How Coronavirus is Accelerating Remote Job Searching, Interviewing and Hiring

Paradigm360: The workplace trends that we've experienced for the past decade have been accelerated out of necessity due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the past few months, we've explored how Covid-19 has made us rethink, reimagine, and rewrite the rules of the workplace to incorporate changes in how, when, and where we work. What many of us either took for granted or deeply desired in the past, has been destigmatized, accepted, and even encouraged right now. Some of these trends include permanent remote work, an emphasis on virtual learning, a focus on diversity and inclusion, and the changing face of office space. Covid-19 has not only transformed the employee experience, but also the candidate and hiring experience. Despite the fact that millions of people are unemployed, companies are still looking to fill positions, but almost entirely from a distance.

The NEW global talent pool
While companies could always hire from anywhere in the world, not every candidate would relocate for a job. And those candidates who refused to relocate would not be able to compete against those who were open to it, leaving them out of the job market for many highly skilled and desirable positions. But, those days are coming to an end as companies allow for remote work, while their offices are either still closed or limited in capacity. Today, companies have realized that they can access the best talent in the world without forcing anyone to relocate to their offices. For instance, if you wanted to raise your family in Idaho or Montana but a position at Google or Facebook required you to move to California, you wouldn't apply or be filtered out of the talent pool. Today, that same person could raise their family where they currently live but have a highly desirable job at a company they've dreamed of working for but never applied to because of their family priorities and living preference.

Companies have realized that the world is their oyster. By removing their job relocation requirement, they can form a larger and more diverse talent pool. While remote hiring has been embraced, it comes with both old and new problems such as unconscious bias, lack of Internet accessibility, the generation gap, and candidate discomfort. And in today's world, employers are under the microscope when it comes to diversity and inclusion like never before.

Diversity is at the heart of the NEW global talent pool
A more diverse talent pool means more creativity and innovation. Yet, if you examine the composition of most workplaces, you'll find very little if any diversity especially in industries like technology. The diversity problem is systemic in our society and therefore is apparent within all of our workplaces. When companies fail to hire diverse candidates, those decisions influence the entire corporate hierarchy up to the c-suite. Just hiring an African American, woman or transgendered person doesn't mean they will be treated and supported equally.

One, of many, technology companies that have been exposed for having a bias against minorities is Pinterest. Two African American female employees quit their jobs at Pinterest because they weren't paid fairly and discriminated against. CEO Ben Silbermann sent a letter to their workforce admitting that "parts of our culture are broken". While both employees did get hired by Pinterest, their career ambitions were dismantled without having received promotions or salary increases after earning them. In their 2020 diversity report, Pinterest highlighted that 75 percent of their leadership is male and only 10 percent of their employees were minorities (Fewer than 6% African Americans for every position).

Companies can create a more diverse talent pool by prioritizing skills over degrees. The White House recently signed an executive order today that directed the federal government to prioritize a candidate's skills over a college degree when hiring. Hiring for skills over a degree has been a trend I've followed over the past several years. The majority of companies (90%) would hire someone who doesn't have a 4-year college degree and employers like EY, PwC, IBM, GE Digital, and Apple have already taken this action. Removing the degree requirement is key to diversity because the cost of college disproportionally benefits wealthy families and legacies have a competitive advantage in college admissions.

Why there's a surge in virtual interviewing and hiring
Various trends have come together in a perfect storm that renders recruiters and candidates connecting from a distance like the decline of travel, the rise in remote work, and the importance of safety. Even the United States Army held its first-ever virtual hiring event on July 2nd to recruiter 10,000 new soldiers in 150 career fields. And the government isn't in the minority by any means with 89 percent of employers adopting virtual interviews in March alone. Pretty much any position you apply to online, aside from essential jobs, will require a remote interview and a subsequent remote job. We used to wonder if the company we were applying to would let us work remotely, and now we expect it at least for the time being.

All air travel has declined significantly since early March. My friend told me that many airlines only have ONE direct flight each week! In-person interviews are a safety risk for both the recruiter and the candidate. If the recruiter catches the virus, they can spread it to the rest of the company, while if the candidate catches it they could spread it to their family. That's why travel budgets have been significantly cut because 40 percent of Americans don't feel comfortable getting on a plane without a vaccine which could take another year. And this is the reason why so many workers are remaining at home. Technology companies like Twitter, Square, Facebook, Shopify, and now Slack are remote-first, while 67 percent of companies expect work from home to be permanent or at least long-lasting.

I've been studying the demand and impact of flexibility (which includes remote work) for many years and worked with Randstad to survey young workers between 2014 and 2016. The most interesting finding was that in 2014 healthcare was their most important employee benefit but then in 2016 that changed to flexibility. And this year, 65 percent of job seekers say remote work is very or somewhat important in their decision to accept a job offer as 77 percent of companies shift to remote work. It's clear that there's pressure on employers to offer flexibility to attract top talent, and that starts with the hiring process. Remote hiring is much more cost-effective and less time-consuming.

Why you may need to hire a "Head of Remote"
The word "remote" might become the most spoken or typed word of 2020 when it comes to employment. If companies want to get serious about the new remote work paradigm, then creating a "Head of Remote" position could make sense. While only in its infancy, some companies have hired for this position including GitLab (Darren Murph), Trilogy (Graham Thompson), AngelList (Andreas Klinger), and Quora (job posting). These are companies that are managing and/or hiring for remote positions and then leading a remote work culture. Leading remote teams, building a remote culture, and working remote are skills that can be learned through experience and education. It's still too early to tell if more companies will hire for these positions internally or externally. But, it is a sign that 'remote' is here to stay.

How companies and candidates are finding each other
After studying job search behavior for over a decade, I can conclude that not much has changed for adults despite advances in technology and the abundance of options. In general, 69 percent of job seekers STILL rely on job boards compared to fewer than one-third that use professional connections. What HAS changed is that recent college graduates have dismissed job boards in favor of job searching on Google and LinkedIn (64%) followed by company career pages (57%) and career fairs (57%). And this makes sense because young people are trying to find jobs on the platforms they are already using in their personal lives or find more innovative. But, without job or career fairs, and in-person networking events, there's a remote-only job search environment right now.

Interviewing from a distance during a pandemic
Welcome to the unique, creative, and mandatory world of remote interviewing, where hiring managers and candidates Zoom at a variety of times during the day with or without coffee or a meal. Where candidates still dress the part even if it feels awkward and unnecessary and where everyone has their own "Zoom shirt", which is a shirt designated for videoconferencing placed near your computer. When I was job searching as a recent graduate, we had phone screeners and then several rounds of in-person interviews, which have both been replaced by video interviews. Video hiring company HireVue's CEO said, "Our customers are interviewing candidates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year." And that makes sense because of the accessibility of a global talent pool crossing all time zones.

With in-person interviews coming to a halt, companies have turned to other avenues to continue to hire from a distance like assessment testing (53%) and an emphasis on both reference checks (46%) and background checks (35%). Remote hiring will have staying power because over 20 percent of hiring managers believe it will be a permanent benefit moving forward, especially now that over half of hiring managers performed a remote interview for the first time during the pandemic.

The pros and cons of remote interviewing
Remote interviewing makes scheduling much easier because everyone is already home and is less expensive because no traveling is involved. Through video interviewing, hiring managers can access nonverbal body language and facial expressions that they would normally experience in person. The stress that candidates have with taking time off from work to interview for a new job is eliminated because of the flexibility you get when working remotely. And there are no distance restrictions, which allows hiring managers to source from anywhere.

But, while remote hiring can be a boom for the diversity it can hinder it as well. Aside from unconscious bias, not everyone in the world has technology skills or high-speed connectivity to properly handle video interviews. Some candidates (62%), however, believe they have a competitive advantage through video technology while others find it harder to communicate or don't even have access to the Internet. Pew Research found that older people have less access to broadband Internet at home and Caucasians are more likely to own computers than minorities. Not every candidate is comfortable being on video and therefore won't' present themselves as well as they would in-person. Although you can pick up on nonverbal cues, they are harder to access virtually so candidates could come off the wrong way and miss opportunities. Although remote interviewing isn't a perfect substitute for in-person interviewing, new technologies have helped create a better experience for recruiters and candidates alike.

Innovations that will revolutionize remote hiring
A larger talent pool means a greater challenge in filtering through candidates for recruiters. In order to solve this challenge, companies are investing more in artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce or eliminate their time performing traditional recruiting tasks. AI can help sort through job applications, create a more efficient candidate experience, and reduce the time to hire that will inevitably increase during and after the recession. The biggest complaint candidates have when applying for jobs is not knowing where they stand in the process. I've had friends who will go through an eight-month interview process, with several rounds of interviews, and then not hear back from the employer about their decision. "Ghosting" on both the employer and candidate has become one of the worst job trends in ages. But, with the adoption of AI in the recruiting process, candidates can not only seamlessly apply for jobs but have a chatbot that notifies them of where they stand in the process and answer any questions they may have.

With the flood of job applications during this pandemic, companies have responded by implementing algorithmic hiring tools to filter candidates. One of these companies that have successfully used AI to recruit is SoftBank. "Using AI in screening tens of thousands of applicant resumes has helped us cut total labor time by 75 percent," said Tomoko Sugihara, director of recruitment at SoftBank in The Japan Times. And SoftBank is one of many companies that have benefitted from AI in recruiting. Over two-thirds of hiring managers and recruiters say that AI saved them time and enabled them to hire higher-quality candidates. But, there are drawbacks that companies must overcome to effectively use AI to meet all of their goals.

When you add AI into the hiring process, you may overlook candidates, unconscious bias from humans could pass through algorithms and people still want a human to hire them over a robot. These issues were brought into the spotlight a few years ago when Amazon's AI recruiting tool showed bias against women based on an algorithm that "taught itself that male candidates were preferable". Eventually, AI tools will be further developed, the biases will be eliminated and it will help employers become more efficient and effective when recruiting.

Aside from AI, gamification has been used more to evaluate candidate behavior from afar through quizzes and challenges. Essentially as candidates play games, employers can uncover insights into their creative thinking, problem-solving, and task management capabilities that they wouldn't receive in a 30-minute Zoom interview. The combination of a video interview and gamification can help employers make more informed decisions about what candidates have to offer and if they would fit into the corporate culture.

While AI and gamification have been widely adopted, virtual reality is still in its infancy because of the high costs associated with it. For the most part, employers and candidates aren't going to spend over $500 on VR headsets even if the result is a better hiring experience ($599 for an Oculus Rift and $799 for the HTC Vive). Still, the VR market is expected to grow to over $60 billion in the next seven years and if the cost of headsets declines, the adoption will increase and it will be a more common method of hiring, training, and other workforce applications. Accenture has used a gamified VR application to attract a more diverse talent pool of recent college graduates by providing them with different environments and projects to test how they think and respond. And, has used VR to give candidates a clear idea of what the company does and their culture. Both of these examples are a glimpse at the future of recruiting.

The future of hiring
Counter to popular belief, the job search, interviewing, and hiring process will become MORE human, not less. When hiring managers and recruiters eliminate some of the busy, tedious, and stressful work they've always done, they will be able to reallocate that effort, attention, and time to connect with candidates in a meaningful way. In the short-term, new recruiting technology may appear to be a barrier for candidates looking to get passed algorithms on their journey to a job offer. And, recruiters may be frustrated, resistant, and afraid of technology taking over some of their responsibilities. But, as with everything else throughout time, there will be a slow adjustment, both recruiters and candidates will see the benefits and then eventually adapt to this new employment paradigm.

The good news is that once again technology is rising up to meet our new challenges at a scale we've never seen before, and while we may resist at first, we will eventually adjust to and benefit from it. In today's workplace where distance is becoming irrelevant, the best talent from around the world will continue to thrive, while employers race to innovate faster to survive.

Credit: Dan Schawbel

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