• Articles
  • February 17, 2021
  • Gareth Morris

COVID-19: Interviewing and Onboarding


COVID-19: Interviewing and Onboarding


Interviewing and onboarding. Each a fundamental pillar of the employee experience, each massively impacted by COVID-19 and the social distancing measures brought along with it. 


To get a measure of the market, we reached out to tech leaders across europe on how they’re managing this crucial part of the talent workflow in these challenging times. 


Onboarding During COVID-19


For many, onboarding is one of the most important parts of the employee experience and has direct ties to whether talent decides to commit to a position long term.

In fact, the lack of effective onboarding is a major reason why companies lose 17% of their new hires within the first three months and why 20% of all staff turnover occurs within 45 days of employment.

And if you’re in the tech space, onboarding is even more important when you consider all the technical aspects like coding standards, peer mentorship and access to high-end machines that are normally handled without a second thought in a office setting.

So, how have tech business leaders across Europe handled the new onboarding? 


“We’ve Had to Create the Digital Version of Meeting Him at the Door.”

Rasmus Savandar is Product Manager at ‘Neobank’ Dreams. 

Leading a cross-functional team of designers and developers, responsible for the core-experience at a Stockholm based ‘neobank’ called Dreams. Rasmus and Dreams build financial services for a digital generation.

Rasmus is also responsible for onboarding the newest member of their team who joined during lock-down. 

“We’ve had a lot of interesting discussions on how we bring a person into our company in a remote manner. We now have to create the digital equivalent of me greeting him at the door when he comes in. I think one main learning from there is that it’s pretty difficult for a company of our size.” 

Rasmus and the team are still trying to find the optimal onboarding playbook. This work-in-progress methodology, however, is nothing but a boon for an emerging business. If they can build an on-boarding playbook that can thrive in these most strenuous of circumstances, they can expect to have a better employee experience than most companies out there. 

“A lot of the casual stuff you do in person in the office almost immediately becomes less casual if you do it in a video setting. It’s probably a thing you get used to. I booked the first hour of my day to ‘meet’ him and tried to have similar conversations as we would have if he started in our office. Our People Operations team made sure all the physical equipment was delivered to his home. It’s difficult to do fully-digitally and time will tell, but I’m happy with how the plan turned out.” 

Structuring the on-boarding process in this way has given Rasmus significant food for thought. This holistic look on his systems has, in fact, revealed improvements led by a focus on empathy. 

“It was significantly more structured than it was in a physical context, where we rely heavily on just spending time together. It has crossed my mind that if we put ourselves in the shoes of a new employee that it’s super challenging, because the casual aspect in the beginning is incredibly important in getting to know your colleagues. Getting to know each other and spending time together becomes more difficult.”



“Trying to get a feel for each other is hard.”

Hayley-Mae Osborne is the People, Culture and Resourcing Specialist at Play Sports Network.

At the moment, Hayley-Mae’s main focus is on recruitment but she’s found herself performing an admin function as of late. In addition to general recruitment, Hayley-Mae also takes charge of a training function that has seen an increased emphasis during lockdown. 

“I sit down and assess what different departments need from a training perspective and organise that in conjunction with the HR team.” 

Unlike some businesses out there, Play Sports Network is a business very familiar with hiring and onboarding through video calls. Instead, their challenges come in the form of understanding a candidate’s culture fit where early team and office visits would normally take place.

“Trying to get a feel for the business when you’re not in the office is incredibly difficult for people.” 

Regardless of the quality of the new hire, so many things can go awry in the first few months on the job. A survey of people who left jobs soon after being hired revealed the top things organizations do wrong with new employees: not clearly defining job responsibilities; poor or ineffective training; and a lack of friendliness and helpfulness from colleagues.

All of these are issues that can normally be address quickly, or will have been planned to be addressed during a physical onboarding, for remote onboarding scenarios however, a more strategic approach is required.

“We’re also running 100% digital onboarding and induction. So all those meetings that would happen naturally over the course of the first few weeks of initial hire, the HR team are making a point of including all induction meetings in the first week. That gives people who haven’t had the chance to be in the office to get 30-minute meetings every day with the right people around the teams.” 


Interviewing During COVID-19

Interviewing, as a process, is an intricate construct. Candidates who are in the process are often highly invested and keen to get any kind of information they can. For that reason, any kind of disruption to processes like the interview process can lead to knock-on effects. 

In fact, 83% of talent say a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once liked, according to LinkedIn research. 

Even in times like these, where processes and systems are strained, there will be little sympathy for those who can’t maintain a functional and positive interview experience. Here’s what leaders from across Europe said when we reached out to them about the interview process during COVID.


“I like to Observe how they Treat the receptionist.”


Chris Procter is the Group DPO at Alter Domus. His role see’s him taking a lead on many of Alter Domus’ key hires. 

For Chris, losing the physical aspects of the interview process is going to be a big challenge for their hiring strategies.

“We’ll miss not having a full 360 visibility of their thought process when they’re trying to answer questions. Seeing how they’re reacting, and how others are reacting to them.”

In a 2012 TED speech, the social psychologist Amy Cuddy, underlined body language’s importance in shaping how we feel, too. Adopting a dominant pose makes people feel more powerful. Body language is indeed a useful tool. When you want to make a point, arm gestures help you paint a picture and get people to listen. And when you want to dominate a discussion, an open posture can be a strong ally.

But, when interpreting other people’s body language, things get complicated. No one can read minds. If a job candidate blinks often, we could assume they’re overly nervous. But how do we know that their contact lenses aren’t getting dry? The key is to avoid jumping to conclusions. Learning to read interview body language is about understanding candidates’ motives.

“If i’m meeting a candidate I will subconsciously observe how they treat the receptionist, how they hold themselves as they walk to the interview room. These things tell us a great deal. If people are just popping up on the screen, you don’t get any of that. 

This is often the natural person you see before the interview, not the exterior they present for the interview process.” 



“We Have Such a Cool Office Space Candidates Love to Visit.”

Romie Bull BIoR (CPD) is an Internal Recruitment Consultant at Usay Compare. It’s Romie’s responsibility to look after every aspect of hiring from start to finish, sourcing candidates for the whole of the business. 

For Romie and Usay, having access to an office space didn’t just make the interview process a lot simpler, it also made the company a lot more attractive to a candidate.


“We’ve got a really good process in place for interview that centers around a really cool office space that we have access to. We can’t do that at the moment. I can do my job in terms of sourcing these candidates but when it gets to actually interviewing people there can be a slow down.” 

Video Interviewing has since taken off, with many companies who still want to stay ahead of the talent curve, but in 2019 it was a completely different story. 

Video technology was being used by 60% of hiring managers and recruiters. A survey of 506 companies showed 47% use video interviewing to shorten the hiring timeframe, and 22% would consider it for interviewing candidates that aren't local.

One of the best aspects of video interviewing is just how little disruption it causes to existing processes while simultaneously broadening the talent pool available. 

“I want to be proactive and try and retain as much of the process as possible and make sure that the candidate experience remains a positive one.” 


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