PKF Littlejohn embraces virtual recruitment

24 Sep 2020

Following roles in HR and recruitment in her Canadian home, Karen Soo would have expected that joining PKF Littlejohn in the UK would bring about new experiences. Perhaps though, helping manage and coordinate the accounting firm’s hiring operations through a global pandemic was not high on her list of expectations.

But for all of us it was a new experience, and one that impacted HR directly across the vast majority of corporates.

“I’m sure a lot of companies faced a recruitment freeze when lockdown hit,” says Karen. “The uncertainty led us to pause.” But as the PKF International member firm moved to begin hiring again in June, for some the impact of Covid-19 on all aspects of working life still hadn’t hit home.

“At first a lot of candidates would say they want to come in to see us. It’s understandable because the face-to-face aspect of interviews is about seeing the office space and having a more natural conversation with someone.”

Video interviews had been a last resort for PKF Littlejohn – an exception. But both parties had to grasp the ‘digital nettle’. Since lockdown all of the firm’s interviews have been remote – via Zoom.

Karen believes that the majority of candidates have transitioned well to this new environment. And in terms of presenting themselves as best as possible, she has noticed that most candidates make an effort to check that everything from an audio-visual and operational perspective is optimised to give the best first impression and experience.

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Some might think that managing technology, and more than just their own physical appearance, might put candidates, and even employers, in a mindset that video interviewing is more difficult – or less beneficial. However, Karen points out some real positives that have come out of this new way of liaising – particularly around time management and job-seeking.

“As most candidates are already working full-time but from home, they have had more flexibility about managing time to undertake interviews.

“A more direct approach will hopefully give them more confidence and control in knowing where their CV and information has been sent.”

This direction of travel isn’t the end of recruitment agencies though. “Candidates conducting their work search in London, for example, will undoubtedly go to an agency first, because searching for their next role in the big city is akin to finding a needle in a haystack.”

The lack of commuting for candidates – which would have often been outside normal working hours – means that the recruitment process has been faster internally. Employers and candidates can get more done quickly.

The core of the interview – namely the questions to be asked of the candidate plus any testing, has not changed. Technical interview tests, for example, are being administered via OneDrive.

“Otherwise the interview structure and its duration have remained the same for consistency,” explains Karen.

For the firm as a whole, Karen envisages that HR will be more involved and have greater ‘control’ of the recruitment process.

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“Communication will be handled entirely between us and the candidates, which we feel will make it more personal and more efficient – there’ll be less chance of miscommunication because of someone else in the middle of the process.”

However, the video interviewing that has been all-pervasive in recent months is unlikely to remain that way.

“Ultimately, in-person interviewing will still be the preferred method of interviewing, because video misses out so much non-verbal communication. But it will be likely to continue going forward, as we now have more acceptance of it,” says Karen.

“Remote interviewing means candidates are available to interview quicker and the likelihood of interview cancellations or delays, because of traffic or getting lost, are reduced. Essentially, the amount of time from initial application to an offer can be reduced quite a lot.”

And advice for other PKF member firms?

“Embrace technology,” she suggests. “Lockdown has clearly showed us that there are many ways to be connected and efficient at work without needing to be in an office. If there are product updates, update the software immediately and read the release notes.

“If there is a new software being tested at your firm, volunteer to be part of the trial process. Utilise technology to your advantage to create better and stronger candidate experiences.”

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