For nearly 25 years, Sharon Hulce has worked with companies to help them find the right candidates for their open positions. She thought she had experienced everything until 2020.
“For the first time ever, we went through the entire hiring process virtually — never meeting a client in person,” says Hulce, owner of Employment Resource Group in Appleton.
She’s not alone. The recruiting process changed dramatically in the past year as companies needed to re-create how they hired and onboarded new employees.
At Jewelers Mutual Group in Neenah, all recruiting and onboarding has been virtual since March 2020, says Stacie Masanz, a talent acquisition manager at Jewelers Mutual Group. “Everything has changed.”
Jewelers Mutual’s technology team set up employees to work remotely within 72 hours, so there was little stoppage in Masanz’s work. To facilitate the process, she turned to Microsoft Teams to do video interviews.
“Prior to COVID-19, we did our initial interviews over the phone, but I can see going forward and back (in the office) that we will continue to use video interviews for that first round, since you can gain so much more in a video interview than just talking on the phone,” Masanz says.
Lisa Powers, president of Reshaping HR, LLC in Appleton, also saw a dramatic change in her day-to-day work when the pandemic hit. “I used to do all of my interviews face to face, but they have become 100 percent Zoom since March 2020,” she says.
As part of her business, Powers convenes roundtables with HR professionals and employers. She recently asked how they’ve gone about the hiring process during the pandemic. The results revealed 30 percent have done face-to-face interviews, 50 percent have done a first-round virtual interview followed by a second-round face-to-face interview, and 20 percent have conducted the whole hiring process virtually.
“Depending on the profession or industry, there are more face-to-face interviews happening. For example, HVAC companies or manufacturers never really closed since their work is more hands-on,” she says. “As more people return to working in offices, more interviews will be done in person.”
Powers adds that if new employees begin their work experience remotely, they can lose the feeling of a personal touch. It’s also not an ideal arrangement for jobs that require a lot of training — those experiences are best done in person, she says.
Looking to the future, Hulce predicts businesses will want to get back to evaluating candidates in person. “You miss a lot when you’re not in person. You don’t see their body language or the presence they have, which is especially important when hiring for a C-suite position,” she says.
For the job candidate, virtual interviews don’t provide an opportunity to pick up on company culture or how people relate to one another, Hulce says. “Those casual conversations are missed,” she says, adding that during virtual interviews, the process can be interrupted by a child or pet wandering into the room.
Masanz agrees and says that while virtual interviews are convenient, they do have their downsides.
“Candidates don’t get the sense of the culture from walking around or meeting with different employees. We’ve tried to fill that gap by having candidates meet briefly via Teams with people from other departments and their own department so they can get a feeling of who we are at Jewelers.”
On the upside, Masanz says virtual interviews are easier to schedule. “Depending on the position, there may be multiple people involved and it’s nice not to have to deal with finding a time when you can get everyone in the office, along with the candidate. You don’t have to think about travel time,” she says.
Jewelers Mutual is still conducting its onboarding process virtually. Masanz says an employee’s first day includes a Zoom meeting or Teams call with HR personnel to go over paperwork. After that, as employees get settled in their new jobs, they’ll add calls with co-workers and regular check-ins to their schedule to make sure things are going well.
“We’ve learned so much about our onboarding process by having to switch everything to virtual. We made a lot of changes very quickly and we want to create the best processes going forward for both hiring and onboarding,” she says. “Whether employees are starting remotely or in the office, we want it to be a seamless process.”