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Fluctuations in the job market caused by the coronavirus pandemic are causing some sectors to experience huge demand requiring rapid recruitment, while others face job losses. James Didgiunaitis, Director at Expion Search and Selection, shares his advice on the type of questions that you should be asking candidates now if you are recruiting.

Recruiting businesses are likely to see a significant increase in the number of people applying for the same job. While having the choice of more candidates can widen the chances of finding the best person for your business, it can also make the recruitment process that bit harder, which is why preparation and asking the right questions are critical.

Pre-screening questions

With more people out of work, it’s likely you’ll get many people applying for jobs not relevant to their skills or expertise. Incorporating pre-screening questions into your recruitment process allows you to filter applications, meaning you only spend time reviewing those who’ve passed the pre-screening. 

If you choose to use a recruitment partner to help you with finding the right candidate, they will do this for you, along with personally vetting the candidate too before sending over their details, therefore minimising the amount of time you have to spend on screening candidates.

If you don’t have a recruitment partner in place, then you might want to include pre-screening questions such as:

  • Do you have two years or more experience in project management?
  • Do you have a specific qualification?
  • Do you have experience in an FMCG environment?
  • Are you in a 15-mile radius to our HQ?
  • Do you have X years of experience in managing a team?

Of course, you may be willing to consider career-changers in light of the circumstances, so you will be able to tailor your pre-screening questions to ensure that you ask the questions that really matter to your business.

How did you spend your time in lockdown during the pandemic?

As of 7 June, 2020, statistics revealed 8.9 million jobs from 1.1 million different employers were furloughed in the UK as part of the government’s job retention scheme.

Understandably, during the lockdown, many people may have been faced with the challenge of childcare, homeschooling and caring for those most vulnerable. Tackling these unexpected challenges builds skills and it's likely that candidates will have other experiences to share about what they have been up to that will give you a good insight into their character.

Look out for candidates who have used this time productively, whether this is reading books, exercising, working on professional skills, homeschooling the kids (leadership and mentoring) or listening to podcasts while doing housework. 

What did you do to support your employer during the pandemic?

As a business owner, you will have been affected by the lockdown in many different ways. As a consequence, having supportive employees at this time would have been essential. Personality is key in a candidate, and whether they are proactive, reliable and can take leadership adds value to your company.

The pandemic has provided employees with an opportunity to step up and deal with challenges and show how they have supported their colleagues through this tough time. For instance, have they taken on more responsibility due to the furlough of a fellow member of staff or worked remotely? As an employer, we should be asking candidates what they did to help ensure business continuity during the pandemic, if applicable.

Tell me about a time during a lockdown that you surprised yourself.

This is a perfect time to use behavioural interview techniques such as "tell me about a time when..." to delve further into the individual’s personality and character. For example, asking the candidate to tell you about a time during a lockdown that they had surprised themself, you might hear that they found it difficult juggling work and homeschooling their children, but managed to tackle this challenge. Or perhaps they developed a new skill or hobby to pass the free time they had available. This shows proactive behaviour, which is what will be needed post-COVID.

Due to the pandemic, the talent pool is a lot more saturated, explain to us why we should choose you to fill the position over the competition.

Professional and personal development has never been as critical as it is right now. As a result of COVID-19, the world of work is set to change massively and will force businesses to evolve at a faster rate than they could have possibly have imagined.

In a world that is continuously changing, even more rapidly than pre-COVID-19, it is important to find commitment to and accountability for professional development in a candidate. With changes comes innovation; therefore, it’s important to have employees that will want to improve and adapt to continue positioning your company in the right direction.

Due to the pandemic, the talent pool is a lot more saturated, so ask the candidate to explain why you should choose them to fill the position over the competition and listen out to what they have to say.

To summarise, it is crucial we use the pandemic to our advantage in many ways when interviewing potential candidates to find the perfect fit. However, we need to make sure that we use the right questions to find them. Focusing on the proactiveness of candidates will help us find employees that can support you in any future challenging times.

Expion is an award-winning recruitment company specialising in key market sectors: automotive, engineering, manufacturing, medical, IT and food/FMCG. With offices in Huddersfield, Leeds and Silverstone they have seen exceptional growth year on year. Expion was launched based on the knowledge that great recruitment is a double-edged sword; in order to deliver a cutting-edge service to client companies, it is vital to provide a truly outstanding candidate experience.

Contributed by James Didgiunaitis
Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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