Lockdown forced many businesses to put their recruitment plans on hold, and in a climate of uncertainty, that might seem like the wisest strategy. However, if they are to grow, companies need to adapt to these challenging new conditions or risk losing out, especially when it comes to hiring talent remotely.

Identifying priority skills and qualities

Wellbeing and personal development platform FidlLeaf made its first two hires last month. Instead of following traditional interview processes where the focus is very much on skills, experience, and culture fit, the founders identified a different quality as a priority for their new hires.

“We wanted self-motivated people who could demonstrate that they had taught themselves something, ideally in the last year,” says cofounder Sophie Coulthard. “One of our new hires had taught herself to knit and speak Korean, mainly using YouTube, and the other had started to learn code. This gave us confidence that both would be very self-motivated.”

To help the newcomers settle in, during the first month the company will be hiring a co-working space for a couple of days to focus on brainstorming and creative thinking, also using it as an opportunity to see if these activities are better done in-person.

Coulthard’s top tip for remote hiring is to prioritize the personal qualities you need among your team members, and keep in mind that they might be different for remote workers.

Virtual onboarding 

Launched in 2017 social enterprise Beam is a platform that crowdfunds training for homeless people and supports them into stable work. It has been hiring during the pandemic using social media to give job applicants a better insight into what it’s like to work at the company. This takes the form of ‘Instagram Takeovers’ delivered by members of the team, particularly in those roles being actively recruited for.

“Applicants get an idea of what an average day of working remotely at Beam entails, while it allows us to attract people from different walks of life, who may not have otherwise thought about joining our business,” says senior talent manager Florence Odumosu.

Onboarding is a key stage of the hiring process and Beam does this remotely by ensuring that successful candidates feel socially integrated into the team before they join. This takes the form of virtual social events that take place once the offer has been accepted, allowing them to create a rapport with their soon-to-be colleagues.

“The candidate and the wider team get a real sense of whether there is a good cultural fit before they join the company,” says Odumosu. “Keeping in touch with candidates from the point of offer to their official start date helps them feel a part of the team. Without this, joining a new team remotely can feel incredibly daunting.”

Hiring remotely for senior roles

Filling senior positions remotely requires a different approach. Connectd, a community network for founders and angel investors to connect, is currently hiring for a CMO.

As CEO Roei Samuel explains, it’s more difficult to hire a senior person remotely because it is important to understand how the candidate thinks, something that is hard to gauge on a video call.

He says: “You hire senior people to lead, not guide, and therefore you need to trust that they’ve got the answers to the questions you need solving. Senior hires should be able to convince you of their ideas and their playbook from the interview stage, so if you don’t have full trust and confidence in them from the start then you will just end up replacing them.”

When it comes to hiring a senior person, things like their track-record, references and referrals are now more important than ever. It also requires a degree of patience, as it can take several months to assess whether the candidate is the right for the role.

“In that time, you and your team need to over-invest in bringing the candidate up to speed with everything as quickly as possible and integrating them within the team,” adds Samuel.

Widening the talent pool

Describing itself as an immersive rock star experience, WeJam is a tech-enabled group activity for people who want to start their own band. The business was started early last year, although due to Covid-19 it has been operating in ’stealth mode’, working on the technology behind the scenes without being able to welcome customers, but it has been busy scouting for fresh tech talent.

Founder David Tshulak says: “Through remote working we’ve been able to widen our talent pool and build relationships with universities outside London to help secure the best music technology graduates from all over the U.K. Employees who are based in different towns and cities will spot different emerging trends.”

Many universities today, he says, act like recruitment agencies, not only advertising positions for hiring companies but also shortlisting candidates. WeJam has attended and presented at several virtual career fairs over the last year, which Tshulak says is a great way to differentiate between those who are truly interested in your company and those who are applying for every job under the sun.

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