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Filling technical positions is difficult any time, but the pandemic poses further challenges. Jessica Rowbury reports on a panel discussion where experts gave tips to organisations recruiting during this period

 

 

 

 

 

Adopting a range of digital tools and presenting your company in a thought-out way while recruiting, is crucial for obtaining the best talent.

The recent ‘Epic online meeting on the impact of Covid-19 on recruitment’ – available on YouTube – gave experts a chance to discuss how organisations can be successful interviewing staff remotely. As well as how companies should market themselves to attract the best talent.  

Covid impact on recruitment

Understandably, as job security is a higher priority for many people during this period, filling positions has been more difficult. 

Frank Wolfs, founder and managing partner at Profound Corporate Recruitment, considers two metrics ‘every week or so’.

‘One is the amount of candidates that apply to positions that we actively publish. The amount of applications over the last six months have gone down by about 25 to 30 per cent.’ He added this also depends on the type of position, and the effectiveness of a recruitment strategy, such as the quality of emails candidates receive. 

The other metric is the reply rates of potential candidates that have been sourced and contacted to set up a dialogue with the hiring company. ‘The effectiveness of the emails decreased by about 20 to 25 per cent. So people are less interested in talking about the propositions we have to share with them,’ Wolfs said. 

René Louwers, director at Orion Engineering, said: ‘People are looking for security now, people that have a job are happy to have a job and are just waiting to ride out the Covid situation before moving. They are less eager to even talk about new opportunities, even if it’s about a position in six months time or longer. There is a lot of focus on new entries to the job market – engineers right out of university. Because the need for technical people is still there.’

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Louwers went on to say that the overall job market is down by 10 to 15 per cent; however, some sectors are recruiting more than before. ‘Markets like life science, the semiconductor industry, these industries are pretty much crisis-proof, you could say, because in the last financial crisis they moved up too. We see that these businesses have increased their hiring by around 20 per cent.’ 

With the job market suffering, and a sudden transition to remote working, understanding how to find enough information about a candidate without meeting them, and presenting the company and the opportunities it offers over digital platforms, is important. 

Thies Oosterwijk, TMC’s nanotechnology business manager, said: ‘You have to make sure you don’t lose a candidate because of your recruitment process. You might have the better job, but if the other companies have a slicker recruitment process you may lose the candidate.’ 

Video introductions, from both the candidate and the company, is something not every organisation adopted before the pandemic but is more needed now, according to Andreas Weis, partner at EO Executives. ‘Video introductions are very important to get a personal impression about the candidate, and also vice versa. How can the candidate learn about the company? It’s not enough just having the interview.’

Benjamin Buyl, from Amplitude Laser Systems, sees online videos becoming the new normal, even after the pandemic is over. Amplitude took part in a careers fair online recently, one they normally would have attended in-person. ‘We did a YouTube presentation of the company and opportunities, and then had one-on-one sessions with candidates. What will stay is the need to present your organisation online creatively. That is something to think about. How will you do that? What is the DNA you want to express online to potential recruits?’

Buyl added that the pandemic forced them to speed up the production of a video project that allows recruits to tour the company’s facilities remotely. ‘It’s a bit like Google street view, where you can view every corner of the lab. This is advantageous for our sales team too, to show potential clients,’ he said. 

Carlos Lee, who moderated the session, added: ‘These are things we always could have done, but Covid has put pressure to complete projects or adopt digital tools quicker, which could benefit our businesses.’

On-boarding

Welcoming and training new staff presents fresh challenges, the panel highlighted. Often, this goes hand-in-hand with keeping current employees connected with others in addition to staying motivated in their role. 

Weis, from EO Executives, says that having one person dedicated to the new recruit – like a sponsor – available to answer questions and point them in the right direction can help new employees feel less isolated. His company also organises virtual social events, such as sharing a drink with an employee over Zoom, to try to replicate the social element. ‘It cannot replace real social events, but it can help,’ he said. 

Oosterwijk added that people who have moved countries for a job will feel extra isolated during this period, with social restrictions and lockdowns making it challenging to build up a social life or navigate a new environment. ‘We make sure to help people with shopping, provide online social opportunities, and offer online coaching,’ he said.

‘But even then, a new employee coming from abroad and starting a job during this time is difficult. It is something an employer needs to think about,’ he added.

Oosterwijk’s company uses a tool that randomly pairs employees, who then schedule a short break to meet virtually for a coffee (one such tool is Coffee Roulette). ‘It’s nice, because you may speak to people you would never normally speak to in the office environment,’ he said. 

Profound Corporate Recruitment keeps staff connected by redirecting expenses to fund virtual social evenings on a semi-regular basis. Wolfs said his colleagues recently took part in a tapas evening. Everyone got involved with organising the menu, which they  then enjoyed together remotely. ‘These themed evenings work really well, especially as we have colleagues from different regions, for example Spain and Italy.’