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Summer recruitment: balancing expectations

20th July 2021

by Gabby Rosenberg

Every year, the summer holidays represent a challenge to recruitment processes. Absence of clients, candidates and my team of recruitment consultants always impair interview arrangements and decision-making; this is totally understandable. This year however, we have the added impact of ‘holidays’ being either domestic, or simply staying at home with the laptop (hopefully) off. This has caused a real discrepancy between my clients’ expectations of candidate availability, and candidates’ want and need for time away from virtual meetings.

On the one hand, the pandemic has removed a lot of time-wasting in the interview process. Very few candidates now travel to a first-stage interview. What previously required an afternoon’s holiday from work is now a 30-min Zoom call that can take place at lunchtime – or in gaps within their working day. This has been a positive for the recruitment process, cutting out the need for time off to travel. I have seen vacancies filled up to 50% faster as a result of this; it’s a positive change to come out of the last fifteen months.

Another result of this change is the blurring of boundaries around ‘work’ and ‘home’. We’ve all read the reports of people working longer hours at home without the cues of changing in and out of work clothes, commuting etc and I have experienced myself that ‘hamster wheel’ feeling of never really switching off when being home-based all the time. Perhaps this is the reason I am hearing candidates respond with their holidays as a reason to not attend 30-minute first stage interviews. They are fatigued after 16 months of non-stop virtual meetings. The laptop has not left their sight or the kitchen table and into the second year of this ‘new normal’ they want to prioritise rest and recuperation during their annual leave, and perhaps re-set boundaries that have become blurred.

As recruiters, part of our role is to find out about a candidate’s situation and motivations. My conversations with candidates often last a while as we chat about their lives and what has led them to consider a career move. Should the fact they tell me their holiday is close to home matter? If they then say they won’t interrupt their week off for a 30-min Zoom call, should that count against them when they are compared to other candidates who can ‘meet’ the client sooner? What about the ethics of the latter situation; if a candidate is working from home and attending an interview on their employer’s time, could that count against them too? I think the current situation is presenting these nuances and comparisons between candidates that are not levelling the ‘playing field’ so to speak.

As usual when assessing the last 16 months, there’s a lot to consider and things are still changing all the time (red, amber, green, amber plus?!). The role of a recruiter is always to negotiate that tension between client and candidate, to arrive at the best outcome for both sides. I always advise my candidates that the first thing any hiring manager looks for is enthusiasm for the role, and there is a need to appreciate the sense of urgency felt client-side especially around critical vacancies and – in this period of renewed business confidence – huge structural change taking place across Consumer Goods & Retail. On the other side, as an employer and hiring manager myself I can see people are constantly adjusting to the challenges we all face, and rightly require some space (and grace!) to do their best!

Wishing everyone in my network an enjoyable summer with some well-deserved rest for all!

Photo credit: Unsplash.com

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