Recruitment in times of pandemic | The Daily Star
No part of our personal and professional life has been spared by the Covid-19 crisis, and that includes recruiting. The economic impact has been significant in many industries affecting the recruiting market itself. According to the Asian Development Bank, new job vacancies were reduced by 87% in the month following the emergence of Covid in Bangladesh. So instead of recruiting more people to grow, companies have been forced to reduce the number of employees and minimize the least profitable or most problematic areas.
However, the effect has been asymmetric to say the least. Some industries, especially in the service sector, have seen a sharp decline in their activity leading some of them to temporarily close stores while other industries have seen their activity flourish during this pandemic. Thus, the effects of Covid on recruitment have been different from one organization to another. But one thing is for sure, this is a time of uncertainty and as such requires a much more empathetic and holistic approach to recruiting than usual.
So, even if the Covid crisis has been a strong limiting factor, this does not necessarily mean that companies have stopped hiring. To understand the effects of Covid on hiring, you must first understand what has changed.
Recruitment in Bangladeshi companies has traditionally been a physical phenomenon. Face-to-face interviews and in-person assessment tests have been an essential part of the recruitment process for as long as we can remember. And for good reason. Physical assessments tend to give the best approximations of a candidate’s abilities, where interaction skills and body language can be judged. While virtual methods are not unheard of, physical assessments have been the meat of the recruiting process for most companies.
However, with the advent of Covid-19, that all changed. Responding to pandemic demand and replacing lost business has meant adopting new products and technologies and exploring new opportunities, which has boosted recruitment, especially everything related to digital communications, streaming and virtual events, which have all were key enabling technologies during the lockdown. The hiring process itself has had to change to deal with the pandemic. Where previously a physical selection process or a mix of physical and online was used, nowadays a fully digital recruiting process has become the norm for most companies. According to a report, 86% of companies globally now conduct virtual interviews, with Bangladeshi companies following suit.
“The whole recruitment process had to be redesigned,” says Mashfiq, who works at an HR consulting firm in the city. “We now have a fully digital process replacing the pre-Covid combination of on-site, in-person and technical testing. We also do everything virtually using technologies like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Webex,” he adds. . He suggests that “meeting” candidates online can give you a good overview, especially when you see them at home rather than in a formal interview. This tends to reduce the stress and tension levels associated with an interview. However, some candidates seem to dislike it, as an online interview does not provide as precise insight into the role, team or company as it does in a face-to-face interview.
In other areas, recruitment is changing significantly due to the pandemic. Bdjobs recently launched its “Video Resume” feature, which allows users to record a short video of themselves explaining their skills and competences and answering a predetermined set of interview questions. They then upload that video to the database, which is then sent to companies for screening. This can be a very useful tool, especially in the early stages of the selection process, when interview etiquette and body language are important. It also makes it easier to select candidates remotely, which is invaluable during this pandemic.
When it comes to job vacancies, flyers offering remote work options receive many more applications than if they remained as an onsite job offer. Since the interaction between applicants and the company is weaker than usual, it is important to follow a good policy of transparent communication in job offers. Businesses should highlight features like flexible working hours, telecommuting, and health insurance – perks applicants are looking for in these uncertain times. Thus, it is important that the HR department works in collaboration with the public relations and marketing teams to deliver uniform and consistent messages.
Geographic flexibility of candidates
The pandemic has widened the talent pool in terms of geography, say human resources officials. Localization has also become less relevant, thanks to remote working.
While many expect a hybrid and flexible work model to become the norm after the pandemic, the need to live “close” is widely recognized as less important today, according to recruiters.
Traditionally, for jobs that require local involvement and frequent coordination with headquarters, candidates residing nearby are preferred. However, since virtual working took off, managers have been more flexible with their location requirements. This significantly increased the number of applications from candidates. Before Covid, employers may not have been so keen on such an arrangement.
The path to follow
The current Covid-19 situation has forced companies to test new ways of hiring employees and reassess old practices. The combination of the acceptance of remote work and online interviews has widened the talent pool geographically and increased job mobility. In the future, HR departments will be more accommodating to maintenance schedules thanks to technology. Indeed, the current experience of the pandemic has taught us new techniques and ways of doing things, the best of which can be absorbed into our future normalcy. The ultimate goal is to provide today’s and tomorrow’s employees with the best possible work experience. And that experience begins with the recruiting process.
Feihan Ahsan is a professor at BRAC Business School, BRAC University, specializing in human resources management and industrial relations.
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