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Digital Hiring May Become the Rule Instead of the Exception

October 29, 2020 Employee Experience
Lance Haun
By Lance Haun

Plenty of companies are trying to make lemons into lemonade during the pandemic. Whether organizations are trying to improve the way they interact remotely across physical locations or as a way to bridge the digital skill gap, leaders obviously see an opportunity to introduce positive change into their companies today. 

As we’ve normalized a lot of digital employee experiences, one that has been slow to change is hiring. 

A few years ago, a recruiting leader at a telecommunications company told me at a conference how much her video interviewing and hiring assessment process had saved in shortlisting candidates for roles. They were only meeting with finalists — two to four candidates max. They were slowly going all digital for out-of-town candidates, but it wasn’t going as fast as she’d like. 

The reason? Both hiring managers and candidates pushed back. Transformation initiatives are bigger than technology but the changes driven by closed offices and remote work are pushing the hiring process forward. 

Candidates and organizations may stick with this change for a while, too. 

Early Pushes to Digital Hiring Only Go So Far

In the early 2000s at the onset of my brief recruiting career, I was trying to figure out how to connect candidates face to face to our organization without having them travel to our more remote location. With the release of Skype and more widespread broadband access, all we needed was a web camera and a computer to have a conversation. I added “tech coach” to the long list of skills to ensure we could have conversations with candidates as personally as possible. 

Things have changed a lot since then. You have entire platforms like HireVue, Spark Hire and VidCruiter that are purpose-made for having virtual conversations with candidates. Of course, the proliferation of smartphones has also changed accessibility, too. Many more people have the technology available to do virtual interviewing than they did 15 years ago. 

Still, what many hiring managers wanted then and now was to at least meet a candidate in person. Getting to shake a person’s hand and see them face to face had value. And while this was complicated for candidates who had to take time off or travel, they valued the ability to meet in person too.

Related Article: Best Practices for Remote Onboarding and Hiring

Increases in Remote Hiring During the Pandemic

In February and April of 2020, I did two flash surveys of TLNT readers and found that the pandemic had severely disrupted recruiting operations. Left unpublished in that research was that most organizations had paused hiring by April but those who were hiring largely did so remotely. 

In a survey this fall of more than 2,800 senior managers from staffing giant Robert Half, it showed that 63% of companies implemented remote interviews and onboarding sessions after COVID hit. Before the pandemic, just 12% of organizations did so. 

This huge jump may have been due to necessity but it’s an impressive shift, nonetheless. 

There were other positives for organizations. Three in five organizations expanded their search geographically to access a wider candidate pool and the same amount shortened the hiring process. Companies like Walmart have simplified their hiring process to the point where associates can be hired in as little as 24 hours and other companies are making changes permanent

Some companies that are still holding in-person hiring events are doing drive-through or curbside processes to minimize contact the same way you might pick up take out from a restaurant.

Related Article: Building a New Model for Remote Work

The Human Factor Plays a Role as Well

Of course, almost all of this was possible before the pandemic. Could we get to the point where fully digital hiring becomes the norm? Absolutely.

In a world where Zoom has become a verb at work and virtual weddings and meetups are the norm in our personal lives, the comfort level with technology has increased substantially in less than a year. The demand for in-person interviews, while not gone, has decreased substantially.

Long-time friends and work colleagues who swore to me up and down that they wouldn’t ever work remotely are so comfortable with the digital work experience that they are packing up their bags and moving. Even those content with their location are considering their remote work mix as companies slowly reopen.

If your relationship with your colleagues and boss are going to be digital only for a substantial part of your employment, not only would virtual hiring be possible — it could be more desirable. After all, many would want to see how they’ll be interacting via all these different technologies. 

At the very least, many organizations have added a new capability in their talent acquisition department, even if they don’t solely depend on it. That will only increase the comfort level and adoption rate of one of the most manual aspects of the employee journey.


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