As the weeks go by, the world continues to change at a pace none of us has previously witnessed. Here at Richard Lloyd Accounting Recruitment, we are very curious to see how the interviewing landscape might change moving forward. Here are some of our thoughts:
Could videos replace face to face interviews?
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the strict lockdown has seen a prolific rise in video interviews. In my experience, conducting interviews via video has historically not been popular with employers and employees, as, without a doubt, you get to see more of the ‘real person’ when meeting face to face. Being left with little to no choice has meant that recruitment processes have had to head down this path. Companies adapted and worked out how to make video interviewing work for them and candidates quickly learnt the do’s and don’ts to be successful.
Now the question is: “Could video interviews replace face to face ones”? Our prediction is that they may well become more prevalent particularly at the first round stage but the feedback from Hiring managers is still a preference to meet face to face if safe to do so. The benefits of virtual interviews are that they can be easier to arrange, offer more flexibility from a scheduling and time perspective, can be shorter, and are of course advantageous to encourage social distancing. From here, we expect that second and / or final stage interviews would continue to happen in person.
No more handshaking but more elbow touching
As COVID-19 took the world by storm, it was quickly realised that social distancing was a necessity and some of the first things to disappear when saying hello were hugs, kisses and of course the traditional handshake. Whilst still working from the office back in late March, I laughably greeted established clients with elbow touches and foot taps. Whilst we don’t expect these types of greetings to continue and become the norm, there are numerous other forms of human greeting that exist around the globe that may become more prevalent here in Sydney, Australia. Could we see the pressing of the palms together accompanied by a slight bow? I read that in Samoa there is the ‘eyebrow flash’ which encompasses raising your eyebrows whilst giving a large smile to the person you are meeting. Or, perhaps just a simple wave with an open posture. Whichever way this evolves, our prediction is that the handshake won’t be resumed for quite some time, which might lead to some awkward greetings where one person extends a hand and the other won’t accept it.
Behavioural interview questions are based on the idea that past behaviour predicts future behaviour, so employers ask these to find out how candidates previously reacted in certain situations. These questions often start with: “Tell me about a time when” and can be used to explore specific success criteria the employer is looking for in their job vacancy. As stereotypical questions around overcoming challenges or dealing with a difficult workplace situation arise, expect the floodgates to open with examples from Covid-19 such as, working remotely, parenting whilst working and dealing with uncertainty. This is certainly no bad thing (and is to be expected), however we do advise hiring managers to watch out for cues that allow them to probe into characteristics relating to the job seeker’s initiative, optimism and learning ability as we are not out of the woods yet, and these will be valuable traits for new hires to have in spades.
More focus on technical competencies
Employers are likely to explore an interviewee’s technical accounting knowledge more thoroughly during the next six months. In an ideal world, COVID-19 case numbers will continue to stay low and we all go back to living our normal lives sooner rather than later. Depending on which media you subscribe to however will take you down a maze of opinions of how this could play out. With the worst-case scenario in mind where we are asked to work from home again, employers are likely to be mindful that it will be easier to hire someone with the key technical accounting ability already in place, hence are likely to probe into past experiences to ensure a thorough understanding of required skills. Whilst Zoom, Teams, and other software make onboarding possible, there is no doubt that in the absence of being able to sit next to your new starter and train them in person should there be any accounting skills gaps, the desire to find accounting team members that can hit the ground running will intensify.
A case study
At the very start of the pandemic, we were engaged to source a Chief Financial Officer for a global technology business. They have a naturally forward-thinking culture and embraced technology to ensure their business-critical recruitment process was not hindered. A synopsis of their process is:
All first-round interviews were conducted via video with HR and the outgoing CFO and were a mix of both behavioural and technical competency-based interview questions – thus ensuring accounting know-how and cultural alignment.
Numeracy and other key competencies were assessed online.
Second round interviews were conducted via video with the Global CFO ensuring the candidates had the required technical accounting competencies.
Final stage interview in person with the MD – there were no handshakes and social distancing was adhered to. In fact, the uniqueness of the situation actually helped ‘break the ice’ in the final interview.
The candidate is still serving their notice period however they are currently going through their virtual onboarding process.
In our minds, this has been an impressive example of a thorough process, making the most of a difficult situation whilst fully embracing technology.
As each week goes by during this peculiar period, the recruitment landscape is evolving. More and more, people are accepting of the new norm of uncertainty. None of the above is bad practice, it’s just different and we must continue to adapt over the next six months and beyond. Perhaps the outcomes longer term will be better? Only time will tell….