Hiring process goes online amid Covid-19 pandemic; job seekers may face longer wait and more competition

This brings both benefits and challenges for employers and job seekers, say experts

Going online in recruitment has brought both benefits and challenges for employers and job seekers. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

With the coronavirus pandemic changing almost every aspect of life, job seekers are now having to adapt to companies' new hiring processes.

Going online in recruitment has brought both benefits and challenges for employers and job seekers, said hiring experts.

Job seekers might face longer interview processes and more competition for roles, as companies put the brakes on hiring and more people look for work due to retrenchments.

A survey by recruitment agency Randstad in June and July found that the hiring process took one to three months for about 40 per cent of respondents, as companies receive more applications.

Ms Jaya Dass, Randstad's managing director for Malaysia and Singapore, noted: "There are definitely fewer face-to-face interviews taking place this year, as many companies have adopted strict measures to limit physical interactions.

"However, video interviews have their limitations. It's difficult to gauge a candidate's personality and working style... Candidates will also have to make more movements to show that they are interested in the job, as some of the energy and body language get lost in translation over video."

She added that due to a lack of physical interaction, some employers also ask candidates to take a psychometric assessment - a test of personality characteristics and cognitive abilities - to determine if they are a good fit for the job and the company culture.

ManpowerGroup Singapore country manager Linda Teo said that besides such assessments, job seekers at some companies also have to go through more interviews with different people within the organisation, as the hiring managers want to gather more opinions before making a decision.

"These, plus tightened hiring budgets, have resulted in companies taking a longer time to make a decision as they want to ensure they are hiring the right talent. Some companies have also changed to doing onboarding online to reduce the need for physical meet-ups," she added.

She noted that in the current market, there are more job seekers than positions available as most companies have reduced hiring activities.

Competition for jobs has intensified, with an average increase of about 15 per cent in applications per role, she added.

Adecco Singapore country manager Betul Genc said the hiring process has been lengthened because firms are taking a conservative and cautious approach amid the economic downturn.

She added that the firm has observed a 10 per cent rise in the number of job seekers for permanent roles in the first half of the year, compared with the same period last year.

This increase went up to 40 per cent for temporary and contract roles.

FastJobs Singapore general manager Lim Huishan noted that a benefit of virtual interviews is that they can be more convenient for both recruiters and job hunters.

But they can also face technical issues such as connectivity, while those who are less tech-savvy or adaptable to digital tools can risk being left behind.

Some employers still require a face-to-face interview in the next stage after the video interviews, to ensure the person is a right fit for the role, she noted.

Generally, to ace interviews, experts said candidates should showcase their flexibility and adaptability, besides speaking about their past jobs and experiences.

Ms Dass said: "Besides the run-of-the-mill achievements from a typical career, job seekers should speak about past experiences that demonstrate their lifelong learning attitude and agility in adapting to a new environment, or their ability to lead change or overcome an unexpected and difficult situation."

Ms Teo noted that job seekers also need to adjust to digital tools.

"They need to be familiar with the digital technology being used in the hiring process and learn how to capitalise on it to position themselves as candidates of choice," she said, such as tapping social media to market themselves online, as well as network with prospective employers and recruiters.

"They also should learn best practices for video interviews to increase their chances of getting the job. Most importantly, they should spend some time to tailor their resumes to fit the role that they are applying for, instead of using a generic resume," she added.

Employers also need to do their part, by learning how to evaluate candidates without relying on physical cues or responses that are more apparent in-person than over video or phone, Ms Teo said.

Even human resource staff and team leaders have to adjust, especially if onboarding a new hire is done online, she added.

"While the new hires can collaborate with their new teammates over video calls, it might take a longer time for them to foster workplace camaraderie due to the lack of physical interactions."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2020, with the headline Hiring process goes online amid Covid-19 pandemic; job seekers may face longer wait and more competition . Subscribe