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COVID 19 – is it the death of face-to-face recruitment?

COVID 19 – is it the death of face-to-face recruitment? Social distancing is here to stay.  So is (some) homeworking.  We’ve been looking at how this will affect what we advise...

COVID 19 – is it the death of face-to-face recruitment?

Social distancing is here to stay.  So is (some) homeworking.  We’ve been looking at how this will affect what we advise clients when it comes to recruitment and inducting new starters into the Company.  Are interviews behind screens acceptable, or are there other alternatives? 

The Covid 19 pandemic did not creep up on us like other recent events.  It has not been a slow revolution – changing our practices was necessary almost overnight and even the most organised of businesses had to quickly adapt what they did and how they did it.  Now that things are ‘settling’, we can take a broader look at some activities and consider how they have been and will be affected.  While some sectors and businesses are scaling back their workforce and others particularly quiet at the moment, for some, business is booming – and with that boom, comes  the need for more staff and with social distancing measures in force and working from home becoming more prevalent, your recruitment processes may need to adapt both in the short and long term.  You still want to attract the right candidates, so getting it right at the start is key.

Some ideas to consider:

Attraction and filtering

The candidates are out there and they are interested – never has the working adult questioned their role or job as much as they have since March.  Job sites are experiencing just a 10% drop in applications overall, even though the number of vacant jobs advertised are down by two thirds.  Using this method of advertising, and including in your advert how you are respecting social distancing in your selection process goes a long way to reassuring people about how seriously you take your duties as an employer.  Be specific and clear about what you are actually looking for in a candidate, so that only suitably qualified and experienced people apply, and there is less work to do to filter them into a shortlist.

Initial screening

If you’re not in the habit of doing an initial, telephone screening of applicants, consider putting aside time for this – it may even be a job that you can delegate to a junior member of the team so that they have a say in the final decision too.  Have a set list of questions ready and a checklist of what to say to the candidates so that you know you’ve covered the same points with everyone.


Many recruitment websites now offer free testing for key skills including customer service, communication, logical thinking.  The more information you have about a candidate before the interview stage, the easier the initial shortlisting will be and the fewer the numbers that you’ll need to actually see.

Video recordings

Becoming increasingly popular are short video recordings made by the candidate, either as a form of CV, or used as part of the selection, when they are asked to ‘present’ an answer to a specific question.  Whilst in some sectors and for some roles, being able to do this would in itself be a legitimate skill to test before interview, if this is not necessary for performance of the job, then it opens up the potential to be discriminatory.  Even where it is a legitimate requirement, it is essential that whoever is screening these applications is fully trained in diversity and inclusion and is aware of unconscious bias.  Video CVs don’t hide someone’s ethnicity, age, or gender, so be careful to create a level playing field in the other selection checks and techniques you are using.

Video interviewing

This is certainly an option to consider and can speed up the selection process.  Although doing this ‘live’ replicates most closely the interview experience we are all used to, to really make sure that you are consistent in your questioning for all candidates, think about pre-recording your questions.  You can then send these to candidates and have them answer them within a set timeframe.


Use a well known and easy to understand platform so that more candidates will be able to comply with your requirements for a video interview.    Recording them will also mean that you don’t need to take notes – but get the candidate’s permission!  This also makes it easier to share the interviews with a colleague to check your opinions and scores.  And what are you going to do about those people who you’d like to consider but just don’t have the technology?

Diversity and equal opportunities

Video interviews have their downsides and cannot effectively replace face-to-face interviews.  The non-techie applicants may be put off applying, and if these are also in a particular age group, for example, then the risk of discrimination (and a costly claim) increases.   Certain disabilities will also affect how someone perceives the concept of video interviews, so additional support might be useful – subtitles and a written script of the questions might be all it takes.  Consider giving your candidates a helping hand if you are thinking of using video technology for interviews, particularly if this in itself is not a requirement of the job.  Supporting them by checking that they have the technology set up and understand it, giving advice on lighting and positioning and hints and tips on preparation will get the best from this experience.  After all, an ideal but flustered candidate won’t present as well as an unsuitable one that happens to ‘get’ the technology.

Most companies will include a statement about ensuring Equal Opportunities in all aspects of employment and including recruitment, so beware of contradicting your own policies.  Take advice if you’re not sure.

Social distancing and avoiding contact

If web and computer based don’t suit your business or the role, or where applicants are unable to access/use the technology, traditional interviews can still be used.  Conduct a risk assessment and put measures in place to ensure social distancing and physical contact (no handshakes!).  Attracting more suitable candidates and carrying out pre-interview screening will mean that you can invite smaller numbers to attend for interview, reducing everyone’s risk.

Reducing the risk

… Of Covid19 contamination by reducing the number of people brought in to face-to-face interviews, implementing social distancing and adapting your interview environment.

… of successful discrimination claims

  • Always ask structured questions
  • Base questions around finding the information that you need to make a decision – being open about the essential skills you need will help to prepare a candidate.
  • Use competency-based questions and not hypothetical ones, so avoid ‘How would you deal with a particular situation?’ and swap it with ‘How have you dealt with a similar situation?’
  • Use a colleague to second-check your scoring and rating to provide objectivity;
  • Only use tests and assessments that are relevant to the role.