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The Hiring Process and How to Get Hired Post-Pandemic

What are employers really looking for in an applicant?

March 2020 and the arrival of Covid-19 saw a sudden shift in employment worldwide. The way we work, and the way we live our lives changed dramatically. Fast forward to 2022, and now with very few, if any, restrictions in place and an element of job security returning many are now deciding this is the right moment to start the hunt for their new role.

As we have started to return to the ‘new normal’ we have seen many people ditch the traditional 9-5 job role in favour of more flexible working arrangements, and a focus on wellbeing within their workplace, which has seen many looking for their next opportunity. 

In light of this we decided to sit down with Wendy who is in charge of the hiring of all new staff here at Best Reception, to get her take on how the hiring process has changed over the last two years and to find out her top tips for candidates.

In your opinion has the pandemic changed the hiring process at all?

Yes I would argue that it has. I think the pandemic changed the way people view work – what they are getting from it, balancing their jobs with the rest of their lives; people want a job that is going to work for them and in which they feel valued. Post-lockdown we were inundated with applicants who no longer wanted to commute long distances for work and who no longer want to work on zero hour contracts but want proper job security.

Do you find that it is now more difficult to find the right candidate
for the role?

Yes and no!  We are now attracting a lot more applicants for the positions we advertise so it takes more time to sift through these and narrow down the process.  But on the flip side, we tend to be attracting more candidates with additional experience, who may previously have worked in London or other big cities, but who now value not having to spend two hours or more commuting to and from work.

What changes have you made in the hiring process since Covid?

We have always telephone screened candidates prior to inviting them in for an interview – having an excellent telephone manner is a key part of the job!  Since Covid we have continued to do this, but have also continued to ask candidates to come into the office for a face to face interview, if they have passed this initial part of the interview process.  We have done this as safely as possible, wearing face masks and ensuring a two metre distance at all times.  But we believe that applicants need to see our office environment and we also need to meet potential staff face to face.

On average, how many people do you interview for each role?

This is impossible to answer! We are very much ‘candidate led’ and go with the right person for the job rather than always selecting someone who is the best that we have interviewed on a given day. Sometimes we can spend a week interviewing and find nobody suitable. On another day, I may offer a position to three applicants as I feel they all have the skills we need.

Has the type of applicant changed at all?

We have always had a fantastic reputation for employing staff with excellent skills from a variety of backgrounds. Since Covid, we are now finding that people are coming to us with extremely transferrable customer service skills from even more areas of employment, which is really benefiting our business.

What do you look for in a successful candidate?

It is ALL about attitude! We offer a telephone based service so we need people who have excellent communication skills and can really get their personalities across over the phone, which is not always as easy as it sounds. We also need people to have a real ‘can-do’ profile and a willingness to learn new skills. Since the pandemic, we are no longer hot desking in the office so I also need to bear in mind where the successful candidate will be seated and ensuring they are a good personality fit – we work very closely as a team and this is really important.

Do you find candidates expect more from a role now?

Yes, I think so.  The pandemic gave us all a chance to reflect on our lives and work out what is important.  I always ask candidates why they have applied for a position with us – the number one answer by far is that they want to be able to progress and grow within a company – people are looking much more for a career rather than a job, and want to be happy in their workplace.

Do you have any tips to make your CV stand out to a potential employer?

I always prefer a CV that is original rather than one composed by one of the big employment websites.  Your CV is your story and personality, and needs to reflect you!  Make sure you have all your employment on there and all your qualifications too.  Be prepared to answer questions on anything you have written on your CV – even if the experience isn’t relevant in your mind, there will be transferable skills (e.g. communication, organisation etc) that you can show you can bring to the role.  And always proofread your CV for spelling and grammatical errors – we
are looking for excellent written communication skills as well as verbal so this needs to be
reflected on your application. 

Candidates that attach a covering letter to their CV explaining why they want the position and what they can bring, always catch my eye when reading through applications.  Remember, the employer could have literally hundreds of applications so make yours stand out!

What are your interview tips for candidates?

Read up on the company before you go to interview – not just their website but their social media sites too.  Not only will this make you more knowledgeable about the company but you will gain a real insight into the company ethos this way.  Interviews are scary but try and remain calm and composed if you can – an interviewer is giving up their time to meet with you – they want it to go well as much as you do!  Let your personality shine through.  Remember an interview is a two way process so don’t forget to ask questions to see if it is a good fit for you.

What kind of questions do you expect candidates to ask at an interview?

I love it when a candidate asks me something totally unexpected!  But aside from that, have a few questions at your fingertips that show you’ve really thought about the job. Some may get answered during the interview so try to think of a few beforehand.  Feel free to bring a list with you – it shows you have thought about things and really want the position.

What are your tips for a successful candidate's first day?

Be on time or slightly early – being late on day one is a real no no!  Aside from that, try and enjoy it!  Be open to learning new ways of doing things, step out of your comfort zone and if you’re nervous, a smile goes a long way!

What should a potential employee not do during the hiring/interview process? What would cost them the job apart from the obvious?

Never be negative about a former/current employer.  You may currently have a job that you don’t enjoy or where you don’t feel valued but be careful of how you phrase things and about allocating blame.  Focus instead on what you are looking for in a future employer rather than how much you hate your current boss! Additionally, don’t turn up late to the interview – no one wants to employ someone who can’t be on time for their working day – the interview is the first part in this process – however perfect you are for the job you’re unlikely to get it if you can’t be punctual.

We have all seen the stats about people looking for a new career that may suit their lifestyle better post-pandemic. With this concern what strategies have you implemented within the business to keep existing staff content and fulfilled in their roles?

Staff welfare is extremely important to us at Best Reception.  During the pandemic, many of our staff worked from home and whilst most enjoyed it at first, we started to see people struggling with their mental health and emotions.  We implemented a buddying system to ensure that staff felt connected to the office and had a safe person to chat to if they were finding things difficult.

At Best Reception we are all about working with the individual staff member to support them in achieving their potential.  Over the last 12 months, we have amended our line management strategy so people now get one to one sessions a minimum of every 3 months with their line manager.  During these sessions goals are set for the next 3 months to ensure that everyone now has goals to work towards and is progressing.  We promote staff at Best Reception based on ability rather than how long they have been with the company. We endeavour to support our staff to progress wherever possible and equip them with the skills they need to do so. 

It is really, really important to us at Best Reception that staff are happy at work.  Our staff work exceptionally hard but are rewarded for their work.  We have a culture of praising people wherever we can and I believe the regular line management sessions help with doing this. 

I am delighted that in a recent staff survey 100% of our employees said they felt supported emotionally at work.  In addition, 84% of staff said they felt valued at work and 85% were satisfied with their job role.  Going forward, one of my goals for the next 12 months is to work towards Best Reception gaining an Investors in People accreditation.  Staff are the absolute life blood of our company and a happy, productive workforce is key to our success as a business.

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