Being recruited during the COVID-19 pandemic

It can be a complex experience starting a new job, but what happens if that’s during a Pandemic?

Early March 2020, I was looking for a new challenge, a new role, and a new team to grow with. Fast forward by 23 days and the United Kingdom went into full lockdown due the Coronavirus pandemic! Boris Johnson was shutting down the entire country; shops, restaurants, gyms, schools and concerningly for me, this meant recruitment was going to come to a standstill… or so I thought!

On 21 April 2020, I applied and emailed Atkinson HR Consulting regarding a job I had seen online, People and Development Consultant. I was sceptical of how viable this role was going to be due to lockdown, however it became rapidly clear that despite recruitment having paused for most of the UK, for this specific business they weren’t going to let a pandemic stop them in their tracks.

Going through a virtual recruitment process end-to-end was peculiar, however I was exceptionally grateful for being interviewed at all during such a turbulent time, especially with the rising concerns over the UK economy. This created a natural anxiety due to the fear in the practicality of a) not actually meeting my interviewers/being able to read body-language, and additionally b) if/when I got the job, how would that be having never met anyone from the team or understanding the culture of the business. With each passing phase of the recruitment process, the closer I got to the endpoint, and the more I realised I was holding my breath for this role to become mine! I think on reflection this was due to the commitment, on both parts, there was almost this unspoken loyalty that we were in it together.

It became increasingly clear to me that the virtual approach was actually very humble, even if I was sat in my slippers throughout, and fundamentally my interviewers were in the same boat; it was equally as strange for them. The process became a journey and far less of the box-ticking exercise interviews can sometimes feel like. And finally, after multiple interviews, the job became mine.

Day one soon rolled around, the induction programme was received, the new-job nerves were in place, Zoom was updated, and everything went smoothly. I found the stereotypical day-one of starting a new job was non-existent, I didn’t have to have a tour of the building, I didn’t need to be shown were the printer was, and nor did I need to meet people while making a coffee that I couldn’t remember their names! Day one in this new job was possibly more productive than any week one previously; I could just get on with the job. At the end of the first week, I had accomplished all I could hope for… all the virtual meetings went well (minus the time the dishwasher started beeping mid-meeting), and I started to get to know our clients and the team pretty quickly (confession time: The thumbnails of everyone’s name gave me a easy win!).

My first few weeks featured plenty of reading of specialist books, I have listened to multiple podcasts, watched several TED Talks. Additionally, I’ve been shadowing my team during meetings with clients and absorbing as much as I can about Consultancy; which at the beginning of this new role felt a little alien, but is now becoming the ‘norm’; observing that progress has been reassuringly pleasant.

It’s been fascinating; one of the reasons I wanted this role was to gain insight into several organisations and have a meaningful influence, and 7 weeks in, I can confidently say I am achieving that aspiration. I am now actively working on client projects and enjoying being able to put my knowledge and learning into practice.

My key takeaways between starting the job and today are:

  • Virtual recruitment works exceptionally well, and I genuinely feel organisations will continue to do the first stages of recruitment virtually moving forward, whether in or out of the Pandemic.

  • The biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome is all around reading people and body language, having come from a Military background, my ‘bread and butter’ is all about people and the power of body language, and although difficult to do virtually, I am learning vastly on language rather than mannerisms.

  • The best thing about being recruited and working remotely is the abundance of trust and loyalty which goes into each and every day, which I’ll always fall head over heels/slippers for!

  • I have come to learn that traditional approaches in recruitment/induction, although they work in the overall outcome delivery, now seem a million miles from this process I’ve been through. I have felt that the process really has been a journey, and no doubt will continue to do so as I settle into this exciting new path of my career.

Almost two months into the role, I would say that I have just about mastered the remote working rhythm and while I can confidently say it’s been much easier than I expected, I look forward to getting to the face-to-face meetings with clients and finally meet the team without having to ensure my laptop is charged!

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