Since 2019, the world has been dominated by discussion of COVID-19. It has affected every facet of our lives and new variants, despite being dealt with swiftly, have frequently put us through yet another gauntlet of restrictions and lockdowns time and time again.

Now, with Omicron cases falling and Plan B measures expected to be ‘substantially reduced’ in the UK, it’s beginning to seem like the worst is over. While we may see the return of some of our favourite venues, activities and headlines a much-anticipated return that is seemingly yet to come to fruition has been a steady supply of talent in the workforce, with numbers from the Office of National Statistics showing vacancies in late 2021 reaching a record high of 1.2 million.

Yet another insightful entry in our Let’s Talk Talent webinar series, in partnership with Give A Grad A Go, Cary Curtis, founder of Give A Grad A Go and Russell Dalgleish, a serial entrepreneur and creator of one of the first online recruitment portals in the UK, get together to discuss how COVID-19 has changed the landscape of hiring, whether it’s as bad as everyone says it is when it comes to hiring, and how to take advantage of the new opportunities that have been presented during the fallout.

What’s changed?

Getting right into the discussion, the two experts are posed with the question of what difficulties, and potentially advantages have been found mid-crisis and possibly, post COVID.

“I’m not sure it’s actually had an effect on how we recruit,” says Russell, taking the panel by surprise. Commenting on the “larger talent pool” made available by remote working, Russell continues: “there’s now more of an understanding of how to work a company with a remote workforce.”

Despite the lack of change for Russell in the recruitment process, he does give some insight into one area that’s caused some disruption in traditional practices, one that many businesses and entrepreneurs no doubt have had plenty of experiences with over the past 2 years: “For me, the biggest difference has been the technology side, the way we identify and interact with candidates has been like never before,” he says.

Cary agrees with Russell’s testimony, adding his own perspective, “I think the speed in which people are hiring has changed a bit,” he adds, “but the fundamentals are still the same.”

While the foundation of recruitment hasn’t changed for the two, there’s no doubt that a large shockwave was felt in the business world at the beginning of the pandemic. Though, despite the early days giving recruiters a run for their money in terms of logistics, a sufficient adjustment period has seemingly run its course. Many businesses are going from what Cary describes as an initial “two-stage interview process,” to a “three stages as a standard”.

Despite the extra stage in the process however, Cary comments on a positive result when it comes to hiring during COVID: “We’re actually finding the speed with which you can book people in is actually quicker, because they’re not having to travel to each and every interview,” he says, “just booking in morning video interviews is actually quite an easy thing to get done remotely.”

Embracing change

Despite things only mildly being mixed up in recruitment, the two are then asked how the possible things to change in a business to stand out from the post-COVID crowd, ensuring they’re presented as well-adjusted to the pandemic and subsequent developments in hiring, not just on the spreadsheets, but in practice.

“If I think about some of my own companies and how we’re recruiting today, there’s much more of a need to be recruiting through social media,” begins Russell, mentioning an importance in the presentation of the company to potential hires, citing “who you are, what you do and particularly what difference you make and what vision you have,” as important qualities to be presented by a business.

“I think it’s about getting our story out there, how that aligns with our vision and how it aligns with our mission,” continues Russell, furthering into his own interesting perspective on the future role of founders, managing directors and other important members of a business: “We’re going to see over the next few years much more need for those individuals to have a public presence,” he says.

Social media has undeniably been growing for years, when one platform dies down yet another pops-up, almost out of nowhere. Subsequently, it’s more important than ever to clearly present your values and image to your hires clearly and concisely. Even as an individual potentially representing the business, with the growing availability of information it can not only be a missed opportunity, but potentially damaging to not reflect your businesses values through your public image.

“It’s all about getting that message out there, making it clear, and sharing with people what your purpose is, so that they’re attracted to you.” – Russell Dalgleish

Taking advantage

With all the discussion about changes to embrace and adjust for, the conversation naturally drifts towards what advantages are now present due to the change presented in the business world. The duo are queried on what benefits may have presented themselves as a silver lining for the devastating crisis, and how to take advantage of them.

Russell begins with his own insight, “the process that we all tend to forget about is all the different channels available to us and all the people we can inform and share with when we’re hiring.”

Not just addressing the potential pool of talent however, Russell discusses how the developments in hiring virtually have allowed for a variety of these channels to be used to communicate not only the fact you’re hiring, but portray the values of your business to a wider audience: “If you think about LinkedIn for example,” Russell elaborates, “you can push out a LinkedIn ad to say you’re hiring, but what you can also do is you can share articles and communicate information about what it’s like to work in your company.”

With lockdown now being lifted, those that have remained in an environment working from home have had mixed experiences. Where some have thrived, others have had an issue with their social and personal lives being disrupted by the global crisis we’ve all come to experience.

Russell comments on the recent crisis, noting that providing employees with the opportunity to meet wants that were far from reality for many during lockdown can be an effective hiring tool: “I think any company that offers international opportunities out of the UK is in a great position, because there’s such a pent up desire to experience different cultures,” attests Russell.

Agreeing with Russell’s points, Cary gives his own input on his own businesses adapted hiring practices and the bittersweet opportunities provided by the pandemic: “Something that we’ve now factored into very hire is that we make sure anyone we hire is able to speak to quite a large number of the team,” he says.

Cary explains that not only does this allow various members of the business to give their own valuable input on new hires, but also presents potential candidates with the businesses image that for many, is much more frequently considered when joining a company.

“One of the perks that we’ve found has been really well responded to is allowing people to work remotely, globally for a month once they’ve reached a certain point in the business.” – Cary Curtis

Cary himself explains that his business had an idea that plays off a similar theme to Russell’s; allowing employees to work remotely for a month, anywhere in the world. Speaking from experience, Cary mentions: “I think that definitely helped us to keep a hold of people.”

“Externally, it’s a lovely message to send,” finalises Cary, ending his point by commenting on the benefits reflecting positively on the image of the business, something which was previously outlined as more important than ever: “it’s good to show that level of trust you can put on people once they’ve shown they can handle the work.” 

For tips on how to recruit staff and attract the best talent, speak to Give A Grad A Go for expert advice, hiring resources or to recruit graduates today.