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How COVID-19 is Changing Candidate Screening

By Staff Writer Thu, Jun 25,2020 @ AM

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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted recruiting practices and caused organizations to rethink their candidate screening process. As companies adapt to these changes, recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) leaders are adjusting with them. The ability of RPOs to quickly pivot in any direction makes them the perfect hiring partner to help businesses adjust to the changes in candidate screening.   

How Has Candidate Screening Changed Since the Pandemic? 

The pandemic has turned candidate screening into a virtual process. “In general, we have seen a few key changes. For our clients in more professional industries, we have seen almost a 100 percent switch to virtual web-based interviewing," says Ryan Schaal, Director of Client Delivery at Broadleaf Results

While virtual screening isn't a new concept, the way it's being used is. As Schaal explains, "Phone interviewing and even some forms of video interviewing have existed for a long time, but these forms were often used for just the initial interview screen."

There was an adjustment curve with remote hiring. Joe Diersing, Director of Recruiting at Orion Novotus, observed, "Virtual interviews were initially an encumbrance to the hiring process as hiring managers had to adapt to making hiring decisions over video interviews instead of in person."

After this initial adjustment, RPO leaders started seeing upsides to this shift in candidate screening. Rachel Ward, Recruiting Manager at Orion Novotus, stated, "The interview process is moving faster, there are fewer scheduling challenges, and candidates are available and eager to move forward through the hiring process."

Schaal is also seeing changes himself. “Candidates are participating in at least one round of web-based interviewing,” he observed. “From that initial round of interviews, firms are making their hiring decisions."

Recruiters have also started asking new questions during the screening process. Diersing said they now ask questions such as "Have you been exposed to anyone with the coronavirus?” or “Have you traveled internationally?" Diersing added that in addition to these questions, they must tell the candidate, "When you attend your in-person interview, you're required to wear a mask."

How are Employers Adapting to Change

Cautious and diligent are two words that describe employers' actions as they navigate through these challenging times. Ward said, "We're seeing employers be very cautious and diligent. The landscape is unknown, which creates a level of uneasiness. And ultimately is causing most (if not all) hiring to be paused with a majority of clients."

Schaal admits that he sees the same thing, adding, "If there is a need for work to be done, clients are hiring, and they've used these altered screening and hiring practices to keep everyone as safe as possible." 

In other sectors like the industrial industry, caution is manifesting itself in the way these companies are carrying out business operations. Schaal observed, "Most of our clients are temperature screening all employees and guests who enter their building, including candidates.”

And What About the Candidates' Reaction

On the candidate level, an adoption period has also taken place. As Schaal explains, "Many people are starting in their new position in a virtual setting and never even coming into the client’s building, nor are they able to physically meet their manager." He adds that "COVID-19 has cut down on the ability for some industrial employers to offer facility tours or walk-throughs to candidates to limit the overall outside traffic in the building."

Despite these challenges, "candidates are very adaptive and flexible," Ward explains. And Schaal is seeing candidates “doing a good job of 'going with the flow.'" All of this cooperation "has made pivoting in a new direction a much easier process," Ward said. "There's a deep level of understanding that we don't know what the landscape will look like in the near future – there are many questions that employers can't answer at this time," she added. 

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Why is an RPO Recruiting Partner Ideal to Help With the New Screening Challenges?

During this pandemic, there are several benefits to working with an RPO Recruiting partner.  RPOs face situations like the current pandemic and other hiring challenges with a consultative, problem-solving, and strategic approach.

Working in the virtual world is nothing new to an RPO. Ward points out, "RPOs have been working remotely long before COVID-19 hit. So, we've mastered the art of the virtual recruitment process." 

In addition, Ward says, "We have access to the best recruitment technology that will help guide our clients on how to pivot during social distancing." 

A Consultative Partner Solving Hiring Problems

As a consultative partner, Ward says she's been "ensuring the client is comfortable with the virtual interview process and addressing any concerns." And by highlighting potential risk areas, “it's allowed us to help our clients tailor the recruitment process to identify what works best for their brand, and the candidate experience," Ward added. 

On the solution side, Ward suggests that organizations "keep the conversation going, at all levels to help address what changes are working, and which have not made an impact." Ward also points out that she's seeing recruitment be a much bigger topic" with her clients, something that’s "happening even  with  the clients on a hiring freeze," she added. 

Strategic Recruitment During COVID-19

From the strategic point of view, Ward claims that "now is the time to build candidate pools. A majority of the workforce is at home. Now is the time to capitalize on candidates' free time. Identify your top positions that have the most hiring volume and start building these candidate relationships." Ward offers the following rationale for organizations of all shapes and sizes: , "If you have strong candidate pools and relationships established, it'll give you a leg up on hiring." 

The conversation shouldn't be only between the recruiter and the candidate. Ward recommends extending "the conversation to the hiring managers."  As she sees it, "building this connection will the talent pools engaged and will increase their interest in your company."

What will Candidate Screening Look Like post-COVID-19? 

From Schaal's perspective, many of the changes we have all been required to make will be evaluated as COVID-19 starts to die down. “Once this assessment takes place, the methods that have been evaluated as ‘best practice’ will remain, while some other less effective processes may go back to the way they were," he remarked. 

Virtual interviewing is one of those best practices that will be sure to stick around post-COVID-19. The reason remote screening will stick around, Ward says, is "because virtual meetings can be arranged quicker than on-site, the interview process is moving quicker. It's also providing a better candidate experience."

Schaal also thinks that employees working from home will become more prevalent. "The more that companies are building their remote working infrastructure during COVID-19, the more we will see them sticking with this approach and continuing to invest in it long-term versus shifting back to physical office spaces," Schaal said. Square, the American financial services, merchant aggregator, and mobile payment company, is one such organization to announce its permanent work-from-home policy in late May. 

As a new normal takes shape in our world, it is clear that RPOs will be highly beneficial to a company's candidate screening post-COVID-19.

Want to learn about RPO? Read our guide, "What the bleep is recruitment process outsourcing?" or visit the RPO Academy to access free resources

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Topics: recruitment process outsourcing, Candidate Experience