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What our recruitment team learned from the pandemic
It is an understatement to say that COVID-19 has brought seismic and unprecedented changes to traditional work patterns. Many people have got used to not commuting to the office and have grown accustomed to working from home.
The pandemic has also made it much harder for recruiters to hire outstanding candidates. With around 11.6 million jobs still furloughed, many have resisted the temptation to seek out new opportunities and temporarily put their careers on hold.
This in itself has presented monumental challenges for recruiters – particularly those hiring for senior positions in social care. At Quality Compliance Systems (QCS), the leading provider of content, guidance and standards for the social care sector, we’ve managed to buck the trend and hired a raft of outstanding candidates during the pandemic. But it has not been easy. We have had to adapt to these extraordinary times and also to the unique pandemic disrupted jobs market. So what's the secret of recruiting in a global health crisis?
Recruitment challenges in the crisis
Firstly, every recruiter needs to understand the individual challenges that a capricious and sometimes chaotic labour market has magnified. As it is unprecedented – at least in our lifetimes – sometimes the trends that have emerged haven’t been easy to spot. At QCS, we analysed the pandemic in stages. Each lockdown brought about a unique set of challenges, and the only way to rise to each one was to understand how people were feeling.
During the first lockdown, for instance, we received a phenomenal number of CVs. People were scared. They were worried they would lose their jobs. But as soon as the furlough kicked in, many became much more secure in their roles and no matter how many recruitment ads we posted, hiring for senior positions became much more challenging.
By the time the third national lockdown kicked in, many people had become used living with furlough. At one level, however, I think many began to crave a return to normality and having lived with the pandemic for so long, again, many were frightened. In the event of another lockdown, some were worried that a new organisation might not be sympathetic to them home-schooling their children. Others were worried at the prospect of starting somewhere new in remote working conditions. Many candidates expressed concern about the timing of a move despite the pull to advance their careers. Recruiters often forget that the decision to join a new organisation is not their decision alone. Quite understandably, partners have a big say too and collectively many families felt it was simply the wrong time for their partners to change jobs.
Overcoming the hiring obstacles brought about by the pandemic
So, what did our recruitment team do to adapt to challenges of hiring in the pandemic? Firstly, we take great pride in staying true to our values: ‘Do the right thing’, Make it better’, ‘Play for the team’ and ‘Get it done’. In the first wave of the pandemic, having received an 80 percent rise in applications, it would have been tempting to use application tracking technology to sift through applications. We stuck to our values, however, and read and reviewed every single application. Not just because it was the right thing to do, but because application trackers, in my opinion, can be quite linear and sometimes lead to outstanding candidates being overlooked.
There is no substitute for skilled recruiters reviewing candidates and so to ensure our service delivery levels did not drop, we hired an additional recruiter for a fixed term to support us.
That doesn’t mean of course that we didn't utilise technology as a recruitment tool. We are a technology company and we are deeply committed to innovation. However, we firmly believe that technology supports our decisions; it doesn't make them. Like many organisations, before the pandemic we began using the Predictive Index Behavioural tool, which helps us to assess the innate behaviours of applicants. As a mark of transparency, we always send candidates the report. Not only is it the right thing to do – it serves as a good learning tool and one which they can use to their advantage when applying for future roles.
It was also important to us too that we wrote to every single candidate regardless of whether or not they were successful in the recruitment process. We also made a point of answering all of their questions and gave out our direct emails and mobile phone numbers so they could easily contact us. Many were extremely grateful as they had heard nothing from other organisations that they had sent applications to. Some even wrote to us to express their gratitude.
During the last year, we were very busy. Our staff headcount more than doubled. That doesn’t mean to say that we took any short cuts when hiring. Global health crisis or not – we always want to be absolutely sure that we are hiring the right candidate for the right job.
In this respect, our recruitment process is very thorough. We want to understand the person applying, and check that they are comfortable with our values. When we start the process, I will always tell candidates that we need ‘to make sure that QCS is the right place for you to land’.
The Head of Social Care role
Currently, we are recruiting for the Head of Social Care. It’s a senior position that is integral to our future prospects and growth. The person we recruit will become the head, the heart and the voice of QCS. We’re looking for a leader – someone with stellar quality, commercial know-how and vast experience of working in the social care or health sectors. But most of all, we're searching for an experienced candidate, who has not forgotten why they chose to work in the sector all those years ago. It's that passion, that drive – and that deep and lasting connection to care that separates outstanding applicants from good ones.
We’re still seeking the right person to fit the role. It’s worth stating that we’ve met some wonderful candidates – all of whom has stand-out skill sets, but we still haven’t found the right person yet. The pandemic, however, has helped us to see the bigger picture. It's taught us the value of waiting for the right candidate to fill the right role. With everything we've learned during the crisis, we’re confident that we'll find that extra special person soon.
The article was first published in The Career, Issue #65
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