Social distancing was a term we weren’t using a couple months ago but has unfortunately become part of our everyday vernacular due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its severe impact on social and businesses environments all around the world.

When it comes to recruitment in Australia presently, what effects will social distancing, remote working and the shift in the fundamental ways we relate to each other have on hiring?

A company that is working remotely, or with just essential staff in the office, will still have hiring needs. Although growth may be lower due to economic uncertainty, as many companies report, there will always be jobs to fill. And just because business is disrupted, doesn’t mean you can’t hire – it just means it’s necessary and more crucial to be agile and adapt the hiring process to suit your current situation.

Below are areas of how Australian businesses are already navigating this new hiring reality. 

RELATED: COVID-19 to test Australia’s WFH agility and performance

Business continuity plans set the foundation

The first step in ensuring organisations can still function during uncertain times is to develop new or adapt current business continuity plans (BCP). Ideally, companies will already have one in place before a situation like this comes up, but it’s not too late to produce a plan at whatever stage it becomes necessary. A BCP ensures that your day-to-day operations are stable, strong and able to withstand any challenges that uncertain economic times might bring. 

A business continuity plan should include the framework for infrastructure that can support working remotely, how team structures will adapt, and how essential support will work. For example, some businesses have made a plan for essential teams such as IT to come into the office but on a rotational basis. The BCP should also include what will happen to those in your company that need to travel, including a definition of what travel is considered essential to the business. 

With the BCPs in place, it’s back to business (perhaps not as usual but at least as productive). Then it’s time to re-evaluate hiring needs and restart the recruitment process for essential roles.

Changes within the interview process

Many first-round interviews are already conducted virtually as a normal part of the hiring process, whether over the phone or through email. And with social distancing, many recruitment firms like Michael Page immediately switched to virtual interviews and meetings for candidates and clients – demonstrating that we can utilise technology that we’ve always had.

So it’s a matter of continuing this practice throughout the hiring process. This is a great time to use phone interviews, video calls and virtual assignments for all interview rounds.

RELATED: How to navigate virtual job interviews

Use technology such as Zoom or Skype and prepare to make the entire process virtual – like onboarding and induction – as our country’s lockdown continues.

Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

Tips for conducting successful virtual interviews

Prepare and test

Especially if you’re using technology that’s new to your organisation, set up a test call with a colleague to ensure that microphones and cameras are working properly, and that you know the ins and outs of the new software and how to troubleshoot if needed. 

Prepare the candidates

Ensure the candidate is well-prepared by including essential details in the interview invite. Include technical tips, ensure the time zone is correct, let them know of any programs they need to download. Also send them a backup audio line to dial into if something goes wrong with the program you are using.

Be precise and detailed

Just like an in-person interview, prepare the candidate with an outline of what to expect, including information such as: how long the call will take, who they will be virtually meeting with, key points of discussion.

Focus on the parts that matter

One downside to video interviews is that you can’t rely as much on non-verbal communication or cues to evaluate a candidate. Keep in mind the factors that can make virtual interviews feel awkward, such as delays between the two parties speaking, a blurry video feed and miscommunications. Focus on what the candidate is saying and their experiences, not those awkward moments.

Don’t ignore employer branding

Even virtually, keep thinking of ways for your unique employer branding to come through. Be creative, this can mean creating a welcome video for candidates to view before or after the interview, or even something like using VR to give virtual office tours. 

Follow up

As with an in-person interview, follow up with an email that includes information on: what the next steps in the interview process are and what the timeline will be. Also ask for feedback either directly or with a survey about how the virtual interview process can be improved.

Hiring will go on

At the end of the day, the technology we have means hiring can continue to go on, even in uncertain times such as these.

With the use of video call programs, interviews can be done virtually, assessments made online and communications done almost as if they were face-to-face. Looking to the workplace of the future, virtual interviews are becoming even more commonplace, and this may be something your organisation can bring into day to day practice when we see the other side of COVID-19. 

While hiring and looking for that perfect candidate, the important part to remember is that we’re all operating in uncertain times, and we’re all human.

Through the technology and virtual reality, find the humanity in the process and seek out the best fit for your organisation. The world is changing but with the right plans, technology and practices in place, recruitment and hiring can change right along with it.

RELATED: How to: Manage remote teams effectively

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