Recruiter - Special Report - March/April 2021

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Special Report


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EDITOR’S COMMENT 2020 found technology asserting its ‘right to be’ in the midst of the pandemic. For recruiters, much of the technology demand in this people-centric business had to do with communications – from facilitating long-distance client meetings to onboarding new employees and enabling the practice of working from home. For this pandemic, even the public had to grapple with shared technology needs; along with ‘pandemic’, ‘Covid-19’, ‘coronavirus’, ‘social distancing’, other expressions that much more came to the forefront of our collective consciousness included ‘Zoom’, ‘Teams’ and ‘virtual’. Our technology writer Sue Weekes explores the trends and the tech that dominated our virtual world over the last year in this Special Report. She also gleans the perspectives of industry professionals about just how technology made a difference to them in these oh-so strange times.


DeeDee Doke Editor Recruiter/ 32 RECRUITER




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Hiring in a lockdown has meant recruiters have had to adapt their processes and be open to new ways of taking on candidates they may not have met in person. Sue Weekes investigates


he issues faced by recruiters over the past 12 months have been many and varied. But perhaps the starkest warning to come out of the pandemic so far is summed up by Nicolas Speeckaert, founder and managing partner of recruitment software company Skeeled, when asked to identify the main challenges going forward: “Getting hiring managers to make offers to candidates they haven’t met and getting candidates to accept them.” Such a concept would have been unthinkable for most roles even just 12 months ago but recruiters are adapting well to their ‘new normal’, and recruitment technology providers have moved fast to support them. Tighter integration of video interviewing into recruitment platforms, the acceleration of the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in areas such as screening and the use of futuristic technologies such as virtual reality (VR) to simulate real-world environments are just some of the technological developments that have come to the recruiter’s rescue.


New processes Bobby Tang, co-founder of video-interview platform Screenable, similarly highlights that implementing new processes to find the right candidates without face-to-face-meetings is going to be the biggest change and challenge for recruiters. He sees the company’s role as enabling this as well as helping recruiters to maintain high standards. “Reputation is key in this industry, and recruiters have always prided themselves on putting forward vetted candidates who they had met and were confident they were not only right for the job, but also a good reflection of the recruiter’s standards,”


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“We engaged with the senior HR team to help them standardise the recruitment process” LEE MCQUEEN Founder and CEO of Phoenix51

he says. “This can still be achieved and in a more effective manner, with platforms such as Screenable.” Screenable seeks to replace lengthy introduction calls and preliminary meetings with short, pre-recorded screening interviews that claim to offer an insight into candidates that previously only a more time-consuming interview or face-to-face meeting would offer. The platform has already been used globally for the primary screening of candidates for HR roles in investment banks, front-end and back-end engineering talent, as well as sales and marketing functions. It is also being used to hire larger teams of tradesmen such as forklift drivers and saw operators, and a London-based company reportedly filled its entire team of engineers and designers within two weeks. “Screenable supports the increase in application versus role issue for recruiters and more efficiently


identifies the relevant candidates for the role early on in the process,” says Brockett. “Ultimately, we are able to offer a faster and more effective remote route to recruit by giving the applicant a voice that is delivered to the recruiter in three simple steps.” Skeeled launched its platform last year to support the more remote approach to hiring. It offers a web-based platform with built-in video-interviewing, sourcing widget, collaborative tools and also predictive AI for assessment. It centralises all of these applications and allows each recruiter to review and rate candidate profiles, leaving notes and comments that other team members can see and respond to.

The platform is used by the CHU UCL university hospital, the largest private employer in the Indian province of Nanur. Over a nine-month period during the pandemic, it enabled the hospital to publish more than 300 jobs for which it received around 5,000 applications. The AI-based pre-screening and matching tool has rejected more than 1,500 applicants (around 34%) for not meeting the minimum requirements set by recruiters. “Before Skeeled, we wasted a lot of time posting an offer, screening resumes, responding to candidates,” said Laura Limberopoulos, head of recruitment and selection/employer branding at the university hospital.

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“We can be more selective and objective thanks to the personality assessment, the video interviews, the selective questions and the AI algorithms.” The platform aims to narrow down the best profiles in the talent pipeline to engage top talent faster, and direct managers can also take part in the recruitment process, allowing for collaborative hiring decisions. “Skeeled allows companies to upgrade their talent acquisition and develop a more thoughtful, engaging, empathic and transparent process, which will remain valuable even after the pandemic crisis,” says Speeckaert.

Transforming processes Indeed, the latest generation of recruitment platforms aren’t just about addressing the needs of the pandemic but also helping organisations to digitally transform their recruitment processes to realise increased efficiencies and cost-savings. BBC reality show The Apprentice winner Lee McQueen’s latest project aims to support remote hiring but also to help organisations digitise their entire recruitment process. The Phoenix51 platform offers video integration for competency-based interviewing and pre-screening with a team of in-house business psychologists having designed assessment pathways that test applicants against relevant job-specific tasks in a remote setting. Phoenix51 helped one of Britain’s largest newspaper groups, Reach, whose brands include the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Manchester Evening News and OK!, break down its silo approach to recruitment. Before using the platform, Reach’s regional offices operated independently of each other. “We engaged with the senior HR team to help them standardise the recruitment process and rolled out initially just to the

recruitment team, to help with the hiring of individuals into the business,” explains McQueen. “We subsequently rolled out to the HR team to help select candidates for the company-wide management training programme. Reach learnt that with a digital platform, managers and internal stakeholders could efficiently hire and appraise their people against key company-wide values and behaviours.” Technology providers are also helping to simulate important traditional methods of finding emerging talent, such as careers fairs. XOR is enabling employers to migrate such events to a virtual environment with video and chat. XOR co-founder and CEO Aida Fazylova explains that the company seeks to make hiring more remote-friendly through text message engagement, virtual career fairs and video interviewing. A non-profit client focused on diversity hiring was unable to host

traditional, in-person career fairs so used XOR’s platform to organise a virtual fair with 32 enterprise employers and over 10,000 participants, while a recruitment process outsourcing company that hires on behalf of brands like Kroger and Meijer launched three ongoing virtual career fairs where it scheduled hundreds of qualified jobseekers for in-person interviews. Going forward, Fazylova believes more remote recruiting means that recruiters are going to have to be more creative in nurturing and re-engaging with past talent. “Delivering the right message, at the right time, on the right device is going to be imperative, so I expect tech will come into play to build those workflows,” she says. “For example: How can I automate a text message to all my silver medal candidates from last month that invites them to a monthly virtual career fair? How can I let my


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candidates screen and schedule themselves to increase conversions and reduce time-to-hire? “We’re working with recruiters to solve these problems and give them a competitive advantage in bringing on talent quickly and efficiently.” Indeed, there will be further challenges ahead, and Speeckaert says these are likely to include how to onboard a new hire from home effectively and conveying the company culture to candidates without any in-person meetings. Above all though, he said the main challenge recruiters face is ensuring the recruitment process remains “a team sport” as it is so dependent on collaboration. “To ensure recruiting teams collaborate successfully while working remotely, it’s crucial to provide them

Sometimes things aren’t always quite what they seem

access to cloud-based productivity tools such as quick messaging tools like Slack, video-conferencing software, remote support software, project management software, email software or collaboration software,” he said. Also key will be maintaining a close relationship with software providers who, as McQueen suggests, can help to confront current challenges and bring efficiencies but also preserve recruitment’s all-important human side. “Working remotely, hiring remotely and making business-critical decisions remotely are all key factors, but with this comes new learning and a shift to our mindset which has opened up to using technology that drives efficiencies in terms of resource, quality and costs,” he said. “The shift in technology supporting our decisions is taking place, but humans still need to have the control of the final decisions.”

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he leading employee digital health and wellbeing app, Engage, is reimagining access to payroll, benefits, and health and wellbeing support for workers, in turn boosting talent retention for recruiters. The Engage app has been developed by employee benefits and outsourced payroll provider HIVE360, which operates extensively in the GLAA* and industrial recruitment sector. Completely customisable, Engage gives workers access to a huge range of benefits and services, from a personal doctor, personal support helpline, care support, and gym memberships, to high-street, lifestyle, dining and insurance discounts, plus access to digital payslips and a real-time workplace pension dashboard. “HIVE360 is leading the way in innovating employee engagement for the UK recruitment sector,” explains David McCormack, HIVE360 CEO. “Engage is a unique employee experience, payroll and benefits platform that brings tools, information and features that support training, health and wellbeing, financial wellbeing and knowledge, together in one app. “With its value-added suite of tailored, personal, employee benefits, wellbeing support and a constantly evolving choice of tools and features that enable improved communication and recognition of workers, the app’s enhanced approach marks a new era of exceptional support for recruiters, their workers and clients.”


Soaring demand Usage and take-up of Engage has soared

since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. During the first week of lockdown in March 2020, Engage had an unprecedented 273% increase in demand for its mental health support services. As the country has moved to predominantly remote working, and the additional mental, emotional and financial stresses this carries with it, user numbers have continued to grow: “We have recorded an average of around 200,000 monthly user sessions since October 2020,” adds David. “The ‘Your Health’ section has registered huge jumps in demand, with the number of users of health and wellbeing advice accessed via Engage rising by as much as 300%. Peaks in users have coincided with government announcements on changes to the Covid-19

restrictions – this was up by 265% between October and November 2020 – and 850 users visited the Mental Health support features in December 2020 when the new Covid-19 variant came to light and Christmas ‘bubbles’ were cancelled.”

Lift-off Engage is proving particularly attractive to like-minded digital-first businesses. Its customisation and easy API integration with the recruitment sector’s other technology platforms makes it a mobile perks app that is capable of bringing recruiters’ candidate and HR systems seamlessly together in one mobile experience for every workforce. David says: “We have just announced a strategic partnership with Rocket Software, which represents an unprecedented union of two of the recruitment sector’s most powerful mobile tech solutions providers to deliver real-time integrated app-based benefits, rewards and HMRC-compliant payroll and accounts software.” Rocket Software is used by around 300 dynamic temporary recruitment businesses, and Rocket provides payroll and accounts software solutions to an average 60,000 key workers and drivers in a range of sectors. “We had been looking for a strategic partner in the employee benefits space and after reviewing numerous potential partners, found HIVE360 to be innovative, collaborative, progressive and creative,” Rocket’s MD, Danny Steel explains. “Their mobile-based tech easily integrates with our TempID+ software and Pocket Rocket app. The Engage app connects directly into the Pocket Rocket mobile app that automates everything from real-time entry of worker’s timesheets to payroll, billing and compliance.” *HIVE360 is a Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) licence holder and corporate member of Inspiring Workplaces. For more information, visit:


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HOW CAN TECHNOLOGY PROTECT YOUR AGENCY? Tony Machin, CEO of TrustID, discusses how the pandemic has affected Right to Work compliance checks and how recruiters can prepare for Brexit and beyond


ike most other office-based workers, recruiters have had to rapidly adapt to a new world of compliance due to remote working and legislative uncertainty. In a business that’s all about people, this has brought unique challenges. Establishing candidates’ Right to Work (RtW), for example, can be particularly problematic, as it has traditionally relied on face-to-face meetings and visual checks on original identity documents.


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Why consider electronic checking to support your RtW processes?

But, as has been said, ‘adversity breeds creativity’. New and innovative technology, designed to overcome the problems of remote recruitment, can bring advantages to recruiters and help smooth uncertainty over post-Brexit employment checks.

Right to Work checks in the Covid era Prior to the pandemic, recruiters could conduct compliant RtW checks remotely if they had an applicant’s original identity document and checked it with the candidate ‘present’ over a video link, or if the candidate had a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or EU Settlement scheme (EUSS) ‘share code’. However, getting to see original documentation has become more difficult and not everyone has a BRP or EUSS share code. So, the UK government has temporarily allowed recruiters to check a candidate's RtW using scanned copies or photos of identity documents. You can then arrange a video call and ask the applicant to hold up the original documents to check against the digital copy, record the date you made the check and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to Covid-19”. There’s no date set yet for these temporary measures to end, but guidance says that the government will allow an 8-week window to carry out the required checks of original documents once they do finish.

With the number of fake documents in circulation increasing, preventing fraudsters from slipping through the net is ever more challenging. In the past year, our customers saw fake identity documents claiming to represent 52 different nationalities. While the updated guidance makes remote checks easier, many recruiters may not be confident checking documents remotely without being able to touch and see original documents and may also be relying on a dispersed team with minimal document training. So, remote checking can also mean an inconsistent, uncertain and less robust process for recruiters.

Brexit and beyond Covid-19 isn't the only issue affecting RtW checks today: the post Brexit world has also raised challenges. The Home Office has not yet published full details on how to check RtW of EEA nationals not on the EUSS after 30th June 2021 although we do know that recruiters will no longer be able to accept EU passports or ID cards as evidence from those applicants and should instead ask them to provide an appropriate visa. The lack of absolute clarity is understandably causing some concern, with many organisations turning to expert identity service providers for advice on remaining complaint during these changing times.

The good news is that there are several straightforward, affordable ways to protect your agency from the risks of illegal working and remain compliant with RtW legislation, even in challenging times. How you choose to carry out identity checks will depend on your processes, internal skills and the perceived level of risk in your sector. For example, if you’re recruiting a high number of temporary candidates, particularly in a sector like construction, your risk of seeing fake identity documents is relatively high. TrustID customers working with the construction sector accounted for 38.2% of all fraudulent documents in 2020 and three in every 100 documents checked by them were fake. Identity checking experts can help with online tools which offer additional security checks on global identity documents, even from a scanned copy. These specialist providers may also offer additional features, for example, a remote-upload option for applicants to send copies over a secure link, or higher-level security checks, such as facial recognition software, which checks a candidate’s selfie against the photograph in their identity document to verify that they match. A good identity service provider can quickly assess whether a document is real and offer guidance on the right documents to request from applicants as evidence of RtW in the UK, even as immigration guidance changes. Investing in a new process during uncertain times may feel risky, so look for a service which offers a low minimum order or no long-term contract. As we don’t know how long restrictions will remain, or what the finalised post-Brexit guidance will be, this type of service gives you the flexibility you need to protect your agency in the short term. For more information, please visit: or call 0118 466 0822.


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The pandemic has changed how and where recruiters work and also an increased reliance on technology. Here are three viewpoints of recruitment tech’s ‘new normal’ 40 RECRUITER

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How easy/difficult was it to adapt to home/remote working? Although the severity of the situation at the outset of the crisis did come on with what seemed like surprising speed, we were perhaps thinking and planning around it earlier than most here in the UK. The group’s international footprint proved its worth, as we have an extensive operation in Vietnam – so when the virus took hold in China, we began to take measures to bolster the Vietnamese business. Teams began to alternate between working in the office and working from home, and we addressed network and hardware issues given that many of our staff do their work on desktops rather than laptops. The experience in Vietnam meant that we were soon live planning for the rest of the business, too. Our IT team performed some amazing work, upgrading our network capacity where needed and migrating systems to the cloud that weren’t already hosted there. When lockdown began, we were ready in terms of systems and connectivity. Everyone began to work from home, and the transition felt relatively smooth. It has perhaps become more difficult as the pandemic has continued, as some people have begun to flag somewhat from the endless stream of video calls and online meetings – a common problem that all businesses are experiencing.


What are your biggest challenges? From the start of the crisis, I made it a priority that as a business we should be there for our people, clients and candidates – communicating, updating, supporting and being visible. People really kept in touch with their clients and candidates, and it wasn’t long

THE GLOBAL RECRUITMENT CONSULTANCY Bev White, CEO, Harvey Nash Group before there were some brilliant social activities going on over Teams or Zoom as well – quizzes, exercise sessions, cookery classes and more. More formally, we entered into a partnership with Uhubs, providing content for our people, clients, contractors and staff, and running sessions on multiple different topics from mental wellbeing to self-management. We also set up a website which showcases some of the incredible and inspiring stories of people in the tech business who lost their position or contract due to the virus but then moved on and found a new role.”

How is technology helping you tackle these and what tech is proving most valuable? We have extensively used Hinterview to conduct and record first-stage interviews on behalf of our clients, as well as the more usual MS Teams and Zoom. We have also provided advice to our clients and candidates on how to ensure that virtual interviewing, from

both sides of the screen, is as smooth and effective as possible.

How is technology helping you to preserve the human side of recruiting and what tips do you have for others? We have recently used vTogether, a virtual platform for hosting internal meetings, and at the same time we have also worked hard to introduce a culture where anyone can simply ask ‘How are you?’. This is even more important in a virtual world, as meetings can often start and stop abruptly with little or no small talk about what is happening in our professional and personal lives. We are also implementing a new engagement platform called Hive HR, where everyone has the opportunity to feedback and tell us how they are feeling. Not only do we expect this to boost teamwork and engagement, but we would also hope that it works in parallel with our other initiatives to support the mental wellbeing of our staff.


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THE TECHNOLOGY PROVIDER Dan Kirkland, co-founder and director, TribePad

What is the recruiter’s new normal looking like? There’s no simple one-size-fits-all answer, as different companies and different jobs will still require different processes. However, digitisation of end-to-end processes will feature. Much less paper is being exchanged during the recruitment process, which is a welcome change for most. Additionally, geography is no longer the boundary it was previously perceived to be. This is great for recruitment if your company plans to continue to support remote working. Your talent pool geography may now have increased from 30 miles radius of your office to around 200 countries (regulations allowing).

Covid-19 has clearly accelerated a trend to an increased use of video interviewing and tech such as AI in the screening process. What are the up and downsides of this?

more efficient. Two of the possible downsides recruiters need to look out for are a) how much they can remove the human element and b) some tools overclaim the use of AI and, worse still, provide no transparency of how fair that AI is. For example, some AI-enabled tools purport to reduce unconscious bias but have been programmed by white males and with small datasets. That’s not a good combination for tackling unconscious bias.

What tech are recruiters asking for during this difficult time? Nearly every recruiter has been slingshot to a world where their entire recruitment process had to be digitised over the past year. This starts with having a robust ATS [applicant tracking system] and CRM [client/candidate relationship

For me, there are more upsides than downsides. These tools help automate manual processes and provide a consistent, accessible and more transparent and accountable recruitment process. Therefore, it should be fairer, more repeatable and


management system] to help with job advertising and pipelining candidates through the process. In the absence of face-to-face interviews, online assessing tools like SHL, PredictiveHire, SpeakNow and their ilk have been key to helping recruiters identify the best candidates. It would be impossible to imagine recruitment without video-interviewing tools in the last year. Later in the process recruiters have turned to e-signature platforms to ensure employment contracts can still be signed in a timely, remote fashion. Even later in the workflow, many firms have digitised their onboarding process, something that has been on their agenda for years, but the pandemic has forced the move.

Do you think the pandemic will change the use of technology in recruitment forever? No doubt about it. Previously, some companies and recruiters were ‘video sceptics’. And some companies hadn’t digitised their contracts or onboarding process. Now these tools and processes have been thrust upon companies and recruiters, and everyone has realised the benefits and efficiencies that they bring. In fact, many companies have identified a significant decrease in time-to-hire (some quoting more than 40+% decreases) since bringing more of their process online. Assessments, interviews, signing contracts, reference checking and onboarding is quicker. Why would you want to go back to old processes? However, among the excitement of decreased time-to-hire, there will no doubt be another recalibration. Many companies and recruiters will be desperate to reintroduce more direct human touch points back into the recruitment process. Second and subsequent stage interviews are likely to see a significant shift back to face-to-face. And many recruiters have implemented a ‘forced tactical’ process rather than an optimal one for a new world, so I definitely see a refinement of processes, especially onboarding once more people can get back to the office.

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Finally, a recruiter’s greatest attribute – empathy – has had to be used in tenfold due to the current candidate market. Candidate experience is more important than ever, not just from an employer branding perspective but from a simple humanistic level.

How is technology helping you tackle these and what tech is proving most valuable?


What are your biggest challenges?

Ben Gledhill, head of resourcing, Thames Water

How easy/difficult was it to revert to homeworking? Personally, very difficult. I am very much a people person, and I feed off the energy of others. However, being pragmatic I am still in employment doing a job that I love. Many are in far worse situations, so you have to be appreciative.

The pandemic has thrown up many challenges that we had weeks to fix, not months or years. My main concern is the wellbeing of my team and wider colleagues. We all have had both personal and professional problems to overcome so I have ensured that their health – both mental and physical – comes first. From a wider resourcing perspective, we have had to adapt to operating a function from behind Microsoft Teams, which itself brings huge challenges when it comes to building and maintaining relationships with hiring managers and leaders.

Well, trust me to lead a technology implementation programme through Covid. We went live in February 2021 with a new applicant tracking system, onboarding platform and FAQ chatbot to improve both the candidate, new starter and hiring manager experience. In this new normal, more than ever, the resourcing function wants to please, especially when it comes to creating an experience for new starters that really sets them up for success on day one, which in most cases will be a virtually-based role working from home.

How is technology helping you to preserve the human side of recruiting and what tips do you have for others? Technology is only as good as the humans that use it and the reasons why they use it. I think we need to consider that Teams/Zoom actually might be overkill. Yes, we need to be social and keep in contact, however, being in front of a camera six or seven hours a day is very demanding physically. People need downtime. From personal experience, give yourself a break. It’s been a tough time and many things in life will still be challenging for a time to come. Don’t be afraid to sometimes admit defeat, close the laptop and return another day.


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