Companies across all industries have pivoted to virtual interviews since the pandemic began. Now 13 months into this grand experiment, the jury is still out regarding the effectiveness of solely relying on virtual interviews, especially at the executive level.
This new approach to hiring has also highlighted a new risk: Whether the virtual-only process works as well as the largely in-person, pre-pandemic approach. Here are three issues that are causing concern for our clients.
#1: Gauging A Candidate’s Real Interest Level
A key concern with virtual recruiting is determining how seriously a candidate is taking the interview process. Some companies that are solely hiring via virtual interviews, especially at the executive or leadership level, have been finding it challenging to assess whether a candidate’s interest is truly aligned with theirs. Some candidates are just kicking the tires from the convenience of home. It can be difficult to tell via video because visual cues and non-verbal communication, such as body language, aren’t as clear. Additionally, video interviews from home aren’t necessarily an accurate indicator of a high bar for interest. After all, another Zoom meeting is just part of the daily grind.
So, how does a hiring company know the interest is being reciprocated on the other side of the screen? How do firms protect the time of their leadership teams?
One of our clients worked around this challenge by creating to-dos for their executive-level candidates in parallel with their video conversations. After the preliminary or second round of interviews, they establish action items or tasks which require some level of preparation and commitment by the candidates. Those who weren’t that serious have bailed on the interview process. It’s better for everyone if a passive level of interest is discovered earlier in the process.
#2: Reducing the Number of Rejected Offers
An increase in rejected offers is another concern – one that is not an unexpected byproduct of virtual interviews. We suspect this is due to a lack of personal connection and difficulty building authentic rapport. In fact, some companies have been experiencing an increase in rejected offers as candidates take counter offers at their current companies. Some candidates are even leveraging offers as a negotiating tactic with other firms they are interviewing with. Now more than ever, rejected offers are highly disruptive to any hiring company’s momentum.
One response to this challenge is taking a more pointed and proactive approach with candidates. Don’t hesitate to ask if individuals are considering other opportunities and how far along they are in the process. Candidates, especially those who don’t interview often, may not realize that their transparency is valued and appreciated. If hiring companies are aware that a candidate is parallel processing other opportunities, they can be more aggressive in their pursuit of a candidate or be prepared to have backup candidates for consideration.
#3: Integrating WFH Executives Once Offices Reopen
Some clients are especially concerned about the cultural assimilation of executives who were hired virtually and have continued working from home. Many rightly wonder if and when a new hire will absorb the firm’s values and model that behavior. As a result, it’s more critical than ever that firms have a well-conceived executive onboarding plan for the post-WFH world.
Executive hires, who don’t typically need or expect nurturing, will be looking for confirmation that their new role is what they expected and that their new company is the right cultural fit. At the same time, everyone else will be checking to see if the new executive can rapidly assimilate, both culturally and influentially, in an office environment. Incorporating events that allow for team integration downstream will be equally as important.
Firms must embrace the cultural shifts that have occurred during the pandemic. The objective is to immerse new hires in the cultural values they are expected to exemplify when everyone returns to the office.
The Smart Approach aka The Hybrid Model
No one knows whether this experiment in virtual interviewing for executive-level hires will be successful in the long term. Only time will tell. In the interim, it’s prudent that companies transition to a hybrid interview model for executive roles if they haven’t already done so. As important is integrating and onboarding executives returning to the office, so they are culturally grounded and fully able to lead the growth of their companies in the months and years ahead.