It’s hard to think of an industry that has remained untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even for those sectors where practices such as working from home are fairly standard, the impact on supply chains, customers and colleagues will have been felt to some degree. Amongst those businesses that have felt the greatest impact are those that are used to high levels of face-to-face engagement with multiple parties. When such engagement is no longer possible, how does a business adapt?
A sector that has been presented with this very challenge, is recruitment. With candidate interviews, training, and monitoring, as well as client liaisons, all, for the most part, taking place in person before the days of COVID-19, it is a sector that has had to make quick and radical changes. The changes have been so comprehensive, it’s raised the question of whether recruitment consultants still need a local presence to service local economies.
Here, I’m going to show how Search Industrial has adapted to unusual times.
Before the days of social distancing and face masks, Search Industrial employed a very much ‘hands on’ approach. Nearly all candidate interviews, both with ourselves and those we arranged with prospective employers, were carried out in person.
Such is the variety of accreditations that Search Industrial’s sectors require, there was also a need for our consultants to meet with candidates to ensure they had the proper paperwork. Moreover, we took great pride in the level of our personal interactions, routinely paying site visits to ensure both candidates and clients were satisfied with arrangements.
In the space of a few weeks, this model was frozen in the most abrupt of fashions. As the lockdown became mandatory and rigorous social distancing rules were enforced, we were forced to rethink our entire approach.
Technology to the rescue
Within Search Industrial, much like the other departments within the wider Search business, we were already using video-conferencing technologies such as Odro and Zoom, but we used them mainly as peripheral tools, deployed more as last resorts or for emergency meetings. Lockdown brought them front and centre and they have since become critical to our department’s overall functionality.
Using Odro, the recruitment specific video-conferencing tool, we were able to send links to candidates who could then join them on video calls wherever the candidate happened to be. So long as they had an internet-ready device and a strong enough connection, interviews could happen quickly, safely, and from any location.
Other added benefits have been the technology’s ability to allow candidates to record videos of themselves discussing their skills and experience. We could then share these videos with employers, along with their CVs. This feature now sits before the first stage interview - which is also conducted via video call – and has been welcomed by clients. It gives them a more comprehensive picture of a candidate, avoids wasted interviews, quickens the overall process, and is a more convenient option for all parties.
Candidates have also been able to use the technology to supply documents proving their right to work in the UK, usually sent as an image and negating the need for them to travel to our Leeds office with the originals.
We have since found that the use of this video technology is not only speeding up the entire end-to-end recruitment process but is actually improving it. It has become more agile, more content rich, and – for client and candidate alike – more convenient.
Do these changes mark the end of locally based recruiters?
At this stage, it is difficult to say for sure. The fact is that the technology-powered model we have adopted is working and working better than any of us could have predicted. Clients and candidates had always been amenable to the changes given the exceptional circumstances. Even now, as restrictions are easing, they continue to recognise the freedoms and efficiencies the technology bestows and appear happy to persist with its usage.
However, though the technology does not require a consultant to be based in the area they are servicing, local knowledge remains an important factor. To achieve the best results for our clients and candidates, our consultants do need to have at least a basic understanding of local geography, the businesses which drive its economy, and the types of skills and experience that are in demand.
In other words, though it will always desirable for a consultant to know a local area and market, they no longer, at least for the time being, need to be based there.
A post-Covid-19 world
Though it may seem unfathomable now, there will come a time when the threat of COVID-19 is neutralised. When this time comes, Search Industrial will need to look again at how we can best service our sectors.
The likelihood is, that the department will move towards a hybrid model, utilising technology to augment a service that had historically prized itself on physical, human interaction. If this is the case, the requirement for locally based consultants will regain some importance.
However, we are dealing here in hypotheticals. By the time COVID-19 is eradicated, the world could be a quite different place and a ‘hands-on’ approach to recruitment may have become outmoded. Time will tell, but for the time being, we at Search Industrial are finding that feet on the ground is not a prerequisite for managing local job markets.
Search is ready
It has been a great source of pride for us that Search as a business has adapted to these uncertain times so deftly.
We invite companies of all types to get in touch with us to learn more about how we have evolved to meet the needs of a job market that has been subject to such unusual stresses and how our service remains as industry-leading as ever.