The Corona pandemic has taken the business world by storm, impacting all facets of business and forcing recruiters to reassess technical hiring and onboarding. We conducted a webinar with Valerie Rothlin-Fenton, Senior Technical Recruiter at Fujitsu to understand how recruiters can tackle the challenge head-on and explored some do’s and don’ts for moving forward. Below is an edited version of the conversation between our Marketing Head, Sairam Krishnan, and Valerie.
You can receive your copy of the webinar recording here.
SK: Hi Valerie, Thank you so much for joining us. Let’s start with a bit about yourself and your role at Fujitsu.
VF: Like many, I actually got into recruiting by chance and saw it as an opportunity to leverage my strengths while making it a career. And it has been very rewarding! I started my career initially in healthcare working 7 years+ in hospital nutrition and, then, spending another 2 ½ years into Quality Assurance for palliative care in Germany. Upon returning to Canada, I had a hard time returning to healthcare as systems were so different, and so through various networking channels, I came across an opportunity that brought me to my current position with Fujitsu. My current role is a Senior Technical Recruiter. I focus on recruiting for an array of technology-based and functional roles, from entry-level developers to practice leaders in both the US and Canada.
On a personal note, I am blessed with a wonderful family and am the proud mother of a wonderful 2 1/2 year old who brings so much into my life.
SK: Before we dive in to the future, let’s stop and take a look at the past. When the outbreak was just beginning, although cautious, firms had not really taken any major steps. The sudden onset of the crisis had most firms jumping into quickly executing contingency plans. What were some of the immediate impacts on the technical hiring process and big changes for recruiters?
VF: I think it is important to note that we are in uncharted territory for both employers and employees. These are very challenging times – not only we were dealt a lot of uncertainty, we were also thrown into various roles – teacher, caregivers to senior and younger family members, and those who were not in such roles were left dealing with social isolation. All this uncertainty, coupled with the other factors, makes it next to impossible to predict where things are going. All of us are taking things day-by-day as we slowly learn more about this virus and its evolution. Employers have seen a slowdown across sectors, making forecasting and planning quite challenging.
However, it is important to remember that when one door closes another one can open. In the instances with Fujitsu, though we have seen a decrease of activity with some of our clients, we have seen a demand in other areas not typically our focus i.e.: call center, and service support for benefits distribution for unemployment insurance (E.I.). and so forth. As markets slowly reopen, we are seeing a continued shift away from traditional business and opportunities to support and reinvent to something better suited to today’s new environment.
SK: What were your best practices to ensure a smooth transition back then?
VF: I think the best practice for Fujitsu was having a strong communication plan in place. We are very fortunate to have a strong business continuity plan and the infrastructure in place to make the shift to working remotely. A number of our employees already made the shift to remote some time ago, so internally we benefited from that knowledge.
What has made this transition so successful is the strong communication throughout all levels of the company. Management and leadership are frequently checking in with calls and/or surveys to ensure everyone is doing well, and they are keeping us informed as things progress with company-wide messaging. Because of our experience of having an existing remote workforce, we were able to share that experience both internally with those accustomed to working on-site and externally with our clients facilitating their transition to this unfamiliar territory.
SK: Alright, back to the present now. What are some immediate steps firms should be taking to better their recruitment strategies and improve hiring ROI?
VF: There was a time before COVID and there can be no prediction of the time post-COVID. Even with talks of vaccines, there’s no guarantee for a while. Personally, for me, I think of investing!
I mean that in two parts – from a recruiter standpoint, it would entail investing in your social capital and goodwill initiatives within the job-seeker community. People do remember when you take the time to answer their InMail, considering they’ve invested the time to reach out to you. The industry in unpredictable, you may not have a position today but you’ll certainly have something in the future and you DO NOT want to burn that bridge! And, people will always remember you, if you’ve answered the email, shared any helpful tips, etc. despite not being able to offer something concrete at that moment. Not losing sight of relationships and networking from a recruitment standpoint and investing in your own social/personal brand is essential.
From the business standpoint, it is still about investing – but maybe not in the literal sense! If you don’t have the financial means to invest in new technology or a similar initiative, you can still invest in other areas – your social media strategy, perhaps, or the wellbeing of your employees – they're you’re greatest assets! Revisit your social media strategy to increase brand presence and celebrate the great things about your company. This will help engage prospective candidates and lead to more success when reaching out when things pick up again. Also, invest in creative strategies to work with your clients. Times have changed and those who recognize this, and are proactive, are going to fare better in this new economy. In addition, this might be a good time to do an internal audit of processes just to see if anything can be improved.
SK: What are some of the challenges you foresee in recruiting moving forward? What changes do you foresee within university recruiting and mass recruiting drives?
VF: Some of the hurdles I foresee are the uncertainty of where things are headed. There are concerns about mental health, burnout, adapting to the change caused by the virus, etc. In addition, the challenges of working remotely that can cause obstacles for technical hiring process, as well as, the challenges with this record unemployment itself for both recruiters and employment seekers themselves is an issue.
The major challenge is going to be about embracing virtual tools – and drawing prospects and getting their attention! Social media would be your communication driver to engage these people. With few positions, internally auditing the large number of candidates for limited roles becomes a challenge. Fortunately, we have assessment tools to ease this process for recruiters, similarly we can have technical assessments to accurately gauge people. Not only does this save time for us in the process, it also eliminates subjectivity or any kind of bias and actually helps assess on skills.
SK: What are your top tips for accurately assessing candidates during virtual interviews?
VF: Have a really strong pre-screen! Utilize virtual tools for accurately assessing candidates during a remote interview – I personally look for facial cues or verbal inflection etiquette, punctuality, and responses to the questions – all still very relevant.
At Fujitsu, after the initial pre-screen for our technical positions, we have prospective candidates participate in a technical assessment often using iMocha to ensure that the basic skills criteria are up to the mark. From there we often use video interview tools, which help us to assess facial cues, verbal inflections, etiquette, punctuality, and of course how well a person answers the questions.
These are unpredictable times, so yes, having a little bit more experience will help recruiters navigate better. For the newbies and budding recruiters, I would recommend being mentored and self-education from within the industry to help stay on with the times.
Sk: What are your top tips for ensuring a quality talent pipeline post the pandemic? What are some of the innovative recruitment methods HR teams can champion to attract the new ‘work from anywhere’ workforce?
Communication and interpersonal skills in every facet of the business from internal and external partners are key. We, as recruiters, need to actively engage with our internal partners to know of any opportunities or any upcoming needs, so that we can use our internal tools like Hot Books or proactive posting to engage talent faster.
It also includes providing our insights and market knowledge, so that requirements are realistic. Lastly, external communication is a vital component. Being proactive in interacting with your various networks, strong branding, and using unique tools to engage are needed for ensuring quality pipelines.
There’s so many tools at our disposal and most of it doesn’t really cost that much money! You have Google Hangouts, Twitter, Reddit, and GitHub, Openstack, WhatsApp groups, and of course the more traditional channel LinkedIn. There are various chrome extensions that can also assist with getting a potential candidates’ contact details to start the dialog. Many of these tools don’t necessarily cost anything, but there certainly is a time investment needed to establish your reputation within these forums, as well as, your data could be shared – all things to keep in mind. Also, not all opportunities can be remote , so it’s important to clarify that within the message itself, through a hashtag or whatever makes sense given what you have to work with.
SK: What are your expectations from recruitment technology? Do you see it replacing large talent acquisition teams or do you see more of a cohesion and holistic experience for both candidates and recruiters?
VF: Do I see technology as a disruptor within the field of recruitment, 100%! Recruitment is ever-evolving given the technological advancement, especially with the addition of AI. In the immediate future, do I think that AI will replace every recruiter position out there - no. AI certainly has a lot of advantages, but it still lacks the capability to effectively gauge emotion or the non-literal.
Certainly, for the immediate future, there will be a need for the recruiter because we have the capacity to evaluate the subtle cues. Rather than a replacement, at present I see it as more of a complement to the role – like creating efficiencies for the mass technical hiring's we touched upon earlier or I can assess a person’s technical competency by using assessment tools like iMocha, even if I don’t have the direct knowledge myself. This actually creates a better experience for the candidate and more relevant candidates for the hiring manager. So it’s more of a cohesion, I don’t think you’ll need huge teams because they’re complemented by technology, but I do not see it replacing the industry at least for the foreseeable future.
SK: How will the success of recruitment tactics be measured in the post-COVID world?
VF: That’s a great question, I think speed and less reactionary recruitment will be a true indicator of success in a post-COVID world. Understand the market you’re recruiting for, going back to that social media strategy for both yourself and your organization, creating that strong brand presence and open communication to ensure you can be effective for your organization. That’s how I would define and measure success.
You can receive your copy of the webinar recording here.