By: Emily Bohill

Dear readers,

Although we are all feeling the impact of COVID-19, some firms are having to be more creative than others to survive – the National Theatre is broadcasting its shows on YouTube, the studio where we record our podcast is offering production and mixing services remotely, and LVMH is making hand sanitiser rather than perfume.

Fortunately for us at Bohill Partners, adapting to working from home has been much simpler. Yes, an interview over Zoom is never quite the same as meeting someone face to face, and a message over Slack is more impersonal than wandering over and talking to your colleagues, but we can run our processes in the same thorough and efficient way that we always do!

The common theme that almost all our contacts are talking about is uncertainty:

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·        Market uncertainty: when will the market return to normal? Will it ever return to normal (particularly relevant in the retail and office sectors)?

·        Hiring uncertainty: without a face-to-face meeting, can I be confident that the person I am interviewing is right for us?

·        Moving uncertainty: can I be sure that the job I’m accepting will still be there in 3 months when I’ve served my notice, or the next 6 months whilst I’m on probation?

These are the key lessons we’ve learnt about reducing uncertainty in your hiring process:

Use whatever tools you have available to get comfortable that you’ve found the right person: The communication technology we have available to us today makes this infinitely easier than it was even two years ago – video interviews are much more effective at giving you a feel for what someone is truly like than a phone conversation, and many forms of psychometric testing can be done remotely now. However, we find that the old ways are often the best to get truly comfortable: thorough professional and personal referencing. We recommend 360° assessment of senior candidates: talking to former managers, peers, subordinates, and partners. These should include people that the candidate has not connected you with, to make sure you’re getting the full story about their background and accomplishments.

Make the most of what you’ve got: Almost everyone would prefer to interview face to face, but none of us can confidently say when we’ll next be able to do this. Our London-based Head of Germany, Alice Fontana, is particularly experienced in interviewing over video; her top tip is ‘to prepare thoroughly in advance; make sure you know what you’re going to ask well before you go into the meeting’. For a full guide to our best practice, please see our LinkedIn post on the subject.

Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes: Changing jobs is a big leap at the best of times; it is one of the biggest life decisions that you make. That counts double at a time like this. To attract the best people, you need to reduce their uncertainty and downside risk wherever possible – treat them like investors into your funds! I started this firm in the eye of the financial crisis in 2008, and the firms that were able to secure the best people then were the ones that knew their plan for getting out of the other side of the crisis, and were willing to make that plan crystal clear to their chosen hires. Other tools you can use include bonus or salary guarantees, waiving probationary periods, and making it clear that you do not operate a ‘last in, first out’ mentality.

‘The firms that were able to secure the best people were the ones that knew their plan for getting out of the other side of the crisis, and were willing to make that crystal clear to their chosen hires.’

Help them settle in: It’s all too easy to give yourself a pat on the back and relax once you’ve got your chosen candidate to sign on the dotted line, but there’s still plenty to do to give them the best chance of being a success. During these strange times, non-compete periods and gardening leave can feel like a eternity – do what you can to stay in touch in the meantime. And, when they do arrive in the office – physical or virtual – a good induction will make them happier, more productive, and far less likely to leave within the first year. Make sure that that they have a clear understanding of what you’re expecting of them, that they have the chance to build relationships with key stakeholders, and that they get given an insider’s view on how your systems work – formal systems like databases and processes, and informal ones like the tea rota!

And finally, amongst all the bad news, we’d like to pick out three nuggets of optimism!

·        Candidates will find it much easier to ‘sneak out of the office’ for interviews with you

·        Companies who have recently developed remote working capabilities will have access to a wider pool of talent

·        Video interviews often reduce bias, allowing you to make better hiring decisions

I believe the success of our firm is down to one basic principle: we care about people: our colleagues, our clients, our candidates. This care can manifest itself in many different ways in the current market – advice to a client wondering how to manage their human capital strategy, guidance to a candidate who is worried about advancing their career, or supporting our colleagues as they balance working from home with other responsibilities.

We do care and if we can help you in any way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Warm regards,

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