The New Normal: Hiring and Onboarding Employees Remotely During COVID-19

For organizations worldwide, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a swift shift to a new normal. In part, that likely means keeping business as usual by transitioning to hiring and onboarding employees remotely. The fundamentals of hiring remain the same, and the goal is always to make great hires. That said, there’s never been a better time to take a look at your procedures and ensure you’re discovering good people, making them feel like they’re a part of your company’s big picture, and giving them the tools to succeed—regardless of whether they ultimately work inside or outside of your office.

Be creative in discovering your next great candidate

As a result of COVID-19, there are a LOT of candidates looking for their next opportunity to contribute. Your job is to find an efficient way to sort through a growing stack of applications and find the ones you’ll likely interview.

First step? Consider finding a free moment to take a look at your application. Are you simply asking “yes/no” questions, or are you also asking deeper, open-ended questions—questions that allow your potential candidates to really paint a complete picture of who they are, where they’ve been, and most importantly, what they’re capable of achieving at your company? Perhaps go one step further and ask what interests them about your company, the open position, and more specifically, what they might accomplish once hired. Additional information can help considerably as you decide who to move forward in your process.

Be transparent during trying times

Once it’s time to reach out for introductions, remember that these are strange days. Chances are really good that you’re speaking with candidates who are feeling uncertain about their professional future. You may speak to a recent graduate who is unsure how to land a first opportunity during COVID-19, or you may be connecting with candidates who have lost long-standing jobs.

Now is the time to be transparent. Be very honest and open with your candidates about your company’s efforts to protect both the business and the safety of the employees. Share with them the realistic timeline for remotely hiring and onboarding new employees. Clear and authentic communication can put candidates at ease during this time, and even give them greater confidence in your company.

Take advantage of tech

It’s no secret that the video format is taking over. From virtual proms, to family gatherings and holidays, we are growing more comfortable communicating “on-screen.” As you move forward with interviews, video chat apps are a good alternative to conducting phone interviews. Honestly, it’s not as easy to pick up on non-verbal cues when you’re not sitting in front of a candidate. But through video, you can get a general sense for how they present themselves, and how they show enthusiasm for you, your company, and the potential role.

Collaborate with IT for success

If you aren’t best friends with your IT team, there’s never been a better time to introduce yourself. Hiring remotely can present a long list of challenges . . . many of them technical. There’s nothing more off-putting than stalling an interview or training session because your microphone isn’t working.

Work closely with your IT team to evaluate the tools and resources you have in place, and where you can quickly and effectively improve things to benefit your candidate’s experience. And remember, the onboarding experience is more than the video interview. Be sure to collaborate with IT to ensure that your training program and other onboarding tasks can also successfully be administered remotely.

Get your candidate’s team involved

Whether your candidate will work remotely or in your offices, it’s important to immediately provide a sense of teamwork. Even when hiring remotely, there are opportunities to find candidates who will thrive when contributing to a team atmosphere.

Whenever possible, include your candidate’s future teammates in the interview process. With the success of video chat software, this is now more possible than ever before. It’s not much of an issue to set up conversations between people in multiple locations and across different time zones. No need to get everyone traveling to numerous office interviews. Even better, it allows candidates to quickly meet and get to know team members they will be working with before accepting an offer.

Introduce them to the big picture and make sure they’re interested

It probably goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. Since your candidates are getting introduced to you and your company without visiting your offices, it’s important to spend a little time with the big picture. Open a dialogue to find out just how truly interested in your company the candidate is, and if they seem driven to contribute to what your company is accomplishing. Let them know what success looks like for your open position, and what will be asked of them to achieve that success. With smart questions, you’ll be well on your way to finding the right person for the job.

Show flexibility when onboarding

As you’re making great hires during COVID-19, you’re probably noticing that the onboarding process requires a little flexibility. The first days and weeks are critical as you introduce your employees to their teams, company culture, product information, benefits, etc. During this time, video conferencing can play an immense role in the process. Now is also a good time to take a look at the effectiveness of welcome packages and other introductory communication you present.

During this time, you may not have opportunity to meet face to face with your new employees, so it’s critical that you go the extra mile to make sure your they feel as connected to their new company as possible.

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