How Companies Will Balance Virtual and In-Person Recruiting in a Post-Pandemic World

February 23, 2021

Photo of laptop and coffee cup during a video conferencing meeting

The sudden shift to an all-virtual hiring process last year came with both pros and cons. On the one hand, scheduling interviews became a breeze, the need to organize travel was eliminated, and recruiters had more opportunities to source great talent from all over the world. At the same time, many talent professionals tore their hair out over technical issues and lamented the impact the transition might have on the candidate experience.

With a return to the workplace no longer seeming like an unfathomably distant dream, you might already be thinking about what will happen to your hiring process after the pandemic. Now that your team has experienced both sides, you may be reluctant to go back to the old way of doing things. Or you may be weighing which aspects of virtual recruiting to pull through into post-pandemic life — and which to leave in 2020.

To get a sense of where other talent leaders’ heads are, Ed Nathanson, VP of talent and talent branding at EQRx, recently asked his network to share their thoughts about what recruiting will look like in the not-too-distant future. “Now that vaccines are circulating, it no longer feels premature to plan for post-pandemic work,” Ed points out.

As you evaluate how to strike the right balance between virtual and in-person recruiting, here are some key insights that emerged from the conversation.

For all-remote teams, an entirely remote hiring process may make the most sense for everyone involved

While it’s likely that many companies will resume at least some in-person recruiting activities when it’s possible to do so again, this may vary from role to role. For positions that will be entirely remote — especially if the new hire’s whole team will be remote — bringing the candidate into an office they’ll never spend any time in may be an unnecessary and potentially confusing step. 

“For an all-remote workforce, assessing and onboarding someone in person could be a little cognitively dissonant,” says Todd Raphael, head of content at eightfold.ai, “unless you’re convinced, for example, that an in-person assessment is superior — and I’m not sure there’s data out there to support that.”

For most roles, a mix of virtual and in-person tactics will help recruiters balance efficiencies with candidate experience

When companies first had to transition to virtual recruiting, many talent professionals and hiring managers had minimal experience interviewing and assessing candidates remotely. Now that they’ve invested in virtual screening methods and seen firsthand that they’re not only easier than anticipated but also notably efficient, a complete return to the traditional model seems unlikely. 

Despite this, many of the talent professionals who commented on Ed's post expressed concern that the focus on efficiency could negatively impact the candidate experience and make it harder to build authentic connections. 

Some suggested that the right balance is to hold initial interviews virtually and then bring final-round candidates onsite. “Virtual interviews save a lot of time and money, and then you can invest in the in-person interview for those you are superexcited about,” says Nicole Dow, senior HR assistant at Amazon Air Services.

Dawn Burke, senior consultant at Recruiting Toolbox, believes this approach will be preferable for interviewees too. “I think candidates . . . will prefer to interview from home a majority of the time,” she says. ”[No more] ‘please come to our office eight times for eight separate interviews on eight separate days.’”

Recruiting Toolbox’s founder and managing director John Vlastelica foresees one instance where in-person interviews will become nonnegotiable: candidates who will need to relocate will almost certainly want to see where they’re moving to. He also believes that many candidates will want to experience the company culture in a tangible way, which isn’t always easy over video.

“There’s something really validating in seeing people working in the offices,” John says, “seeing how people are treated, seeing real collaboration and inclusion with your own eyes. I expect some candidates will push for onsites even if the recruiting team prefers virtual interviews, and others won’t care at all.” 

Consistency will be critical to mitigate bias and ensure candidates feel fairly treated

One consideration that must be taken into account as companies decide when to use in-person tactics and when to keep things virtual is the potential for bias to enter the process. 

“If an employer chooses to interview or screen some candidates in the office and some virtually for a given job, one might expect a bias — perceived or otherwise,” says Gerry Crispin, principal and cofounder of CareerXroads

For example, if a candidate makes it through to the final round without an onsite interview and later discovers that the person who was hired was brought in at some point along the way, they may (rightly) feel that that person had an unfair advantage. Research shows that factors that can only be achieved in person — like a physical handshake — can result in better outcomes during negotiations. So, it’s entirely possible that meeting some candidates in person could cause interviewers to view them more favorably than they do candidates who were recruited over videoconference. 

“Consistency in approach will be best practice,” Gerry says. 

Final thoughts: Recruiting will look different, but the fundamentals will remain

Whether companies ultimately choose to keep their recruiting process entirely virtual or adopt a hybrid model, the fundamentals — like providing a positive candidate experience — will still hold true. In the early days of the pandemic, a few slip-ups were understandable as everyone was figuring things out as they went. Now that people are more experienced with virtual methods, candidates may be less forgiving of a poor experience. 

“No excuses anymore,” says Yaffa Grace, VP of recruiting at BlueGene Search. “Companies must move to improve and create better candidate experiences post-pandemic. We know better, we have the technology, and we must do better. The companies that get the candidate experience right will attract the best of the best.”

*Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

To receive blog posts like this one straight in your inbox, subscribe to the blog newsletter.

Topics