Virtual Hiring: Two Years In, Is It Here to Stay?

When the COVID-19 pandemic brought global business to a screeching halt two years ago, corporations paused hiring and played the waiting game. But as it dragged on, leaders were forced to consider the unthinkable — hiring by Zoom.

April 4, 2022

Insights

By now companies have made many appointments, including C-suite hires, without meeting the candidate in person. The recruitment industry has changed dramatically, but are these changes here to stay?

The answer is not black and white.

As we look across the region, in some markets (for example, Hong Kong, which has had closed borders for most of the past two years), virtual hiring has been the only option. As a result, some of the most senior appointments to the region have had to begin their new roles exclusively online.

However, in other markets, such as Korea, companies will rarely hire a candidate for an important role without meeting them in person. Compare that to Japan, where it’s taken up to two years to make some major hires in order to accommodate in-person meetings. And this decision is not only based on geography or culture — some multinationals in the region have also refused to make senior hires without a final in-person meeting.

At the core of hiring is trust.

After all, “you don’t build a relationship on the phone.”

But what do our clients think about virtual hiring?

While online interviews are adequate, they are no substitute for the real thing: to shake someone’s hand, to walk the office corridors with them or to engage over lunch. Time and time again, we hear that these in-person engagements allow hiring leaders to assess cultural fit, presence and leadership style.

For some roles, particularly C-suite positions, the stakes are high, and risks are even greater. Assessing the above qualities is essential, and it’s difficult to do that through a screen. Some clients have decided that the risks of getting it wrong outweigh any potential benefits and have delayed on making key hires.

Other clients find the move to virtual hiring more efficient. “Look-see” visits by potential senior executives have almost disappeared and companies can boost productivity by scheduling more meetings in a day and eliminating travel time.

And in some sectors, such as IT, we have observed that the entire hiring cycle has been conducted online with organisations hiring, onboarding and exiting staff during this two-year timeframe.

We know that during the past two years the industry has also seen a share of virtual hires which have failed.

What best practices can support virtual hiring?

Across APAC, corporations are emphasizing the use of tools to assess life skills and leadership ability, where previously they might have relied on in-person meetings. They’ve also devoted more time to onboarding, particularly on fostering cross-cultural understanding and integration.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the businesses which feel more comfortable in relying on online hiring have also adapted to agile working and are embracing online engagement in their everyday work have used the virtual environment creatively for internal team building.

However, there is no substitute for meeting short-listed candidates in person. At the core of hiring is trust. Can corporates and recruiters make an informed decision after only meeting a candidate online? After all, “you don’t build a relationship on the phone.”

So, what can we expect?

Virtual hiring for junior to mid-level roles is probably here to stay. It’s more efficient, cost-effective and better suited to a cohort of digital natives. But this will require a greater reliance on psychographic tools to drill down into cultural fit and personality traits, because virtual hiring can mask a multitude of potential pitfalls.

Early round interviews will also continue to take place via Zoom. The productivity savings achieved by scheduling more meetings within a single day than having to factor in travel time is a major advantage.

While in some sectors, Zoom hiring may be the default, for most, a balance of the two will become the norm in a post-pandemic world.

Across APAC, corporations are emphasizing the use of tools to assess life skills and leadership ability, where previously they might have relied on in-person meetings.

They’ve also devoted more time to onboarding, particularly on fostering cross-cultural understanding and integration.

As you prepare to make your next senior-level hire, keep in mind:

  • Many first- and second-round meetings will be conducted online going forward.
  • Psychographic tools can help to measure personality, cultural fit, and leadership style.
  • The organization will be conducting more virtual interviews to secure buy-in (i.e., more meetings, more often).
  • Final round in-person interviews are here to stay, and the more senior the role, the more likely it will be non-negotiable.

Contributing Experts

Pierre-Jean Françon, Managing Partner, Asia Pacific Retail and Consumer Practice
David Nagy, Managing Partner, Asia Industrial Practice
Philippe Tirault, Managing Partner, Korea
Caroline Edwards, Managing Partner, Hong Kong
Mike Lim, Managing Partner, China
Firoze Patel, Managing Partner, India and Singapore
Naomi Tachibana, Managing Partner, Tokyo

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