For jobseekers in the Covid-19 world it is no surprise to be interviewed via video. Issues around social distancing have made it the preferred option for many employers.
However, one company found it had to adopt remote technology rather faster than most when the global pandemic landed right in the middle of a major annual recruitment campaign.
The Covid-19 lockdown came into force just as Cadent, Britain’s biggest gas distributor, was embarking on one of its biggest annual recruitment drives in recent years.
“We were and still are busier than we have ever been in the Recruitment team’’ explains Recruitment and Workforce Manager Louise Askey,
“On top of our New Talent activity for 127 Apprenticeship, Graduate, Industrial Placement. and Commercial and Engineering Training programmes we also had over 300 Experienced Hires vacancies and a live campaign for over 400 Field Force vacancies. Covid-19 certainly provided us with an additional challenge’’
With the recruitment team now working from home and the first face-to-face assessment centre for the company’s graduate programme just three weeks away the team had to act quickly.
Bethan Crawley, Recruitment Partner New Talent and Naomi Day Recruitment Specialist knew that suspending or postponing new talent recruitment simply wasn’t an option. Apprentices, Graduates and the company’s Commercial and Engineering Trainees are the life-blood of the organisation, with a steady stream of new talent needed every autumn to join its highly-regarded training programmes.
Instead the team turned to remote video technology, which definitely proved successful.
“All candidates for our Graduate, Engineering and Commercial training programmes already have to complete a video interview, but it became clear we were going to have to find an alternative method to the usual face to face assessment centres,” says Resourcing Specialist Naomi Day.
Cadent’s assessment centres are made up of a group exercise, traditional interview, and for the Graduates, a presentation. Apprentices do a practical exercise and a group exercise, as well as an interview. Ten days of assessment centres had been organised for the Graduates and the Engineering and Commercial training programmes, with 88 candidates due to attend.
The team decided to use Microsoft Teams for the live interviews and presentations.
Although video technology saved the day, it wasn’t without its challenges. Co-ordinating interviews with candidates and a series of different hiring managers was a major logistical feat. the Commercial Trainee Programme alone consisted of five different roles which meant liaising with five different hiring managers for numerous interviews and ensuring candidates and managers were on the right call at the right time.
To keep everything on track, Naomi held a call with hiring managers and HR colleagues the day before interviews and a briefing on the day. At the end of each day everyone involved got together via video conferencing, enabling decisions on candidates to be made on a daily basis.
To prevent any issues regarding technology problems, Emma Faulconer, Recruitment Advisor, phoned every candidate the day before their interview to test the technology beforehand and address any questions they had. Emma was also available on the day to deal with any IT issues and acted as the liaison between the hiring managers and the candidates.
“Overall fewer than 5% of our calls experienced technology problems’’
“Those same candidates were actually very positive about the reduction in carbon emissions. They loved the fact that by using remote technology no-one had to travel,” says Emma.
Initially apprehensive about the change to online interviews and assessment, the team were pleasantly surprised.
“Although it has been a challenge to adapt to a new situation, both candidates and managers have been very flexible and adaptable.
“A lot of people were just surprised and grateful we were still going ahead, and we’ve also noticed a real reduction in ‘no shows’ from candidates, compared with face-to-face assessment centres,” says Bethan.
Hiring managers, too, have been complimentary about the approach.
During August the team have been busy running online assessment centres to recruit 85 Apprentices– an increase of more than 50% on last year. One surprise side-effect of Covid-19 has been an increase in applicants for the apprenticeship scheme, with 300 candidates now going through the assessment process.
“This has been an unprecedented situation but through a lot of hard work and by putting in place contingencies, we have been successful. In fact, we have even recruited two extra graduates and two extra trainees for our Engineering Training Programme. The commitment from the team has been outstanding. Everyone has given 110%.
“Although we have found that recruitment online cannot replace every aspect of face-to-face recruitment, there are definite advantages and it is something we will continue to explore in the future,” says Louise.