With more people working from home because of COVID-19, it appears that remote work is here to stay. That complicates things when a new worker is hired: often, social distancing measures forces employers to recruit and onboard candidates virtually, without even meeting them in person.

As a result, Human Resource teams are reinventing the hiring process. While the change may push hiring managers and candidates beyond their comfort zone, both groups have found there's a lot to like about remote hiring and onboarding.

Video and collaboration apps like MiTeam Meetings make it easy for HR professionals and hiring managers to meet with external parties and forge authentic connections. Though they aren't in the same room – and, in fact, may be hundreds or thousands of miles apart – both sides can look each other in the eye and read important visual cues.

Compared to a phone interview, video makes it easier to assess personality, capabilities, competencies and fit. After the hiring decision's made and the offer's accepted, video and collaboration technology facilitates onboarding.

Top benefits of remote hiring

Not surprisingly, interviewers and candidates have different perspectives on remote hiring. However, they generally agree it offers improvements over the traditional experience. Here are five reasons why.

1. Expands the talent pool

With most employees working remotely, hiring managers now have greater flexibility in recruiting. They're able to cast a wider net and pursue top talent, no matter where candidates are located. As Ryan Smith, content strategy manager, says, "Hiring remotely vastly opens the pool of candidates and allows me to select the best person, wherever they may be.

That concept works both ways. Remote hiring provides candidates with more opportunities, because now they can consider roles outside of their geographic area.

2. Easier to schedule

Scheduling in-person interviews can be a nightmare, especially when more than one interviewer is involved. When calendars don't align, it can be challenging to find a day and time when everyone's on-site and available.

Virtual interviews take the headache out of interview scheduling. With everyone at home, people have more availability on their calendars and greater flexibility.

3. More efficient

Both managers and candidates find remote hiring to be a more streamlined process than conducting in-person interviews. For organizations, it's more efficient because they can schedule back-to-back interviews. It's also easier to engage the right people in the hiring conversation when multiple interviewers can simply join from their desk.

Similarly, remote hiring is more efficient and less costly for candidates. Without the need to travel, they have greater flexibility to schedule several interviews, whether it's within the same day or same week.

5. Eliminates interview stress

Interviewing for a job is inherently stressful. Candidates want to appear cool and confident, but they can easily become flustered on the way to the office. The risk of getting lost or being late is always on their minds, adding stress and risking a frazzled first impression.

Remote hiring removes such stressors. Joining a video interview from the comfort of their own home allows candidates to focus on the discussion itself and make a better impression.

"What I enjoyed most about interviewing from home was simply feeling much more comfortable than I had in previous face-to-face interviews. I didn't have to go through the stress of driving or finding the right train. I didn't need to worry about the possibility of getting lost or being late," says Tathra Sayer, a corporate communications specialist based in Mitel's Bracknell, UK, location. "These are the most stressful parts of the interview process for me, so eliminating them helped me focus on the important part: meeting the hiring manager."

Accelerates onboarding

The first few weeks on the job are a crucial time for new hires. They need to absorb the business' processes, become familiar with the organization chart and learn the company lingo. Fortunately, new employees find their virtual onboarding experiences, offered online and on-demand, to be more convenient and thorough than in-person sessions.

"I don't feel like I've missed out on anything," says Sayer. "On the contrary, I feel like my colleagues across the company have been even more attentive and helpful because we can't meet in person. They know I might not be able to find everything I need and have been anticipating my needs and questions."

Whenever Sayer needs some guidance, she knows it takes but an instant to open a web chat on MiCollab and get answers.

What's missing in remote hiring

Of course, interviewing in a virtual environment isn't perfect. So it's not surprising that both hiring managers and candidates face certain challenges.

Tough to get a true read

In-person hiring allows you to size up the individual across the table. Although video helps you "see" the other person, as well, it doesn't always provide a full picture. Both hiring managers and candidates often say being in the same room makes it easier to read the other person, assess the environment and make a connection.

"Hiring remotely removes some of those innate human senses that I believe we all have when we meet someone new," Smith says. "It's that connection that seals the deal, and it's much harder to get over a video."

Losing the in-person touches

Interviews are as much about the candidate learning about the company as they are about the hiring manager meeting the candidate. That's why the last portion of the interview can be so important. There's often an office tour, which allows candidates to get a sense of the work environment, and usually time to chit-chat in a more relaxed manner. This less formal atmosphere often fosters a stronger connection. By contrast, video interviews typically end shortly after the last question, omitting this all-important opportunity for each side to get to know each other.

Fitting in post-hire

Although onboarding can work well in a virtual environment, candidates say they often miss the serendipity of conversations with co-workers that are sprinkled throughout the day, over lunch or after work.

"Sharing the same space for 40+ hours of the week meant that I really got to know all of my colleagues on personal level. We shared and debated our perspectives on current events, random facts, knowledge and much more," says Sayer.

In a virtual environment, these moments are harder to replicate. As a result, some new hires may find it takes longer to develop a close working friendship with their new teammates.

6 tips for remote hiring and onboarding

Since remote hiring is relatively new, we still have much to learn about best practices. Based on our conversations with hiring managers and candidates, we've gleaned the following ideas, which may be helpful as you reinvent your own process.

1. Choose video over phone

Phone interviews have long been a staple of recruiting's early stages, but they can't match video calls for building that connections so crucial to determining the right fit. Some candidates may even think less of companies that conduct the entire process over the phone. That means firms that lean on phone interviews risk losing top talent.

During her search for a summer position, Haley Weger, an intern at Mitel, experienced both types of interviews and found she much preferred video conversations.

"The video interviews felt more like I was actually going into the office for an interview, and I honestly loved it far more than the phone calls," Weger says. "Now that most people are using video conferencing, the phone interviews just didn't leave as strong of an impression on me. It proves that a lot of other companies were not ready for the sudden shift to remote work."

2. Hiring principles haven't changed

Whether an interview is in-person or remote, the approach to hiring remains the same. Managers still must evaluate candidates based on attributes such as confidence, knowledge and experience. The depth of these traits is conveyed by communications skills, expressions, mannerisms and clothing choices – all best observed on video.

"Ultimately, I'm still looking at how they answer our questions and for cues as to the kind of worker and person they are," says Smith. "Can they confidently jump onto our team and get going, or will they be intimidated by the work?"

3. Relationship building is a priority

The most challenging part of onboarding is helping new hires build relationships with colleagues. In person, this happens organically. But in a virtual environment, everyone needs to work harder to connect. Managers should take the lead by inviting new hires to as many meetings as possible during the first few weeks. It's the most efficient way to introduce newcomers to their co-workers, orient them with the organization and help them understand their tasks and role.

In addition, regular feedback and weekly check-ins will uncover any roadblocks and allow managers to field questions about the organization.

"I have weekly one-to-ones with our new team member," says Natasha McNulty, content strategist at Mitel. "Even though she lives in Texas and I live in Ottawa, Canada, we have impromptu video calls to discuss new projects or message in MiCollab. She has attended our marketing team coffee break and is a regular part of our team calls."

4. Collaborate in the cloud

Although teams may be spread apart, a cloud-based workspace brings everyone together and allows them to collaborate in real time. It also shortens the learning curve for new employees. In the cloud, managers can immediately edit and provide feedback on assignments once they're handed in.

5. Click to communicate

Collaboration tools, like MiCollab's web chat and video, are fast becoming worthy replacements for instant in-person interactions. McNulty feels they bring her closer to new employees in a way that being in the office together can't.

During one-to-one meetings, video gives her a glimpse into her employee's world – and the new hire gets a glimpse into hers. "I can see her dog in the background, and she's had a good introduction to my kids," McNulty says. This personal connection makes it easier to build a stronger working relationship.

6. Reimagine social events

For new hires to be fully integrated into the organization, they have to build relationships with other employees. Because of that, social interactions are just as important as professional ones. In an era of social distancing, the trick is to make such experiences as personal as possible, even with remote working. Many companies have instituted regular "coffee breaks" inviting a diverse group of people to expand the new hire's circle.

As remote hiring and onboarding becomes more ingrained in company practices, it's likely the rough edges will smooth out. But already, the benefits seem to outweigh the challenges. With video and collaboration tools like Mitel MiCollab, even a pandemic isn't an obstacle to bringing top talent onboard.

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