likely make it a permanent option in the future:
"I've implemented video interviews that are actually going quite well, and I have limited the number of people in the New Hire Orientations... The video interviews have been very well received and kept our interview on track. I am looking for some functionality that will transcribe the interview and I'm going to try to make this a permanent alternative to panels post CORVID-19."
I've been asking experts for their best practices - both from the vendor, as well as corporate practitioner side of the fence. As more comes in, and this situation evolves, we'll be featuring their experience and leadership. Imo Udom, Chief Strategy Officer for OutMatch, passed along his thoughts (down below). Along with that, OutMatch is offering full use of their OutMatch Video platform (Wepow) completely free for 60 days, and the sign-up page looks pretty simple. Worth a look.
A few things to think about, just brass tacks stuff
Best Practices - Imo Udom
Give candidates a heads-up
Think carefully about what questions you want to ask and limit the overall length of the interview
Decide for which jobs and which cases you might want to use Pre-recorded/On-demand vs. Live video interviews.
Think about the dress code
How will you use the results
Get hiring managers involved early
Think about how you want to evaluate responses
Bottom line: breathe. Well, just carefully, and not right next to someone. But, take a breath. We'll be continuing this series with additional perspectives and tips, so do please stay in touch, and share as you see fit.
Oh, and: wash your hands. Again. Right now. That keyboard/ phone is filthy.