Recruiting Goes On

30 April, 2020

By Klaus Schlagheck, SCHLAGHECK+RADTKE (Germany)

Introduction:

SCHLAGHECK + RADTKE executive consultants, a member of Praxi Alliance, was requested to provide head hunting services for a long-standing customer of our French partner, FSC executive search. The initial contact with the client and the briefing about the specifics of the assignment took place at the end of February – shortly before COVID-19 took control over our social lives and business relationships in Germany. At that time, nobody expected that the virus would lead to such a dramatic change in our daily lives and business processes as what we are facing today.

The client, a well-known and reputable producer of medical devices, has expanded rapidly over the past decade and now has operations spanning a multitude of countries, with Germany being its largest foreign sales market. Due to an upcoming relocation of the regional marketing department from one part of the country to another, the client needed several Brand Managers in order to keep marketing operations running in one of its most important markets.

Briefing:

Due to the severe time constraints of the involved decision makers, and even before COVID-19 restrictions, the introduction of our consultancy and the briefing took place virtually via video conference. This was the first time that we had started a collaboration, with a new and formerly unknown client, solely based on a virtual meeting. To our surprise, it worked – with mutual build-up of trust during the discussion. We gained all the information we needed to develop a clear picture of the job profiles, the company’s narrative and the advantages of this opportunity for the right candidates — a process which has always been fundamental to our success.

Interviewing and presenting candidates:

Even as we started to approach potential targets, we were still thinking about inviting candidates for personal interviews in our offices. In fact, after several initial telephone interviews, we had scheduled in-person interviews with some promising candidates. Due to COVID-19, these interviews could not take place. In the meantime, our client´s hiring manager was under quarantine in France.

Although we had used video calls for interviews even before COVID-19, we had never asked our clients or candidates to consider the waiver of any in-person meetings before signing a contract. However, in this case, the virus forced us to change our approach. So, each candidate was invited to several video interviews with several decision makers, including some case study discussions via shared screens. Each of the video sessions lasted about 60 or 90 minutes – providing an opportunity to get acquainted as much as possible during the hiring process.

Finalizing the process:

At the end of the process, it was quite clear that neither the French hiring manager nor the HR manager was able to leave France for finalizing the candidates personally. Finally, on the client´s side, the willingness to hire two of the candidates by skipping any in-person meeting became apparent.

Our next task was to carefully prepare the candidates to be hired and take the final step into their new professional environment. We were unsure that the candidates would be fully convinced to join a new company and to take over a new professional role — with nothing but only presentations and explanations over several video conversations. Surprisingly, this was not very difficult. During the process, a sufficient basis of trust was built between all participants. The fact that the candidates were relatively young (late 20´s and early 30´s) and highly motivated, helped a lot. Besides that, apart from the hiring manager, several other managers like the Sales Director, Medical Director, HR, MD and, in one case even the CEO, were available for the candidates during the process. Nevertheless, the onboarding of the candidates will take place as soon as possible and in-person.

Conclusion:

Not knowing for how long COVID-19 will hold us hostage, this hiring experience was very encouraging for us. Today, we are much more confident than at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis that our business can cope even with social distancing constraints. In this case, client and consultants have proved that the development of mutual trust is not necessarily dependant on in-person encounters – and that recruiting goes on.