COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the way much of the world works – and when it comes to the industry of talent acquisition, it has forced the sector to evolve. In this article, Andrew Unsworth reaches out to leading individuals within the Talent Acquisition world to see what’s changing and how they are reacting to the challenges of navigating an increasingly digital world.
Graduating from Copenhagen Business School in 2015 with a master’s in Human Resource Management, Laust Jacobsen worked his way up within Nova Talent and wound up managing their entire Danish network. The business itself, Nova Talent, is a global by-invitation-only top-talent network that connects high potential individuals amongst themselves and with the best professional opportunities – from the likes of Google to McKinsey & Co.
When asked about how he attracts new candidates to roles, Laust focuses on the tech industry and highlighted the importance of not only have the right tone of voice, but also a sincere interest in the topic to see where motivation lies: “When you want to communicate with someone in tech, it could be via an event or most often, on social media – they want to know we understand tech and which direction we are moving in, and that we are able to move fast. If we want to get them hooked from the beginning, we need to speak like a tech enthusiast and let all that come out first – then drop in “Hey, if you’re like us, and have the same mindset regarding this, why not try out this role?” and see how it fits.”
To show their commitment and genuine interest in the sector for which they are hiring, Laust tells us that they run a “hackathon, not purely to recruit, but to partner with others within our field, learn more about what they’re doing, and invite potential future candidates to join so they can see just how seriously we take technology.”
Ultimately though, he stresses, when hiring “don’t think that this newly graduated person will be the perfect match, think that you have to give them the tools to develop them into a perfect match, that’s how you’ll be successful.”
Of course, in the UK, it’s clear that COVID has impacted talent acquisition. There are many more candidates on the market owing to a number of redundancies but there’s been more of a reluctance for people to relocate. Pre-COVID, a load of people were willing to move out to the Nordic countries and now, because everyone is working remotely, it seems like more of a possibility to work online.
Similarly, Laust highlights that in Copenhagen, when it comes to COVID, he has “seen a decline in the numbers being recruited as the financial situation is difficult to foresee at the moment and so businesses are cautious of hiring.” However, when he does hire, he finds that “for some roles it’s now easier to recruit”! In a very high end tech role, for example, “some candidates tend to be a little drawn in socially and, from my experience, I find they prefer to do interviews over the internet and are pleased they don’t have to deal with the social settings around a typical interview; it can make them shine even better.”
Speaking on the practicalities of working mostly remotely now, he says: “It’s also made us more flexible. We can meet the candidates faster and see more candidates as we don’t have to travel to different locations, worry about expenses/ reimbursements for travel, and we have greater access now to the global talent market. Of course, we’d prefer to see the people in real life but it’s encouraged flexibility and we can do this going forward too.”
The future of talent acquisition is uncertain – what these changes will mean for the industry going forward is unclear. However, Laust believes “we’ll see a continuation of what’s been happening to date – more digital, technologically-orientated, innovative improvements!”
Further, he thinks “Talent Acquisition via gamification is going to grow – for example, there’s a company who created an app, and you do all kinds of tests and it shows your scores – you can compete against friends and it shows where the top specialists are at right now. If a particular candidate does well, it highlights them as a potential to interview, and I can see this sort of recruitment happening more.”
Having worked in talent acquisition for twelve years, Sylvia Pascaline started off at a recruitment agency in Barcelona, focused on international profiles. She then moved in-house and worked with a few different companies before moving back to Denmark where she is from. Today, she works in-house for Nilfisk , one of the world’s largest manufacturers of professional cleaning equipment.
Working in-house presents different challenges than working at an agency like Laust. Sylvia found that her role changed as a result of COVID. “It turned into a local operational role – we had some internal restructuring and it meant tasks I wouldn’t normally do I ended up getting involved in. While recruitment changed, it never really stopped, we just moved to online.”
A common concern though, highlighted by all those we spoke to, was the difficulty in assessing character over the phone/ video call. “It’s very beneficial to have a face-to-face meeting”, Sylvia tells us, “but when we opened again in May/ June, we learnt from the process we had in Spring and decided to do first-round interviews over the internet. Then, once we’d got a feel for the candidate, only for the second interview would we invite them in.”
Operating this way not only made life easier for Sylvia, but she believes it was beneficial for the candidates too. “A lot of our candidates were very happy with not having to take off half a day to go to our office that isn’t in a central location. It also improved their experience and gave them flexibility at first and got to know the business more before deciding if they wanted to dedicate more time to it.”
As is increasingly obvious, things are becoming more and more digital. Sylvia believes this is the future of TA, “everything from employer branding to video interviews to metrics, everything is online where it’s easier to monitor and calculate data. It’s clear we’re moving away from face-to-face but I think it’ll always have a role to play in the long-run”.
Bhavani’s career trajectory is a fascinating one, stepping away from the traditional talent acquisition route but leading to a fantastic role regardless. Bhavani started as a computer engineer and spent the first seven years of her career as a computer scientist. After realising it didn’t align with her passion, she ended up getting into recruitment and starting her own company to help tech businesses hire individuals as she had the technical know-how and communication expertise.
Disliking the administration side of her role, Bhavani decided to streamline her efforts and venture just into the nurturing of talent and recruitment. She ended up joining Falcon.io, a platform that helps social media marketers, and now works to recruit all sorts of job roles.
Talent acquisition within the tech industry itself also changed during COVID. If you’re a technical whizz, it seems as if they’ll always be a role out there for you as demand exceeds supply. However, Bhavani says, “even during the pandemic, people were still getting jobs, especially if you were a major senior-level developer. It made sense to take the risk and jump forward because of COVID, so you could join a slightly bigger or more stable company that was in a thriving rather than fledgeling industry.”
Further, Bhavani found that in general, the research and development as well as engineering teams were the last departments to be hit by COVID. “Marketing went first – because you have nobody to sell to, you have no need to recruit, and then that meant Human Resource departments were hit. However, R&D/ engineering comes after.”
Using the additional time acquired owing to the decline in hiring needs, Bhavani focused some of her energy on employer branding. “Working closely with HR, we thought more about how we could make the onboarding experience a lot smoother – especially if a relocation was involved as there’s a lot more nurturing that has to be done to instill confidence in these people and show that they are still valuable in this current environment.”
One of the problems in the future, like we have noticed, is that people are starting to think twice about relocating – Bhavani notes that people are thinking “why should I relocate myself when I’ve spent the last eight months working remotely? I can sit here and still get the job done”. Of course, businesses like individuals on site for security reasons and, for european teams, GDPR compliance.
Speaking about the future of hiring, Bhavani believes at the “junior and mid level, things won’t change too drastically, but when it comes to workforce planning, they’ll be more importance placed on people analytics and trying to anticipate the future to avoid hiring too many people. Looking at what’s really happening and delve more into the statistics behind it.”
If there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that COVID has forced talent acquisition to change over the last year in several ways – from going digital to impacting how people move and whether they’re willing to relocate. It’s evident as well that these changes are likely to have an enduring impact – more interviews are likely to happen online, networking with potential recruits will evolve, and we’ll see technology harnessed in innovative ways.
With that said, where do you see the future of the industry going? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts!
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