The wonderful world of virtual hiring - Working for Essex

The wonderful world of virtual hiring

In 2019 we had a candidate who wanted to interview for a high profile role with ECC, they were abroad and asked if they could do their interview ‘virtually’ via Skype. We make lots of hires as a large organisation but we had many questions. Would this be okay? Would it affect the interview process? Would our hiring managers be comfortable with this? Afterthought and discussion we went ahead with the interview and it was absolutely fine (even with a ten-hour time difference!) and still be a positive experience for everyone. 

Fast forward to March 2020 and quite literally overnight we had to make a decision. The decision we made was to move all of our current and future interviews to a virtual process. The very first day the ECC resourcing team worked from home was spent re-arranging hundred of interviews and making them virtual, no-one would have ever suggested this or thought it possible pre-covid, there would have just been too many concerns about the impact of the quality of doing this. We had help, from our fabulous Tech Services team who somehow managed to migrate the entire organisation to virtual way of working in what again felt like an overnight decision. The one thing I hope we don’t lose in a post-covid world is to remember that we made decisions really quickly, we made things happen quickly and we learned really quickly. It’s been quite amazing to see what colleagues from all parts of the organisation achieved.  

For us it was not an option  to stop recruiting. We recruit for services across the entire organisation that serve Essex residents, so recruitment had to carry on – it was just a case of how. Since March was have conducted as an organisation over 2,500 interviews and 90% of these have been virtual (oh the irony that 12 months ago just one request felt like an important topic for discussion) we have made hundreds of internal appointments to develop our colleagues in to new roles and welcomed nearly 500 new starters in to our organisation, many of whom we have never met. 

It hasn’t been perfect and I think it’s fair to say we have all said ‘you are on mute’ more times than we thought possible, but it has worked. New starters at ECC are largely reporting a positive joining experience and this is not least due to our wonderful L&D colleagues adapting and creating a whole new virtual on-boarding experience for our new joiners. We might not have all met, but we are doing our very best to still build the foundations of great relationships. 

So now we are 9 months in to our ‘new world’ what have we learned about virtual interviewing and what would be my ‘top tips’ for candidates who are being interviewed this way?

Test your Tech

Test your devices, cameras, microphones

Here at ECC we use MS Teams to interview. Whatever the company and whatever the tech, download it and test it first. Find a friend with the same tech and practice joining the meeting, know how to control video and audio and if you are due to present know-how to share your screen with the interview panel. If you don’t know anyone with the tech ask our recruitment team and we will happily book in a 5 minutes MS Teams test for you. It’s the same as when you had an in-person interview, you would know how you would get there, where you would park and how long to leave for the journey. 

Do your research

Virtual is no different to in-person. What will set you apart from other candidates is a clear interest in not only the role but the company you have applied to. Do your research and be ready to answer why you have applied for the role and make sure you use questions you are asked as an opportunity to show the interview panel you have researched the company. It will make you stand out from others in the process as so often people do not take the time to do this. 

Don’t panic if it goes wrong

About three months ago I was giving a big presentation to about 20 colleagues I had worked really hard on, this was the point my ten year old son appeared behind my screen with his face covered in blood. Apparently there is first time for a nose bleed, and this was the time. In a virtual world even with the best planning we’ve had connection issues, children, dogs and much more. Don’t panic if it happens we are all completely used to it and it really won’t matter. 

Don’t forget it is a two-way process

Just because you aren’t in the building, doesn’t mean this isn’t as much about you as it is your possible future employer. So have a list of questions ready and make sure you use this opportunity to learn more about us and if we are right for you. It is an important decision to change jobs, so make sure you use the opportunity to figure out if it is the right move for you 

Danielle Foster – Resourcing Delivery & Strategy Manager, ECC.