Virtually possible

Hiring during a pandemic requires some creativity

Posted on Nov 29, 2020 :: New North
Sharon Verbeten
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Remember sitting face to face for a job interview? Or attending a crowded job fair? While those mainstays of hiring won’t be gone forever, the pandemic has forced both employers and job seekers to turn to a more virtual way of engaging.

“In the past 20 to 25 years, 95 percent of my interviews have been face-to-face,” says Lisa Powers, president of Reshaping HR in Appleton.

The recruiting expert says she was a bit reluctant to begin conducting online interviews when the pandemic shut down in-person meetings, but she’s gotten more comfortable with remote interviewing. “Every few months, I evaluate the process to see how it could be improved,” Powers says.

At Investors Community Bank in Manitowoc, its HR team has done a handful of online interviews, via WebEx and Microsoft Teams, during the pandemic. “We’ve hired four people virtually only,” says Rachel Schulz, a human resources specialist at the bank. “We haven’t met them in person.”

But while it’s challenging to hire someone sight unseen, it’s even more challenging to conduct a virtual onboarding experience.

“We had a lot of people start in the beginning of the shutdown,” Schulz says. “We shipped out everything the employee needed — their goodie bag, their binders. You need to be conscientious” to still include a personal touch.

Investors holds a virtual meeting every Monday morning to connect all employees, and the bank launched an employee-only Facebook page to “keep the camaraderie going,” Schulz says. “There was a lot of positivity in it … a lot of connectedness.”

Rethinking job fairs

Job fairs have been mutually beneficial for employers and job seekers for decades, bringing together dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people. So how can you re-create that virtually?

“So much of what happens in a job fair is that personal connection,” says Bobbi Miller, business solutions manager with the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board. With the pandemic. “We were a little perplexed. How would we get the word out about job opportunities?”

Miller heard about a drive-thru job fair being held in Nebraska. And while she thought it might be difficult to get buy-in from employers, the FVWDB held its first one in July, with 16 other locations statewide holding similar events through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. At the job fair, staff members wore masks and gloves to assemble job packets that were then handed out to attendees as they drove through the designated pickup site.

“We were amazed at our outcomes,” says Miller, adding that more than 400 people attended the first job fair in Oshkosh. Another round of drive-thru job fairs was held in September throughout the state.

While hiring and recruiting have shifted in 2020, it’s unclear whether employers will continue using virtual methods after the pandemic protocols are through.

“We learned a lot … trying something new and different; it can work. We have not seen the ultimate impact of what the pandemic has done in terms of how people look for jobs,” Miller says. “We’ll always have our initiatives be complementary and supportive. There may be something to be said for this.”

Powers plans to use remote interviewing into the new year. “While I believe the face-to-face still helps to gain more information on eye contact, communication styles and body language … the flexibility of remote interviewing is certainly providing a viable option for companies to continue to recruit and find top talent.”