The phrase “a new normal” has become a staple in both employers’ and employees’ vocabularies, as both sides grapple with major changes to the world of work. Some of those changes may be temporary responses to current challenges, while others are likely to be more permanent. Either way, both employees and companies can expect several things from this “new normal” working environment for the foreseeable future. Here’s a look at some important things to expect:
An Increase in Phone/Video Conferences and Interviews
With social-distancing measures a top health and safety concern, and travel sensitivity high throughout the country (and the world), more and more companies are relying on phone and video interviews in place of face-to-face (in-person) meetings. These types of interviews may cover most of the same information as traditional meetings, but they also require different skill sets in order to present well on camera and communicate effectively over the phone. Candidates should plan to practice these skills so that they can behave naturally on camera and show their best attributes to potential employers, including confidence, preparedness, and interpersonal skills. On the other hand, hiring managers should understand that this is still a brand-new skill set to many people, so patience should be extended to candidates who may appear awkward or uncomfortable on camera. There is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting, but employers and employees can put in the effort to polish their on-camera skills and make the best of a challenging situation. Examples might include dressing professionally even when the interview takes place at home; finding a neutral, distraction-free room where the meeting can take place; and limiting background noise that can distract from the focus of the meeting. Candidates might also try a video meeting test run with a friend to find the best lighting and camera angles or troubleshoot any software issues before the actual interview.
The Need for Flexibility in Scheduling Meetings and Interviews
For many workers, a typical day now includes hours of back-to-back phone and video meetings. Hiring managers with hectic schedules often expect that when they find space in their schedule to interview a potential new hire, that time slot will be guaranteed. However, many strong candidates are still comfortably employed, so they also have demanding work hours and scheduling conflicts. When multiple decision-makers are involved in a hiring process, things can get even more difficult. Candidates are having to carve out time wherever they can - before and after work, during lunch breaks, and even on the weekends - in order to speak with multiple hiring managers. To help everyone move through this process as efficiently as possible, it is critical that when an interview time is agreed upon, both parties do everything in their power to keep to that schedule. However, sometimes unavoidable conflicts arise and rescheduling or cancelling an interview becomes necessary. In those unfortunate times, everyone must remember that this is a fluid and ever-changing environment for both employers and job seekers, so mutual flexibility is more important than ever.
A Learning Curve & Logistical Challenges with New Technology
In many ways, new technology has been a life-saver during this critical period of social distancing. But that doesn’t mean it’s all been smooth sailing. There are many different video conferencing apps on the market (such as Zoom™, WebEx™, Microsoft Teams™, and Google Meet™, to name just a few), and while there is a lot of overlap in their functionality, there are also many differences that create challenges for users. For instance, a manager who uses Zoom all day might be very comfortable with that software, while the candidate they are interviewing is used to WebEx and thus could have a learning curve with Zoom. This can make users feel concerned about how they are coming across and negatively impact a first impression. In addition, some users who are working from home might face connectivity issues, particularly if they live in remote areas or have to split bandwidth with children who are logged into virtual schools. At other times, candidates may be reluctant to use work computers for interviews for fear of breaking their current employer’s rules, so they may need to use lower-quality home laptops or personal phones. It can be frustrating when connectivity or video quality issues interfere with an important interview, but it’s very important that all parties keep these challenges in mind and approach interviews with patience and understanding.
A Longer Interview and Hiring Process
Phone and video conferencing technology has allowed for the continuation of safe, effective interviews when in-person meetings were not possible, and that is a great thing. However, the simple truth is that meeting with someone virtually does not create the same sense of trust, connection, and camaraderie that a face-to-face meeting does. Building an authentic connection takes more time via phone or video, so for many companies, the number of meetings required before a manager can confidently make someone an offer is higher than ever before. Candidates also tend to need more time and more engagement before accepting a new offer of employment, especially when relocation is a factor. While both parties should understand that time is of the essence and no one likes wasted time, they should also be willing to accept that during this adjustment period, the hiring process is likely to take longer than usual.
Employers and employees alike are still learning how to navigate the strange new world of work that has developed in the past year, from developing new communication skills to setting new expectations for interview schedules and hiring timelines. The “new normal” is an adjustment for everyone. The best tools anyone can utilize during this period are flexibility, patience, and understanding as both candidates and hiring managers do their best to move forward safely and efficiently.