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RfH Insights: Hiring and Onboarding During the COVID-19 Outbreak

March 18, 2020
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RfH Insights features actionable advice curated from Resources for Humans, Lattice’s online Slack community of 8,000+ HR and recruiting professionals. Interested in joining the conversation? Register here.



Starting a new job comes with a mix of emotions. Optimism, apprehension, and general nervousness are all on the menu — and that’s without a global pandemic dominating the headlines.

The coronavirus crisis has changed the way we work. Entire industries have gone remote overnight, putting HR and recruiting teams in a difficult position. But the show must go on, and companies need to ensure their candidate and new hire experience doesn’t suffer as a result.

Resources for Humans is Lattice’s Slack community of over 8,000 HR leaders. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, members have brought up questions and shared actionable advice on how to handle remote hiring and onboarding. Here are some of the conversations’ most prevalent themes.

Recruiting

While candidates might be accustomed to interviewing by phone or video early on, later rounds typically involve at least one onsite meeting. With offices shuttered and entire teams working from home, even final round interviews have gone virtual. But that doesn’t mean the formality of the interview — or the importance of process — goes by the wayside.

“For final rounds, we’re keeping same practices of providing an agenda and interviewer details to candidates, and then ensuring that there is video, not just audio,” said Nadia Eran, Director of People Operations at TalkSpace. That adherence to standard procedure extends beyond the interview itself. “We’re still holding onto everything that matters, still scheduling debriefs, still keeping candidates in the loop,” she said.

Being transparent and updating candidates along the way has always been best practice. Current events have made it a must, as candidates might assume a job opening was rolled back. Janice Kwong, Tech Recruiting Lead at Scoop Technologies, shared a short but effective email template for companies to use when announcing the shift to virtual interviewing.

Hi First Name,

I just wanted to let you know that Company has decided that, as a precaution in protecting everyone from the transmission of COVID-19, we will be moving any in-person meetings to Zoom video. We are striving to be proactive and want to make sure we extend the same courtesy to you.


Most of the recruiters in our community were comfortable with the switch to virtual. But technical difficulties are always a possibility, especially when candidates and interviewers are dialing in from home. Make sure to account for that in your scheduling.

“I prefer to schedule video interviews for 15 more minutes than I would a call. I find that AV issues often eat up a solid five or more minutes at the start of a session. In my opinion, it's safer to have the session and interviewer scheduled with some buffer,” said Alicia Loewenthal, Lead Recruiter at Helpshift. If everything goes to plan and an interviewer finishes early, just let the candidate know to stay on the call for the next one.

Onboarding

How do you securely equip new hires with the tools they need without having IT onsite? That real, logistical challenge was a hot topic in the community.

“We’ve shipped out all laptops for new hires and adjusted their first-day schedule to be done entirely over Zoom,” said Melissa Buckley, People Business Partner at Handshake. As with recruiting, it’s critical that teams continue to follow a set process. “They’ll get an email on the morning of their first day with instructions for logging into their laptop and company email,” she said.

Besides the logistics, there are social challenges associated with remote onboarding. Holding virtual lunches and happy hours was one popular approach to welcoming employees. “We’re thinking of ways to foster social connection across the team, including new hires. We’re having them expense lunch and still holding new hire lunches on Zoom,” Buckley said.

Micah Leinbach, Manager of Learning and Development at Guild Education, echoed that sentiment. “We’re also going to encourage managers to still take [new hires] out to lunch by expensing delivery from a local restaurant so they can meet over Zoom. Potentially awkward, but hopefully charming,” he said. Leinbach added that doing so has the added benefit of contributing to local restaurants in a time when they’re limited to takeout-only service.

Other professionals leaned on Slack to help welcome employees. Zoë Georgakis, HR Generalist at Invoca, uses the messaging app to build a sense of community. “We have channels for pet photos and family photos. We strongly encourage new hires to share a photo there so we can get to know them and what they love outside of work,” she said.

Invoca will also lean on Slack and video conferencing for other new hire activities. “I host a lot of contests at work. For example, one month we had a photography contest and employees voted on their favorite photos. In April, we do a guessing game where employees submit photos of themselves as babies and kids,” Georgakis said.

HR can only do so much to make new hires feel welcome. If all else fails, sometimes it takes a friendly nudge to ensure managers are doing their part. “We’ve also reached out to each manager who has a new hire starting in March or April, asking them to submit their remote onboarding plan for their team member, forcing them to think through how to adjust things,” Buckley said. Her company was anticipating a crop of 15 new hires in the next three weeks.



Starting a new gig is hard enough. There’s a lot at stake, and both new hires and their teams want to make a good first impression. That’s why investing in onboarding is so important, regardless of what’s happening in the news.

How have you adapted your approach to recruiting and onboarding? Share your thoughts and see what others have to say by joining the Resources for Humans Slack community.