Top tips for inclusive, effective online recruitment

The recruitment decisions you make now will impact your organisation and its culture for years to come, and determine how you weather this storm and those we haven’t even begun to imagine. So how do you do it well, in the new normal? Joanna Moriarty from Green Park provides useful advice.

We’re worried to hear from many quarters that online recruitment may have harmful impacts on diverse populations. So how do you ensure equity, diversity and inclusion remain a vital priority and don’t become a ‘nice to have’ when the pressure is on?

Practicalities matter

Like most things now, this is a work in progress and a test-bed, and every day we’re building better knowledge. We’re running an online seminar for ACEVO on 8 June, by which time we’ll know and share more. But right now our key learnings are:

  • Interviewing via videoconference works ok, both panel members and candidates report. But…
  • Planning and structure are vital – use your convening time at the start of the interviews to agree who will ask what, and how follow-ups will be handled.
  • If you do two rounds, make sure the second round feels fresh and different, e.g. changing up the panel.
  • Keep the panel small – four is the maximum for a decent view onscreen.
  • The resemblance to a face-to-face interview is mostly superficial. People don’t pick up cues in the same way, for example wrap-up signals get missed, and eye contact is an illusion. So be direct, and don’t judge by last month’s standards.
  • Online interviewing is much more draining – we’re having very interesting conversations about why. The lack of heuristics – familiar fixed points and short-cuts – demands more concentration, adjusting between the 2D and the 3D, giving full attention, all mean that it’s important to pace the day so later candidates don’t get short-changed.
  • And make sure the all-important decision-making stage isn’t shaped by fatigue – build in a tea-and-snack break before you start the wash-up.

Thinking differently under pressure

Different times demand different thinking, innovative and even quirky approaches, people who ask forgiveness not permission, teams with chemistry that makes them more than the sum of their parts. Right? Yes and no – there’s also a field of gravity that pulls decision-makers to what they see as the safe option. Research tells us decisions we make under pressure are more biased, and specifically that recruitment decisions tend to skew in difficult times towards candidates who already have all the experience. Crucially, diversity gets lost – different thinking, but also traditional protected-characteristics diversity fall away.

How do you make sure that doesn’t happen?

Frame the risks properly. For example, does a candidate who’s already done a job like this at this level really represent a safe option? Are they coasting? What’s their ambition for the organisations they work in?

Key candidate question: Where’s the stretch for you in this role?

What do you really need for a time of change? Different thinking, and a range of experience round the table, are definitely key. Your senior leaders will need to make brave decisions fast, in an environment of incomplete information.

Key candidate question: how do you handle ambiguity?

How do you evaluate internal candidates? Where videoconferencing leaves gaps in what you can see, do you lean towards the person you have the fullest picture of?

Key candidate question: what do you bring to this role from across the full range of your experience?

Do you have a built-in sense of what your appointee and their CV will look like, which is narrowing your thinking? Are you marking people down for having moved around too much, or not enough? Having been in organisations that are smaller (where they have lots of impact and responsibility) or larger (where they have exposure to navigating complexity)? Check your assumptions for openness, stay focused on a good fit with your values.

Are you checking your list against benchmarks? If you’re interviewing five candidates, do you have at least one BAME candidate and at least two women? Compare the full field of applicants with the longlist, and the shortlist – did the diversity reduce? At final panel stage think back to your vision at the start of the process. Are you still passionate about diversity and different thinking? Appoint a champion within your nominations committee to hold you to account at every stage.

We know it’s not easy, but it is doable. Do get in touch for the latest on what we’re learning, and to share your experience of what works. We’re especially interested in what makes for good remote onboarding and induction, and how to tackle blockers to remote decision-making, plus keeping the focus on inclusion, which we’ll share at the online seminar. See you there!

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