Almost a year since the world was forced into a lockdown by the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s safe to say that the way many of us go about our day-to-day business has changed forever.
Prior to the crisis, the idea of company-wide video meetings and remote interviews seemed as alien a concept as having our CEO, Arvind Kapur, deliver the company’s annual results via hologram.
However, while we’re yet to see a 3D Arvind magically appear in front of our eyes to relay our latest achievements, the rate at which businesses across the world have adopted new technologies over the past 12 months has accelerated faster than ever before, and Apexon has been at the heart of this.
As a business specialising in guiding companies through digital complexities and disruptions, we were the first port of call for those wanting to ensure they were able to not only maintain, but increase collaboration and productivity while workplace doors remained shut.
From automating customer journeys, to developing chatbots and helping firms make more informed decisions by better understanding their data, we played a huge role in helping new and existing clients continue to deliver in the ‘new normal’, but that’s not to say we didn’t have challenges to overcome ourselves.
Working in recruitment, I saw my own job role change overnight. The lockdown brought an instant end to all human interactions – no face-to-face interviews, no recruitment fairs and certainly no coffee shop conversations.
Yet, as demand for our services continued, so did the need to recruit. So, like the companies we were working with to reshape their digital strategies, we set about reshaping our recruitment strategy.
Below, I explain how the pandemic affected our UK recruitment approach, how we successfully managed to onboard 40 staff remotely and my top tips for anyone hesitant about switching jobs in the wake of the pandemic…
‘Once We Overcame the Teething Problems, it was Much of the Same…’
The Apexon UK team has grown rapidly over the last five years. In fact, I don’t think there’s been a period during this time that we haven’t been recruiting, even during the early stages of the Covid crisis.
During these first few weeks, we were like almost every other organisation. Nobody saw the crisis coming, and unless your company was one of the very few that operated on a fully remote basis prior to the pandemic, it was a case of ripping up the entire playbook and starting from scratch for the vast majority of us.
Thankfully, we live in a digital age and, despite the relatively low take-up of collaboration and video conferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom prior to Covid, such software did exist, and it wasn’t long until the world began adjusting to kicking off every meeting by asking ‘am I on mute?’
Once the technical issues were out of the way, all that was left was to revisit the interview process. By taking our traditional interview techniques and tailoring them to an online interview, we soon found that the process was much the same, in reality. We still had interviewees sitting in front of us and they were applying for the same roles, the only difference was that they were sat in front of a computer screen. Once we managed to retain all of the normality of the in-person interview process, it was business as usual!
The Challenges of Recruiting Remotely
In terms of challenges, there were only really four that I would say really impacted us.
First, it was the actual interview process. Whereas the vast majority of people you would usually interview for roles have some sort of interview experience, very few had experienced digital interviews.
This meant we had to spend a little time getting people comfortable with the process by familiarising them with Zoom, getting them set up and used to screen sharing and communicating digitally. Once they’d mastered that, the majority of the process was seamless.
The second challenge posed by recruiting remotely has been seeing the differences in people.
For example, if it’s a remote meeting, do they automatically come on camera, or do you have to ask them to? When the camera is switched on, how do they present themselves? Are they focused on you, or are they looking around the room?
People also communicate in different ways and, because we can only see their heads and shoulders, we can’t judge body language, which is a huge part of the recruitment process. Lots of people gesture with their hands, for example, and you can’t see that. Some are more expressive with hand movements, and that doesn’t resonate digitally.
Third, the advertising of roles changed. Whereas previously we’d actively be attending recruitment fairs and visiting universities, this was brought to a grinding stop and we had to change the way we went about advertising our available vacancies.
Luckily, the majority recruitment activity was already online, and thanks to our ramped up social media efforts and close relationships with tech bodies and clusters, we were soon able to get the word out there again that we were open for business and actively recruiting.
Lastly, the only other challenge we faced was the physical onboarding process.
Previously staff would visit the office, set up their desk and meet the team, all of this changed due to remote working, which meant we had to work closer than ever with the IT team to ensure new starters all received their kit at home and were able to easily get started.
We also made a commitment to stick even closer to new recruits to make them feel as welcome as possible. We began hosting online inductions, and creating virtual groups events they could join, such as Strava running groups and company-sponsored events, just to make sure we really maintained the strong company culture we’ve worked hard to build over the years.
How We Found Recruiting Remotely
It had its challenges but, with the benefit of hindsight, it also proved somewhat of a success.
When it comes to tech recruitment, it’s difficult enough at the best of times to recruit, and if you give people a reason not to move, it just adds an additional challenge to the task of attracting and retaining staff.
Having said that, we hired 40 people during a pandemic, which shows that we’re still actively recruiting and managing to bring plenty of good people on board. We’ve had 11 starters join this month, too, which shows people are still applying and confidence remains high.
We’ve also bolstered our recruitment team, bringing in two specialists who have a vast amount of experience of the UK tech sector and that will hopefully underpin our growth ambitions as we look to the future.
Advice For Job Seekers
My main nugget of advice for job seekers in the current climate is to have confidence in yourself as well as the company you’re joining.
Start off by doing your research and looking at how the company has performed over the past year, how they’ve performed previously, who works there and what industries they specialise in, etc.
Here at Apexon, for example, we had the foundations to remain resilient during the pandemic thanks to the industries we specialise in, but the same can’t necessarily be said about everyone in tech.
As well as doing your research, it’s also important to understand that moving jobs is stressful enough as it is, so it’s important that you make an informed decision, but don’t be put off by the temporary slowdown of the economy.
It isn’t all doom and gloom.