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Recruitment in times of COVID-19

COVID-19 hit us, just like any other business. Some of our clients put plans on hold. Others cancelled forthcoming projects. It was definitely a very difficult time. But just a few months later, we had secured eight new clients, all existing clients were back up and running and our diaries were full once again.

We took the decision to recruit a new member to the team. Some people thought I was a bit crazy to do this but the figures made sense and also I felt, very strongly, that if we could we should support people who needed work.

We have just appointed a fantastic Account Manager & Client Lead who will work directly with our B2B clients at Transform Communications. Welcome, Ellen Ridsdale. We appointed Ellen who has four years’ experience as an Account Executive working for similar firms in the area and had everything we wanted as a person and for the role. And although only in her first month, she is already proving to be a great asset.

I’ve had a number of conversations with other business owners who have been very interested in how we recruited, especially during COVID-19, so I thought I’d share a bit about our process and what insights it gave us.

Job Adverts

Unlike previous roles where we’re gone through numerous job ads and posting on Social Media, LinkedIn Jobs, Facebook Jobs, recruitment firms, Indeed.com etc, this time we put out a single in-depth job advert. Initially we were planning to run this for a month but we had to close after 14 days as we were inundated with not only a high number of candidates but really high calibre as well.

Applications

We’re based near Bath and Bristol so perhaps it’s a nature of our location that we attracted a number of senior level candidates had relocated for lifestyle and family reasons. As you would imagine, there were applications from people who had been made redundant or who were going through redundancy consultation.

I particularly felt for the graduates who applied. It’s the nature of this time that recent graduates are finding it difficult to gain their first foot on the ladder. Unfortunately, we needed someone who had more experience but I definitely admired their ambition and tenacity. Some applications were so creative that we’ve passed on details to other business owners who have opportunities open.

Aptitude and attitude

We took a very rigorous approach to the interview and induction process. This wasn’t just because of COVID-19 but we’re aware that working remotely has its own specific challenges.

We worked with Circle Consulting, a people, culture and talent consultancy based in Bath, who have a fantastic platform that allows business owners to manage their whole recruitment and selection process.

First the team came together to create a list of competencies, attitudes and behaviours that we needed in the role. This was particularly interesting as it became a collective view. We’re all pretty strong-minded individuals so the discussion about how we ranked specific behaviours were really interesting. As we’ve worked with a number of psychometric tools, we could see our own behaviours reflected in what we prioritised! It was an excellent team experience and meant that we came away with a very detailed understanding of the type of person we needed to employ.

The second stage was quick online video calls with a long-list of candidates. From these we selected the strongest four candidates for interview.

Interview

The interview process itself was rigorous. Before the interview, all candidates completed the online behavioural and competency fit assessment. It only took about 10 minutes and it mapped each candidate against the one that we’d created collectively as a team. This gave real insight into who each person was, their natural strengths and behaviour styles. Plus there was guidance for interviews.

We then met each candidate, because however great technology is, there is really no substitute for face to face in an interview situation.

Responding to a brief

The final stage of the process was we wanted to see how the candidates thought. We asked each candidate to respond to a live brief with a proposal about the strategy and approach they would recommend to one of our actual clients. This was a super interesting part of the process. We saw people’s experience in action. Understood how they approached a brief, their presentation skills and the level of their creativity. And we could see their competencies and strengths in action.

What we found interesting is how each stage of the process highlighted the different skills of the candidates. Our decision was never made on a single stage. Instead, we took a view across the whole process. And the benefit is that not only have we got a great person, but that by being so rigorous, the induction process far easier.

Induction

We are all working remotely at the moment so we made sure that Ellen was comfortable with this. We had two face to face induction meetings in terms of technology set up, expectations for the role and also briefings on specific clients. Ellen joins our daily calls with the team and separate client briefings. We have always worked in a collaborative and very transparent way so she is supported throughout those highly important first months.

Time to hire

We posted the role on the 1st August. Applications closed on the 14th August. We completed all interviews by the Friday 21st August. Ellen was in role on the 7th September. It was quick and the candidates that we interviewed were super responsive. Yes, it took quite a bit of our time. But the time is definitely worth it, as we needed to be sure that we found the right person of our business, our clients and our team.

Seriously, if you’re in need of great people, then there’s no better time than now to find real talent.

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