Managers can interview and onboard new employees from a distance during these unprecedented times.
Many accounting and finance organizations have been forced to close their physical offices and conduct work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and these companies have had to come up with new ways of hiring staff. In particular, they’ve moved their recruitment and onboarding processes into the virtual world, from a candidate’s initial interview—now via video—to their first day on the job—now from home. The crisis has provided a fresh perspective on the idea that remote recruitment could become common and perhaps even standard in some cases.
Managers need to be ready to address immediate staffing needs and those in the longer-term future, despite not fully knowing what the latter might look like. And since a virtual hiring process could play a bigger part in recruitment now and down the line, it pays to be prepared.
CONDUCTING VIDEO INTERVIEWS
Virtual interviews are nothing new. For years, companies have used telephone interviews to narrow the candidate field, and some have even turned to software like Zoom to connect with professionals located in other areas before inviting them to interview in person at a later stage in the hiring process.
While this hybrid approach works well, companies that have continued to hire during the pandemic have shown that it’s possible to conduct the entire interview process remotely. So, if your only opportunity to evaluate a candidate is via video, here’s what you should look out for:
Professionalism: In or outside the office, the basic rules of professionalism apply. Take note of the demeanor of candidates, whether they join the meeting on time, if they’re appropriately dressed, and how focused and engaged they seem.
A promising candidate will be prepared and professional, no matter the setting. At the same time, don’t punish or judge interviewees for problems beyond their control, like a dropped connection or a neighbor’s dog barking in the background.
Soft skills: Interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence are important for finance professionals, but these can be difficult to evaluate remotely. During the video call, watch for signs of good communication, active listening, politeness, and respect.
For example, do they allow for potential lag before they start talking, or do they run over the last few words of your question? Are they giving you their full attention? How do they react if a technical glitch pops up? Do you get a sense of a rapport developing? A good tip is to ask candidates how they feel about the virtual interviewing process itself. Their answer may give you vital clues as to how adaptable, resilient, and optimistic they are.
VETTING CANDIDATES REMOTELY
Assessing potential employees from a distance isn’t completely different from doing it in person. You still need to road-test their finance and accounting skills as you normally would.
The greater challenge is to evaluate candidates’ fit with your workplace culture without meeting them face to face. This is hugely important for both parties. Robert Half research has shown that 35% of job seekers would turn down an offer for a great job if the corporate culture wasn’t right for them (see bit.ly/36hrf0G). Here’s how you can ensure that the candidate will fit in:
Company culture fit: If you can’t describe your company’s organizational culture in a couple of sentences, you need to do some homework before conducting interviews. With that knowledge in place, it’s easier to filter candidates who aren’t a match for the company’s vibe and values. (For more on organizational culture, see Organizational Culture: The Make-or-Break Factor in Hiring and Retention, bit.ly/2LOYoaM.)
During video interviews, try to gauge the individual’s personality, work ethic, and even his or her sense of humor. Have the candidate conduct video chats with other team members to get more feedback to determine if they’d mesh well. Psychological tests are also useful to gain insight into temperament and behavior.
Skills tests: Send candidates at-home exercises to test for role-specific technical skills, either before or after the initial interview. Web-based platforms like Interview Mocha allow you to customize tests in aptitudes such as auditing, financial analysis, and many more. Other testing services used by many finance and accounting managers include eSkill and Criteria Corp.
Candidates will inevitably prepare for these exercises in advance, so you need to be sure the tests you send them are unique. The free hiring test provided by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, for example, draws randomly from a data bank of more than 250 questions. Whichever route you want to go, it’s always a good idea to check with your human resources department for guidance on what tests are most appropriate.
Get help: Work with a recruiter who can speed up the hiring process while sharing best practices for hiring, onboarding, and managing remotely. The staffing professional can facilitate video interviews, screen and evaluate candidates, and conduct reference checks, depending on the approved terms.
ONBOARDING NEW STAFF
Onboarding a new recruit can be tricky when everyone is working remotely. Nonetheless, the importance of new staff bonding with the existing team can’t be overstated (see bit.ly/3cShGId). Do everything you can to make newcomers feel welcome, included, and inspired. Here are a few ways that you can accomplish this:
Organization: Make sure everything is ready to go in advance, so new employees have all they need to get started—documents, contracts, IT logins, etc. The sooner they get online and working, the sooner they’ll feel connected to their new role. Ensure any equipment the company needs to send them will arrive in time for their first day.
Welcome packet: Along with any vital documents, it’s a great idea to send a welcome packet with information on the company, an overview of the corporate culture, and any extra goodies you want to include to help newcomers feel welcome.
Introductions: Send an email to your team introducing the new hire and explaining his or her role. Have a kick-off video call in order for the new hire to socialize with the group—this could be a virtual lunch or a round-the-screens meeting where everyone gets a chance to share a little about themselves.
Communication: Be available, visible (online), and accessible—whether through a weekly video check-in or by encouraging new hires to drop you a Slack message if they need a hand with anything. Strong communication is vital to managing remote teams and helping staff feel connected and reassured. (For more on managing remote teams, see bit.ly/3cTL0xN).
Expectations: Set expectations from the get-go so new employees know what’s required of them and what they should expect from you. This also helps with structure, which can easily go awry while working remotely without clear guidance from management.
Technology has allowed many businesses to keep moving forward while dealing with ever-evolving circumstances. Organizations may be surprised at how smoothly they can transfer at least some of their hiring and onboarding tasks to the virtual arena. The pandemic will fade, but many facets of remote working and recruitment are likely here to stay.