COVID-19 and How Recruiting Will be in the Future

March 20, 2021

What's next for recruiting and HR?

Team meetings online instead of in meeting rooms, vacated offices, uneasy applicants: the COVID-19 crisis has also taken its toll on HR management. Personal contacts have had to be reduced considerably or cut altogether; communication with applicants mainly takes place in a remote setting. Companies and their HR teams are asking themselves what recruiting will look like in the future. Kerstin Knapp, Executive Vice President of People & Culture at Vestas, and Tuba Ersoy, the founder of the executive search enterprise Talent & More, took a close look at the way the pandemic has affected recruiting and answered the most pressing questions related to the future of employee recruitment and HR management.

Symbolic pic for virtual recruiting
Like so much else, the Corona pandemic has caused recruiting to shift almost entirely into the virtual space - a model for the future?

“Virtually overnight, we could no longer conduct face-to-face interviews,” recounts Kerstin Knapp, EVP at Vestas, the world’s leading manufacturer of wind turbines, who is also a Global Executive MBA alumna. While the company tried to sit things out at first, it soon became clear that this would not be a viable strategy. “Even before that, we had used video calls and online interviews; that’s simply a must for a global company. This trend has definitely grown. More and more recruiting is taking place online, and we should really trust this process more – as well as be open for digital tools and achievements,” Knapp holds. “The year of 2020 not only shook our private lives to the core, it also fundamentally changed the ways companies work and find talents,” confirms Tuba Ersoy, the founder of the executive search company Talent & More and a Professional MBA Finance graduate. While some thought that nothing would be able to take the place of personal interviews, a virtual recruitment process had to be implemented in a matter of only a few days. “But companies soon realized that, going forward, a change in work styles had to come with a hybrid recruiting process, i.e., a mix of virtual recruiting steps and personal communication. In my opinion, this is a highly beneficial development because the costs and time saved more than make up for the efforts invested, and that’s true for HR teams as much as for talents,” Knapp says.

Temporary or Permanent Changes?

Tuba Ersoy smiles: “During Zoom meetings, I see so many of the so-called workaholics at home with their kids and pets – and that’s truly a game changer.” No soft-skills training in the past had achieved these kinds of effects with regard to topics like flexibility, family, and reconciling work and private life in general. “I also think that the 9-5 work day is history.” With regard to recruiting, this means that also in the future, video interviews will be part of application procedures, especially at the early stages.

Portrait Kerstin Knapp

Kerstin Knapp

  • EVP of People & Culture at Vestas and Global Executive MBA alumna

The share of virtual and personal elements will be determined mainly based on the respective target group and its seniority: in an executive search, interviews on site will remain a necessity.

Will Recruiting and HR Experts Need to Change?

A central issue here is whether it is even possible to professionally assess a person in a remote interview. For Kerstin Knapp, this is not a problem provided you prepare for the setting: “I have spent 20 years in this job, over the course of which intuition and a gut feeling have grown in importance for me. Today, I can rely on my intuition to detect insecurities or a certain kind of energy also when I interview somebody in a video call.”

pic of a virtual recruiting call
With a little experience, you can also develop a feel for people during a video call.

In addition to their subject-specific expertise, recruiters must also become experts in virtual (recruiting) technologies and digital communication, Tuba Ersoy emphasizes. There is no way around online communication anymore; at the same time, it is crucial that the overall recruitment journey is both personal and professional – not an easy feat to reconcile these two qualities. “Against this backdrop, recruiters will need a new mix of skills and competences. Particularly empathy and the willingness to engage with the expectations and individual life realities of talents will be key qualities; it’s all about creating an even more honest, more open dialogue in recruiting. So in the future, interactions with recruiters will determine the impression candidates gain from the company even more strongly. By putting their focus on people this way, companies will, in the future, have the opportunity to show – and not explain – what their company truly stands for,” Ersoy says.

What Will Companies Expect From Applicants?

Kerstin Knapp believes that resilience will be a much sought-after quality: “Particularly in a crisis, it is important to have employees who are resilient and able to adapt to new conditions quickly. Managers, in turn, must overcome their fears and doubts in order to help the team feel secure, courageous, and confident.” After all, the changes in the framework conditions and requirements caused by the COVID crisis and the rapid advance of digitalization have resulted in a strong tendency towards project-based work, which precludes a strict division of the organization based on functions and skills.

[Translate to English:] Portrait Tuba Ersoy

Tuba Ersoy

  • Founder of Talent & More and Professional MBA Finance alumna

For recruiting, this means that in the post-COVID era, we will have to look even more closely at how talents react to new information and a volatile environment and how resourceful they are at handling situations marked by insecurity.

What Will Applicants Expect From Companies?

High-potentials value open and straight-forward information on how and when assignments should be completed, Ersay says. “And it’s important to them that they are treated like human beings, not like robots – also in the course of digital processes.” Moreover, they look for flexible work hours to be able to, for instance, look after their children. “On the other hand, security and stability at the workplace are also seen as very important.” Recruiting expert Ersoy has no doubt that also in HR, we won’t return to the old ways. “The changes we are currently experiencing are here for good. To survive, we must adapt. As Darwin said: it is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change – and that’s also true for recruiting.”

You can find out more about HR and how it will change in the future in the HR courses of the WU Executive Academy. For more information, please click here.

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