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In order to maintain social distance, our world has become almost fully virtual — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Technology has done wonders for us in the past (think: Google Maps, Netflix, Facebook Messenger), and it can continue to do so as the world of work evolves.

I know this from firsthand experience: I was recruited and onboarded to my current job in a fully digital process. In fact, I began working in this position in April, at the height of the pandemic!

Let me be honest: The first few weeks were a bit tricky. However, now that I’ve been at my company for a few months, I can reflect on my initial troubles to understand how and why it was difficult when it didn’t need to be. From the perspective of someone who has been through it, I offer these tips to help recruiters and HR pros optimize virtual recruiting and onboarding.

Be Transparent and Lenient

COVID-19 has driven many people to unemployment, meaning open jobs today are flooded with applications. That, in turn, means the average screening process takes much longer, as recruiters must sort through hundreds or thousands of resumes to find good fits.

We’re all aware of this state of affairs, so recruiters shouldn’t shy away from being honest with their candidates. Be up front about the personality traits and skills your company is looking for, as well as the position’s responsibilities and the expected future of the company. This will help candidates better self-select into or out of your application process, depending on how well they fit the bill.

Additionally, be honest about the number of applications you’ve received and how you are making fair hiring decisions. Candidates will appreciate the consideration. Not only does transparency convey genuine care for applicants, but it also strengthens the candidate experience, in turning boosting your employer brand. Even candidates you have to turn down will advocate for your business if you treat them well.

Leniency is just as important as transparency. Fully virtual hiring is new for many of us, and the stresses of living through a global pandemic only complicate things further. If someone doesn’t perform perfectly on the phone or takes an extra few hours to call you back, be understanding. Everyone has a great deal going on at the moment. When you’re recruiting, try to remember that we’re all human. Trust your instincts (while also being objective, of course).

Use Video to Let Candidates Shine

When I was applying for my position, I was concerned I wouldn’t be given the time of day because my resume didn’t really stand out. But during the application process, I encountered something interesting: Alongside the empty text boxes were requests for video interviews.

This turned out to be great news: Because I could answer screening questions through video instead of text, I was able to put a face to my name and present myself in the best possible light.

We human beings connect better with one another when we have visual aids and visual cues. Implementing video interviews in your virtual hiring process gives your candidates a fair chance to shine — and it also helps you and your recruiters better assess applicants’ soft skills.

Clearly Articulate Your Expectations

Throughout the hiring process — and especially at the offer stage — it is important to clearly articulate your expectations for the new hire’s responsibilities and standards of delivery. Personally speaking, the biggest difficulty I faced in my first week was knowing roughly what I needed to do, but not quite knowing how to do it.

I’m a writer. As I was planning my first blog post for the company, I wasn’t sure how to go about it or what my company expected to see in my writing. To make matters more complicated, I didn’t know where to turn for help because I didn’t really know any of my teammates (more on that below).

It can be difficult to put yourself in a new employee’s shoes if you have been with the company for a while. You already know your company’s standards, expectations, and culture — but your new hire doesn’t. That’s why it’s important to set aside some time to clearly spell it all out. Even if the information seems obvious to you, your new hire likely has no idea.

Setting clear expectations is particularly important in remote environments because virtual work largely allows employees to dictate their own schedules. While this is a benefit in many ways, it can also make a new hire’s life very difficult. People may not be available when they need help, and a person can’t simply walk to their manager’s desk for clarification when working from home. By communicating necessary information ahead of time, you can avoid many such schedule problems, but it’s also a good idea to set some clear times every day when all team members will be online and active at the same time. This will allow the new hire to immediately connect with colleagues when need be.

Schedule a Team Meeting on the New Hire’s First Day

The most daunting part of being remotely hired and onboarded is seeing a list of names on your company’s intranet and having no idea who they are or what they’re like — especially if they’re in your department. It’s HR’s responsibility to look after employee well-being, so consider scheduling a meeting between the new hire and their teammates on their first day. This way, the new employee can meet everyone in a comfortable setting, learn about their colleagues, and feel welcome on the team.

Use Onboarding Software

Good onboarding software is useful in non-remote onboarding, but its significance has been heightened by the shift to remote work. You can no longer invite a new hire to stop by the office to quickly fill out some paperwork, and the alternative process of printing, signing, scanning, and sending is time-consuming.

With onboarding software, you can digitize the process instead. That not only makes it easier for new hires to complete necessary documents, but it also reduces the risk of human error and loss of documentation. Everything is stored online, so nothing can get lost in the mail.

You can also save time for your HR and administrative staff by creating standardized onboarding packets that include all the training videos, forms, and expectations candidates need to get acclimated. You can track who has (or hasn’t) signed their digital forms or completed digital trainings, which allows HR to easily ensure every employee is up to date on relevant rules and regulations.

Speaking as a candidate, I can say onboarding software made my life a lot easier. Seconds after my now boss called to tell me I got the job, I received my onboarding packet, containing my contract, role outline, and financial forms. I digitally accepted the offer within minutes — all while sitting in bed, petting my cat.

Check In Regularly

It can be difficult to feel like you’re fully part of the team when you’re working totally remotely. Your new hire will likely need some reassurance that they belong — not to mention some help and support as they learn company processes and procedures — so be sure to schedule regular check-ins during the employee’s first few weeks or months on the job.

If my experience taught me anything, it’s that new employees want to show you they can be independent, and it is daunting to ask for help when you’re operating in a remote environment. When you haven’t yet met your teammates, it can kind of feel like asking a total stranger for assistance! Take the pressure off of your new hires by proactively scheduling check-ins.

It has been interesting and impressive to see how quickly organizations adapted to the digital work environment when doing so became a necessity. Now, I wonder if it was always a necessity. Between the improved work/life balance, the increased productivity, and the reduced overhead costs for businesses, remote work has plenty of benefits to offer.

As we’ve all learned over these last few months, we already have all the technology and resources we need to make digital recruiting a reality. Now all we have to do is learn to strike the right balance between technology and the human touch.

Cassandra Diamantis is the marketing specialist at My Recruitment Plus.

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