Recruitment during a pandemic
There has been no part of our personal and professional lives that has been untouched by the Covid-19 crisis, and that includes recruitment. The economic impact has been big in many industries affecting the recruitment market itself. According to the Asian Development Bank, new job postings reduced by 87 percent within a month of Covid emerging in Bangladesh. Thus, instead of recruiting more people to expand, companies have been forced to decrease the number of employees and minimise the less profitable or more problematic areas.
However, the effect has been asymmetrical, to say the least. Some industries, particularly in the service sector, have experienced a sharp decline in their business leading some of them to temporarily close shops while other industries have seen their business flourishing during this pandemic. Therefore, the effects of Covid on recruitment have been different from one organisation to the next. But one thing is for certain, this is a time of uncertainty and as such, requires a much more empathetic and holistic approach to recruitment than usual.
So, even though the Covid crisis has been a strong limiting factor, this does not necessarily mean that companies have stopped hiring. In order to understand the effects of Covid on hiring, we first need to understand what has changed.
Recruitment in Bangladeshi companies has traditionally been a physical phenomenon. Face-to-face interviews and in-person assessment tests have been a staple of the recruitment process for as long as one can remember. And for good reason. Physical evaluations tend to give the best approximations of a candidate's ability, where interaction skills and body language can be judged. Even though virtual methods are not unheard of, physical assessments have formed the meat of the recruitment process for most companies.
However, with the advent of Covid-19, all that has changed. Answering pandemic demand and replacing lost business have meant taking on new products and technologies and exploring new opportunities, and this has driven recruitment, particularly anything involving digital communications, streaming and virtual events—all of which have been key enabling technologies during the lockdown. The hiring process itself has had to change to keep up with the pandemic. Where previously a physical selection process or a blend of physical and online were used, nowadays a fully digital recruitment process has become the norm for most companies. According to a report, 86 percent of businesses globally are now conducting virtual interviews, with Bangladeshi companies following suit.
"The whole recruitment process had to be revamped," explains Mashfiq, who works at a HR consultancy firm in the city. "We now have a fully digital process replacing the pre-Covid combination of onsite, in-person interviews and technical tests. "We also do everything virtually using technologies like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Webex," he adds. He suggests that "meeting" candidates online can give you good insight, particularly when you're seeing them in their own home rather than a formal interview setting. This tends to reduce the stress and tension levels associated with an interview. However, some candidates seem to dislike it, as an online interview does not provide as accurate an insight into the role, the team or the company as it does during a face-to-face interview.
In other areas, recruitment is changing in significant ways due to the pandemic. Bdjobs recently launched their "Video Resume" feature, which lets users record a short video of themselves explaining their skills and competencies and answering a predetermined set of interview questions. They then upload this video to the database, which is then sent to companies for selection purposes. This can be a very useful tool, particularly in the earlier stages of the selection process, when interview etiquette and body language is important. This also facilitates remote screening of candidates, which is invaluable during this pandemic.
When it comes to job advertisements, circulars that offer remote work options are getting far more applications than if they remain as an on-site offer. Since interaction between candidates and company is lower than usual, it is important to follow a good, transparent communication policy in job advertisements. Companies need to highlight features like flexible working hours, telecommuting, and health insurance—benefits that candidates look for in these uncertain times. Thus, it is important for the HR department to work together with the PR and marketing teams to deliver uniform, consistent messages.
Geographic flexibility of candidates
The pandemic has widened the talent pool in terms of geography, says HR executives. Location has also become less relevant, thanks to remote working.
While many expect a hybrid, flexible model of working to become the norm post-pandemic, the need to live "nearby" is widely recognised as less important today, according to recruiters.
Traditionally, for jobs that require local involvement and frequent coordination with the head office, candidates who live nearby are preferred. However, since virtual working took off, managers have been more flexible with their location requirements. This has significantly increased the number of applications from candidates. Pre-Covid, employers may not have been so eager for such an arrangement.
The way forward
The current Covid-19 situation has forced companies to test new ways of hiring employees and re-evaluate their old practices. The combination of remote working acceptance and online interviews has widened the talent pool geographically and increased the mobility of work. Going forward, HR departments will be more accommodating for interviewing schedules thanks to technology. Indeed, the current pandemic experience has taught us new techniques and ways of doing things, the best of which can be absorbed into our future normal. The ultimate goal is to give employees of today and tomorrow the best possible job experience. And that experience starts with the recruitment process.
Feihan Ahsan is a faculty at BRAC Business School, BRAC University, specialising in Human Resource Management & Industrial Relations.