Remote Hiring Trends 2021: Obstacles and Opportunities
Excerpted from a webinar facilitated by MATRIX in December 2020. Click here to watch the full recording of the webinar.
For better or for worse, remote working has permanently altered the hiring landscape. Hiring managers must face new realities when it comes to sourcing, interviewing and hiring top candidates.
Justin Thomason, VP of Recruiting at MATRIX, and Tamara Davis, VP of Talent Acquisition at Brinks Home Security, took a deep dive into the benefits and obstacles they have encountered in this new hiring landscape and offered tips on how hiring managers can function better within the world of remote work in 2021 and beyond.
Remote Hiring Models
JT: We're now into the tenth month of remote hiring. It seems that to an extent, our processes have stabilized and matured. If you're using Microsoft Teams or Zoom for interviews, you know exactly how long it's going to take to procure a new laptop. And job candidates have learned that taking a virtual interview from their car or bed is probably not going to result in an offer.
Many industries have been hit by massive layoffs, while others like mortgage, nursing and tech continue to not be able to find enough talent to meet the demands of the business.
One thing, however, has remained constant and that is people are looking for new jobs and they want those jobs to be remote.
A recent study by Indeed showed that 80% of people in the U.S. are either currently looking for a new job or “open to new opportunities” as our friends at LinkedIn like to call it.
AT MATRIX, we saw a 26% increase in job applicants in Q3 over Q2. Additionally, there's a 300% increase in our internal jobs looking for people who are open to remote work. If you look specifically at software development, that number goes up to 400%, so there's no question about it. People are changing jobs and if your organization is not offering fully remote capabilities, you're missing out on great talent.
TD: Remote work has changed things a lot. Pre-COVID, the views of work from home were slim to none in many areas. Everybody was in the office, especially help desk, call centers, and things of that nature.
Now, remote flexibility is in every position we have. Software development and some of those more niche roles, they're demanding it and we need them. So, we are open to being flexible and adaptable. The views on it are completely different now than before.
JT: My role at MATRIX gives me insight to how hundreds of our customers are doing this remotely. And so, what we have seen evolve are four primary models of remote work:
The first type of remote work is fully remote with no expectation that you'll ever have to come into an office. So that is kind of the ideal situation for candidates today. And if you are looking to hire the most in-demand skillsets (cloud positions within technology, DevOps, application development, even some product type roles), you've got to have that option because there are too many companies out there who are trying to hire that same talent that are paying aggressively and will allow them to work remote.
Fully Remote for Now
The second trend is fully remote right now, but the expectation would be in the future you will relocate or work in the local market once COVID is over. This applies mostly to manager and director roles, which gave them a very flexible work schedule.
Prior to COVID, they're not coming to the office five days a week. They know what they've got to do to be there for their team, but on more of a flexible work schedule. This model has proven interesting because we've been able to expand our candidate pool since these individuals seem to be more open to relocating once COVID is over.
With regional remote, you either must live in a certain hub or in one of a few cities around an area. This seems to be more prevalent around the main type of technology roles (e.g. project managers and developers). Hiring managers want people who aren't necessarily going to have to be in the office every, but in a location close enough to an office to attend certain meetings or sessions in person.
Back in the Office Post-COVID
This model is remote now and then you're back in the office, five days a week post-COVID. This work model typically applies to lower-level positions (e.g. admin, call center). This is probably the least desirable of the four options that we're seeing companies offer now.
JT: Tamara, what are common characteristics or themes that you’re seeing from candidates that you've hired this year? What are they doing to stand out on these virtual interviews and how are they making themselves look attractive to you as an employer?
TD: What's interesting is the virtual interviews pre-COVID were not as good as what we are seeing today. What I've seen as of late, especially with the professional hires, I've been very impressed. People are really taking it seriously because they know they're not able to get another shot and and connect with hiring managers in a more personal or in-person way. So, we’re seeing them dress up a little bit more and prepare better for virtual interviews.
We still have some issues with lower-level positions where we do have to coach virtual interviewing tips. Let's make sure they understand what this all is because it may be completely new to them and we need to be okay with that.
Some things should seem obvious. Don't take your virtual interview in your bed. Make sure you have a good background behind you. Sit up straight. Smile and be engaged. Make eye contact, etc.
On the other hand, I think there's also a certain level of candidate that you don't want to coach and prep because you do want to see how they present themselves and come across virtually. Expectations are high that they've prepared on their own.
So, I've seen a little bit of mixing, both as a coach in areas where needed but also let some of that happen as is, so we know what we're getting, especially if this is going to be a longer-term situation.
JT: Yes. It’s interesting, even on the very high-level technology roles, where we've just got a rockstar candidate and we know this individual can code with the best of them; some managers are quick to reject candidates if they don’t think they have taken the interview seriously.
We’ve even had clients reschedule interviews at the last minute and say, ‘hey, I can't talk to you now, can we reschedule in an hour?’ And then an hour later, the candidate is driving in their car for a previously scheduled appointment, and obviously distracted during the interview. That can be a deal killer.
Another thing employers are looking at is, it's almost like an interview of your work environment. We tell candidates to keep it very buttoned up. If your kid is running by during the interview, chances are the kid is going to be a distraction when you're working for the client.
TD: You're absolutely right. But that's where I say we've got to coach the hiring managers that this is not a perfect scenario. None of us are perfect right now. We're still all trying to figure it out. So, you've got to give some leeway. Even with the best intentions, sometimes the WiFi is going to go out, or a dog's going to bark because a package just got delivered. Hiring managers are in the same situation as the candidates at home, and they probably see those things happen on meetings they have internally with their teams.
JT: I wanted to get your thoughts on virtual hiring events. We are seeing a lot more of these pop up and wanted to know if you have had any success with them?
TD: I'm a big proponent of virtual hiring events. We have toyed with them here, and we've had some success. It is not for those higher-level roles. But when you're hiring a help desk center or call center and you need volume in order to fill all those seats, we know that's not going to happen with one-to-one calls in the time frame that is needed. We had one a couple of months ago and were able to hire 100 people from it — just from a one-day virtual event.
So, we feel that virtual events can move the velocity a lot faster than we want it to by waiting on a person trying to get everybody lined up individually. Velocity is key. My phrase for 2021 is ‘be very agile’.
Virtual Branding and Onboarding
JT: Now that we don't have the ability to bring people into the office to interview them, to show off the space, to let them meet other employees - how are you coaching hiring managers to sell their opportunities to job candidates?
TD: Think about remote candidates in a similar way you think about relocation candidates, who may not come in until the very final interview. The same strategies apply. So, it's still continuously being deliberate on what your company has to offer holistically, whether you're in or out of the office. And how they're going to continuously be engaged, virtually through culture and engagement and events. And then share with them what we expect when they finally come in. Give them an open-door preview as to what the work will be every day, day in and day out.
We've even done one-offs where we've done a virtual tour of the building. Here's a link to our office. Here's how it's set up. So they feel like you're in the office, but not in the office, but still getting the engagement and that you will be there one day.
JT: Let's talk about remote onboarding. One of the biggest challenges of our new world here in remote hiring is this onboarding piece where you even mentioned some companies have people come in and pick up their laptop or their equipment. Other companies don't have that at all and are having to ship everything. From a security standpoint, authenticating everything can be challenging. Ongoing, companies that have a clear strategy to onboarding will have a lot more success in being able to hire and secure talent.
With the amount of hiring that you guys have done this year, how have you been able to coordinate onboarding to ensure that your new hires have the equipment and tools they need to be successful on the job from day one?
TD: Well, I think the way you first must look at it is it's not acceptable to have them wait. We've got to figure out how to get them their equipment. I'm big on operational excellence. There are lots of things you can do that get you streamlined to move fast. And not just onboarded with equipment. How do we orient them into the organization? How do we have virtual orientation for all of this and make sure they feel part of the organization and not just ‘here's some equipment and you're off to the races.’
JT: There are many different names for fraud. Bait and switch, catfishing, etc. It's nothing new, especially within the technology world in interviewing. We've seen so much more of it in a virtual world where candidates are attempting to cheat or fabricate answers during a virtual interview.
And the stakes are even higher now, when we are talking about application security. Before COVID, if a coder fooled you during the interview, they're going to be in the office and you’re going to be able to see them doing their code. You’re going to figure that out quickly. But now with developers sitting at home, you're not able to necessarily watch their code.
It’s a big challenge that we see across our entire portfolio of customers, something that we take very seriously here at MATRIX. We've put a process in place to prevent it as much as we can. We've created a document when we know that candidates are going to have a technical test or a technical interview with one of our customers. We ask them to acknowledge that they will be taking a technical test, and put in writing, ‘I am who I say I am. I'm not going to cheat or have anybody coach me’. I think just the fact that they know that we take this seriously weeds out some of the bad apples.
We also ask our recruiters to virtually screen every candidate who will undergo a technical interview.
Then we recommend to our customers and to our hiring managers, ‘when you interview this candidate that I think is going to be a great fit for you, let me join that call with you.’ Then I will be able to verify the person that showed up for this interview is the same person that I've already screened and asked all these questions and vetted myself.
Is there anything that you've done, or you've seen that has worked to help prevent fabricating during interviews?
TD: Yeah, for sure. We did end up going to more virtual screenings of technical interviews with the hiring leaders, kind of like what you're doing today.
But what we also did was made sure that it was still a whiteboard type of coding Interview so that it was real, live coding and talking about those types of situations. And the coder was saying, yes, yes, no, etc. So, you know, right there, that they're not able to go type it out, they're going to know it right then and there. Having it open and being live lets you know exactly what you're getting. And it's not somebody else.
Another tactic we use which only works with coders is ask candidates to share their screen. ‘Show me your GitHub profile. Walk me exactly through some of your repositories. Explain this and that to me.’ You will be able to see the red flags and weed out those bad apples on the front end before wasting our hiring managers’ time.