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Hiring slows, interviews through Skype, Zoom: How companies are coping during lockdown

Even before Covid19 struck, there has been a trend towards telephonic and digital interviews, at least during the initial screening rounds before the final face-to-face interview. Covid19 is accelerating the trend. More and more employers will now use digital media for the recruitment.

Written by Neeti Nigam | New Delhi | Updated: April 9, 2020 6:11:31 pm
latest jobs, cororna news, appraisal during covid 19 Recruitment firms are also trying to make the virtual process interesting. (Photo: Gettyimages)

The most favourable months for hiring and appraisal — March and April — are now turning out to be the most challenging times ever faced by both employers and employees. COVID-19 has halted the world and overall economic growth. Most companies have moved to freeze hiring or have slowed down the process, lay-offs are a worry and temporary salary-cuts a reality.

Surveys reveal shifting HR policies where companies are taking the support of technology to conduct virtual interviews. As per job search website Indeed, Indian job-seekers are looking for ‘remote’, ‘work from home’ and related phrases during their search online. The demand for WFH has increased by over 261 per cent since February 2020, however, the number of available jobs remain relatively unchanged.

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Similarly, training and internship providing company internshala.com shared there’s a drop of 27 per cent in hiring and the applications for in-office internships has also dropped by 23 per cent due to the lockdown. “However, the employers are posting virtual or WFH internships and we have seen a surge of 30 per cent,” informed Sarvesh Agarwal, founder and CEO, Internshala.

To manage business expenses, the first casualty seems to be the contract workforce. A survey by Indeed highlights that 50 per cent of Indian businesses have already reduced embedded resources, such as the contract workforce or freelancers. Recruitment has experienced the greatest impact, with 36 per cent of the surveyed businesses confirming that they have temporarily suspended their hiring activities, rising to a sizable number of SMBs and large businesses now focused only on critical hiring.

Hiring only for key roles

Companies are waiting to see the overall impact of coronavirus to the economy before making any major decisions. According to Manit Jain, Chairman, FICCI ARISE, active job openings overall are going down. In industries like travel, tourism and hospitality, which are most severely impacted, there is a total freeze. However, the healthcare, e-commerce and e-learning industries will have comparatively more openings. “In other sectors, while there may not be a total freeze, employers are postponing their recruitment plans while they wait for things to settle. They are restricting recruitment to only the most critical positions,” Jain said.

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HR firms believe the optimism that they were beginning to sense towards the financial year 2020-2021 in the pre-Covid-19 scenario has come to an abrupt halt. Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder and EVP, TeamLease Services, informed that selection and date of joining has now been deferred to post-April 15. No definitive dates have been given by the companies yet. “For candidates, it may be a priority to secure their present jobs wherever they are. Moreover, organisations are most likely to wait for a clearer picture to emerge before committing themselves to taking any hiring decision at this stage,” she remarked.

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As per Vikram Ahuja, co-founder of HR recruitment firm – Talent500, the pandemic will hit the industries for anywhere between three to 12 months but there are many who are keeping a futuristic approach. “There are companies that have viewed this as an excellent time to pick up top talent. They have used this opportunity to think of their post-pandemic recovery and regrowth phase. And technology will be significantly utilised, in this phase and after,” he commented.

Echoing a similar view, Amit Malik, chief people, operations and customer services officer, Aviva Life Insurance informed that the company, like many others, has limited the hiring process to only critical positions. “Since we support social distancing, we have suspended all face-to-face interviews and are using digital means to contact candidates at this stage. The restrictions have also impacted on the logistics of on-boarding new joinees, which further intensifies the need to focus on key roles only.”

Coronavirus outbreak spurred remote hiring

When the outbreak news broke, most tech giants like Google, Facebook shifted to online interviews. The recruitment process has now become less physical and more digital. As per industry insiders, Covid-19 and associated social distancing norms are expected to continue even after the lockdown.

According to Manit Jain, even before the lockdown, there has been a trend towards telephonic and digital interviews, at least during the initial screening rounds before the final face-to-face interview. “Covid-19 is accelerating the trend. More and more employers will now use digital media for recruitment,” he remarked.

For managing recruitment, employers are using platforms such as Webex, Lync (Skype), Google Duo, etc, which are easily and freely available as acquiring a new platform and set-up is difficult during the lockdown. “Those who are already using AI and computer-based tools such as Hirevue, Gecko.ai, Autoview, etc, will increase their usage and post-lockdown, we might witness an increased adoption of such platforms,” opined Jain.

Be presentable, be creative

Recruitment firms are also trying to make the virtual process interesting. Since people are at home and have no access to recruiting drives and events, they believe the need of the hour is to think creatively about effective sourcing and screening methods.

Some HR firms have started training candidates on how to present themselves on virtual mediums. “We’re teaching candidates presentation, communication, and storytelling skills so that they present themselves thoroughly on their side of the screen. We’re also educating enterprises on the best practices for video interviewing, and emphasising on replicating their current processes while working remotely,” shared Ahuja of Talent 500.

Tips for online interviews

— Unlike in-person interviews where you have the opportunity to look the person in the eye, understand nuances through actions and behaviour, a lot is lost behind the screen. Therefore, have a good infrastructure set-up to attend online interviews, whether video or audio.

— Speak clearly and precisely. It is difficult to hold someone’s attention on the other side of the screen. So, it’s important to have your background story right, to be able to engage the interviewer about your work experience.

— You need to build storytelling skills. Learn to represent yourself in a manner where you can showcase your abilities beyond just your CV.

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