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Growing in a Pandemic

Pandemic Series: Part Four

published on
September 9, 2021

One of the biggest obstacles brought on by the pandemic and remote working has been learning how to interview and onboard new hires in a fully virtual way. Finding the right fit for any position is difficult enough as it is, but doing it through a screen poses additional challenges.

THE INTERVIEWING PROCESS 

To comply with COVID-19 guidelines, all interviews in 2020-21 took place virtually via Zoom. In order to do this in an effective way, we divided our interview team along  departments, and had candidates interview with each individual department. While having potential candidates meet with more team members than usual meant a slightly longer process, it allowed everyone involved more time to get acquainted and determine whether people were the right fit for us, and us for them. Lucky for us, our new hires were troopers and made this part pretty easy on us. We worked hard to return the favor by keeping interviews informative but mostly lighthearted.

 

THE ONBOARDING PROCESS

Interviewing and hiring new team members was only half the battle. Onboarding new hires was another process that changed quite a bit as a result of the pandemic. In an effort to provide extra support to those who joined our team during this strange time, we paired new hires with an “onboarding buddy” from outside of their department who was available to them to answer any and all questions (no matter how silly). We also scheduled weekly coffee chats to allow time for banter and question-asking that happens naturally in an office setting but is harder to accomplish from a distance. 

Beyond this, we created an internal website with all things S/M to help onboard employees remotely. These customized web pages for new hires had answers to FAQs and shared best practices which specifically pertained to that individual. This is an onboarding process which was implemented as a result of the current circumstances, but that we plan to continue using moving forward.

FROM A NEW HIRE’S PERSPECTIVE

According to our new hires, this process had its highs and lows. Interviewing virtually meant for easier scheduling, no frantic drives, and the chance to meet team members they otherwise wouldn’t have met until starting the job. But like all social interactions, connecting through a screen isn’t the same. Knowing whether they were understanding and answering questions appropriately (spoiler: you were!), making eye contact, and directing answers and questions to specific individuals were all pretty challenging.

The same was true for onboarding. New hires appreciated the addition of department calls and the intranet pages and felt that overall, the process was well-organized and purposeful. Even still, it could feel overwhelming to them to be on their own at the end of a call and needing to figure out the ins-and-outs of work processes and office life without the ability to lean over and ask a question of a colleague or simply observe their workflow. 

We found that communication early and often with new hires was key, as was some early virtual socializing where new hires were asked to attend but not made to be the center of attention.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

It hasn’t been an easy time for our team and our new hires, but we’ve been blown away by the willingness for everyone involved to lend a hand. We’ve learned a lot about how to grow a team under very challenging circumstances that we’ll certainly take forward—not the least of which is the power of empathy. Remote interviewing and hiring requires that everyone consider how the human being on the other side of the screen is feeling—and that won’t end when we’re back at opposite sides of the conference room table.

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