Virtual Recruitment: How to Hire From a Distance

Hiring someone you only know through video conferencing seems risky, but Comhar Partners says it can be done safely if you are thorough and know exactly what you want. Nick Layton takes us inside the new — and perhaps more permanent world — of virtual recruiting. 

May 22, 2020 – Have you hired someone without ever meeting face-to-face? With COVID-19, businesses can’t recruit the same way they once did — but that doesn’t mean they can’t find the best candidates for the job now. In fact, Comhar Partners recently concluded an executive search that was conducted completely virtually using Zoom, the video conferencing tool, and the person’s first day will be the first time the individual will have gone on-site or met a board member or 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,” said Nick Layton, a director at Comhar Partners. “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.”

Comhar Partners said that 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,” the firm said.

“While this is often true in a standard in-person interview as well, it can be harder to create the connection digitally,” Mr. Layton said. “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.”

Nick Layton has over 10 years of mid-level and senior-level executive search and professional recruiting experience within the industrial and engineering, consumer products, hospitality, technology, and automotive industries. As a director in the firm’s Chicago office, he is responsible for the full cycle search execution of every project deployed on. Mr. Layton is actively involved in the identification and pursuit of new business, candidate and client relationship management, research, candidate development, and presentation full project oversight.

In developing your process, Comhar Partners said to consider implementing a strong assessment process. For them, 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 vs. management stylings, communication effectiveness at various levels, change management, strategic versus implementation tendencies and vision sharing.

Related: Mastering the Online Interview has Just Taken on New Importance

  • 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.

Comhar Partners also said not to 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, the search firm said. “While the candidate is trying to impress you, you’re trying to impress them as well,” said Mr. Layton. “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.”

Best Practices for Virtual Job Interviewing
As the world increasingly turns to remote work options, virtual interviews are quickly becoming more of the norm. “While qualifying prospective candidates and effectively demonstrating your organization’s culture in a virtual world is complicated, there are many ways to ensure that you are able to get comfortable with and overcome these challenges,” says a new report by Greensboro, NC-based executive search firm Charles Aris Inc.

Most importantly, Comhar Partners said that 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.

Related: Conducting Executive Searches During a Pandemic

  • Finding a quiet and private space. If you’re interviewing from home, this can be challenging but it’s 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,” Mr. Layton said. “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,” he said. “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.”

Comhar Partners said that 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.

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.

Related: Working Virtually Keeps Everyone Safe and Productive

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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