StaffingREEL PODCAST: Virtual Hiring and Onboarding with John Bemis
Welcome to StaffingREEL, the podcast for everything staffing. We look forward to sharing highly relevant content from across the staffing ecosystem. Let’s welcome our guest, John Bemis, President of Benchmark IT. John speaks to us about virtual hiring and onboarding, a topic that the entire staffing industry has had to take into consideration in these unusual times.
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Welcome to StaffingREEL, the podcast for everything staffing. I’m your host Larry Hemley from S.J.Hemley Marketing. We have all been going through one of the most bizarre times in history. But there’s a lot that we can be thankful for. We are all hopefully surrounded by our families and while we’re separated from each other, we’re all still working together. Today we’re going to talk about how to hire and onboard virtually. Many of our staffing clients have been addressing a variety of issues to truly be a partner to their clients. With everything that we’re all experiencing, this is an area that the entire staffing industry has had to take a long look at in order to keep our businesses moving forward. I’m joined today by John Bemis, President of Benchmark IT and a veteran of the staffing industry. John How are you doing today? Doing Great Larry, TGIF. Right back at ya. Well listen before we get into the topic and all that I really wanted to just give you a chance to share a little bit with our listeners your background. Thanks really appreciate the opportunity to be with you today. A little bit myself and my company. I’ve been recruiting technical recruiting for about twenty five years. All here in northern New York suburbs we’re based in Stamford Connecticut. And I started out my career with Robert Half worked there for five years. Worked for another company called the computer merchant out of Boston for five years here in my area and then Together with some former Robert Half people we started benchmark searching Benchmark IT back in 2007. And I’ve always been very focused on IT recruiting benchmark is high touch company. We pride ourselves in always meeting our candidates before we ever send them to a client. We’ve historically because we’re local met everybody in person and augmented with video conferencing video skype when we needed to when we couldn’t meet someone in person but of course all in person things changing which is why we’re we’re talking today so. absolutely. yeah. So you’ve gotten a little bit more exposure to the the video world over your time but when we talk about clients you know I think most of the staffing industry has been trying to eliminate phone screens from the entire interview process. And what’s funny is that as we talk about that, now we’re dealing with video interviews. How many of your clients are used to doing video interviews? I would say it’s still novel for most of them. The normal mode is to do a phone interview and then later on in person or a series of in persons so A few clients that hire especially contractors who might need to who can’t come in in person, Maybe because they were gonna, They’re located remotely better going to move to the client site for the job. They’ll interview via skype. But that’s about the only time clients have been willing to do a video interview in place of an in person Up until now when the in persons are virtually impossible. well and I think that you know you said well virtually impossible. I think that some people are figuring out some novel ways to do things but as a whole I mean we’re definitely moving towards having to hire someone through a video interview and a lot of the clients haven’t ever done this before. They were so set in the way they were doing things. Have you been hearing any challenges that they’re having with doing the video interviews and how are they resolving some of those challenges? Well I think there’s one challenge in that they’re so used to doing a telephone interview that they think of substituting the video for the in person they still want to do the phone interview. Which you know. I think it’s really debatable as to whether that’s necessary and I think it slows down the process. The other one is simply people are used to in person interview with multiple people attending you know from the client side and again the clients just aren’t experienced to realize that you can really do that same thing with the video interview with the technology we have today so it’s really just a lot of it’s just education as to how you can do things and getting organized to do it. And have you been able to spend any time with them in You know I don’t know how many of your clients have needed assistance in trying to figure out how to conduct these interviews. But have you had any opportunity to talk with some of your clients about best practices? Well in the last two or three weeks, we’ve had our clients experimenting with the video interviews and I think there have been a few things that have come out of that. There’s a logistical piece you have to work on but there’s also you you have to keep in mind that an interview was a two way street and you’ve got to keep in mind what the candidate is also interviewing the client to some degree and a lot of cases. So it’s still you know a candidate driven market so clients need to think about how they present also so and that’s a that’s a new thing whereas clients are used to thinking that they just it’s all about interviewing the candidate especially especially in the early rounds. Absolutely and I mean you know the especially on the phone interview they get…
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The clients typically get the benefit of a little bit of anonymity whereas on the video, you’re out there. And I definitely have heard a couple of things from different clients that they’ve been experiencing a little bit of reluctance on the video interviews. What have you seen? I definitely think there’s been some reluctance. I think some people are just a little bit afraid of that they’re going to be exposed and the phone interview, you’re absolutely right, they you’re not in person so you’re just asking a few questions and seeing that somebody can speak well or has basic technical skills but it is another step in the process. It’s usually another you know every time there’s a phone interview there’s a delay of a day to two or three days and the whole hiring process so you know in tech market that we’re in with Where it’s very candidate starved every day you’re not moving forward. You’re losing candidates. So really the best practice should be to go right to a video interview whenever possible and just set expectations that you know it’s going to be an intro interview and that that may only last ten or fifteen minutes but it’s a meet and greet. I think clients sometimes worry that they’re going to have to conduct a one hour video interview because that’s what they’re used to in an in person but it doesn’t have to be that way it can be a quick let’s get to know each other and then if this goes well we’ll set up another set of video interviews with more people on the team. I think that’s a better practice and our clients that have done that have been able to speed up the process. Well and you said something I want to kind of clarify which is that it’s still a candidate driven marketplace. I’ve definitely in speaking with some of my clients The the belief structure right now is that there’s twenty million people looking for work and so is it really a candidate driven marketplace. The fact is is while it’s got a little bit easier to find application developers as well as the higher end roles, What’s interesting is those really haven’t opened up that much mainly because of the fact that those are the people everyone’s holding onto. Does that sound about right to you? I that’s totally what we’ve seen here in the New York area. I mean. Of course there’s been some dislocation and some industries hospitality, automotive, and a few others you know just really really had to cut back and had to release even their best people Because businesses so far down but most of our clients are keeping any technical expert that they have retained sometimes reducing hours a little bit because they know how hard it’ll be to replace them if they let him go so we’re not seeing a lot of people in the market with all due respect to those that have lost their jobs. I think that they will have a good opportunities here fairly shortly. Agreed and I think that as typical the unemployment numbers just really aren’t telling the story the fact is is that when unemployment was at three percent unemployment for programmers was around point nine percent so I think we’re still seeing that. Yes well, Monday’s Wall Street Journal on the thirteenth main article in the business section large tech companies hunt for talent so they’re always going to be companies that are going to take advantage of have any available talent in the market so some people might have to move or you know companies like facebook and Amazon and Google. They’re going to be the early ones to figure out that people can work remotely so exactly so so I really think that Clients are well advised to try to hang onto their tech people because they’re gonNA get gobbled up pretty quickly anyway. I’m the H. One market has been you know pretty much slowed down by a lot of this with the government operating at a slow pace. So it’s not like more people are coming in either so so we’re going to be very very candidate driven market in tech and clients need to be able to hire efficiently. I agree with that getting back on point. Which is you know how are companies moving through the hiring process without face to face? Well just ask a series of video interviews of combination of phone video interviews. We actually had a placement this week where we had five two sessions five people on phone interviews and the client decided to just move forward anyway because it’s a contract position. We had interviewed the person in person. We know the person has a solid personality so the client felt comfortable just taking the person off the telephone interview for the contract position for full-time. I think you’re you’re going to see that they want to do a video interview or have several video interviews in a row to take the place of the in person. The quality of the video interview has come up so far in the last several years to what it used to be and candidates can look good on camera with a little bit of coaching and planning clients can sell themselves and and show why candidate would want to come and work for them in a video interview. You can make sure they’re meeting the right people. You can arrange a tour of the offices. There’s various ways you can show a candidate why they should come to work for company…
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Xyz. Companies they do need to think about that. Because it’s a two way straight. I don’t think there’s really any any part of the hiring process that can’t be accomplished in this with going through right now with the technology that we have. Well and so what are companies doing about onboarding because normally onboarding you’d bring someone in their first day. They’d have their paperwork. Somebody would take them to lunch. There would be you know the office tour and the meeting of different people sitting in on meetings. All of that is turned upside down. What are you seeing with how people are handling the onboarding process? Well it does take a little bit of forethought. But I’ve seen some very good onboarding. I’ve seen flowers being delivered to the person’s House on the first day to make them feel comfortable. I’ve seen some forethought put into a schedule so the person has you know several video meetings setup for each of the first day so that they’re meeting people are going to be working with and that there is a training plan needs to be a little bit more organized than if someone’s just sitting on site and you can just say just just hang out there. Somebody will be in here soon. You know I think it needs to be a little bit more organized but I you know in the past several weeks I’ve seen several good ones. The you know I’ve seen sending a lunch card and the the team getting together for a nice lunch so that person a new person buys himself lunch and sits down video chat with the whole team. So lots of creative things you can do. You know shipping a laptop you’ve got to make sure that if you’ve never done that before you do it securely you know credentials need to be sent separately from the computer in the box but most IT departments can accommodate that pretty quickly and a person can have everything they need to be set up. We started a consultant remotely last week and on Friday we had her machine had arrived. We made sure that she could access the clients system and everything was logged on so literally for nine o’clock on Monday morning she was all set and ready to go. Well and I think it’s incumbent upon the staffing firms to truly you know we’ve all wanted to partner with our clients. Now is the opportunity to truly partner with our clients which is to make sure that these things come off seamlessly so something you just said about that you all made sure that she could get into the environment and in the past that’s not something we would have been part of. Well that’s right. We would have just told them. Hey let us know if you’re having any difficulties on the job but we always take that extra step and even more so now to make sure that we’re checking in several times every week just to make sure any little you know make sure time cards can get filled out and make sure that all the different systems can be accessed that the person feels that they’re getting the support they need to be successful. You know. Maybe the training plan wasn’t really thought out. You know it wasn’t complete enough and they feel like they’re still struggling so we play a part in helping that communication and helping make sure any person’s getting up to speed whether they’re contractor or full-time. So John, you mentioned both the physical part of sending the computers and the things like that and you also mentioned how important the candidate experience is. Do you feel like the staffing industry has jumped in more on the candidate experience during those first few weeks than it has previously. I think it’s a little too early to tell but I do think it needs to be kept in mind especially during the recruitment cycle. But also you know if you don’t have a good smooth onboarding experience, candidates are still getting calls for jobs. They take a new job and they might even been in an interview process with a couple of other firms and if they get off to a bad start they can pretty much easily switch gears so these are all important things to keep in mind in this market. Absolutely agree I mean. I’ve heard everything from staffing firm setting up clean rooms for being able to pick up equipment to like you mentioned the cards on the first day. There’s so many different opportunities out there for staffing firms to be a heavy part of the candidate experience and make sure that it goes off positively for their client. What’s interesting is that the question becomes. How many of these folks have formalized some kind of process around this and I’m not sure if that’s fully there yet. What do you think? Well unfortunately too many firms place people and then don’t really keep in touch enough but there are a lot of tools that have been made available to our industry in the last few years that you can use to Help prompt a call or prompt an email or automate the process to make sure that you’re keeping in touch with your candidate and giving an opportunity for them to provide feedback so I think all firms are well advised to Have a process so that we don’t put people out there and keep in touch with them. So what do you think needs to be done? For successful on boarding inhouse staffing firms should be assisting their clients with it. Well I think from the minute that the offer is made and accepted a whole new phase starts of preparing for day one and really for the first month of the assignment and that’s to work collaboratively with clients and understand what the the onboarding plan is going to be.
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Make sure the candidate understands that. They’re kept in the loop. There’s usually a week or two while you’re waiting to be onboarded and a lot of things can happen with the candidate at that point the still getting calls from their other opportunities they might have been pursuing or people are still pursuing them. So you really need to make them feel like they are wanted and they’re part of the client so that can be done by sending some training material upfront. Kind of keeping them getting them ready for the new job. Some pre calls with somebody that they’re going to be working with you know made the week or two before so that they know how much the client’s looking forward to them coming onboard. These are all extra things that just help you maintain control of the situation and ensure that the candidates gonna be ready to start and there’s going to be happy to start and the team that are coming to work with is ready for them and you have smooth launch. I think there’s also an opportunity that I think mini firms are missing which is like we talked about several firms or setting up these differentiation points of how they are handling the crisis for their clients for their consultants for their candidates for their staff. And what’s interesting is is that the way in which that makes it into their differentiation. Because we’ve heard a lot of people talking about how to market candidates at this time. And the fact is that these differentiations that are being put in place or an opportunity on different marketing messages to be able to share with clients that you are prepared for it and the show your differentiation. By the fact that you’re actually truly being a partner to them. Do you think that that is something that many firms have picked up on that they’re doing with their clients? Well it’s becoming more important than ever the feedback that you get from your candidate throughout the assignment or throughout the entire placement process is starting to become very public. You know. Just look at any companies Google reviews. look at other feedback mechanisms that we’re all implying to make sure that we’re getting feedback and that we’re taking good care of our candidates and clients. You should put those feedback mechanisms in place. Listen to the feedback and review is worth a thousand words that we say so. That’s very important to us and we’re very happy to show what our actual reviews are to our candidates and clients. That’s the best way that we can tell them what they’re going to expect next time. Well I think to kind of sum up our conversation I mean it seems like that the folks that are working on their interview processes and helping clients through the video interview process to make them feel more comfortable to make the consultant feel more comfortable are certainly having a little more success but the other part is is looking at the onboarding process and really kind of understanding that whether it’s the physical part of onboarding like computers passwords email meeting schedules etc. There’s the overall candidate experience of making sure that the person feels welcome day one and part of the team so for me I just look at this and say that every firm should be looking at how do they go about being a true partner to their clients and to their consultants in order to drive your success for everybody. Does that pretty much sum it up? Well it definitely does Larry and you know this is evolving every week now as we go through these set bizarre times that we’re in right now but you just got thinking about you know maybe we should be doing a video call with our candidate that’s been there for two weeks now that she’s never met anyone on the client side. We’ve been checking with her by phone but you know I think it’ll just little zoom with her and You know look at her face to face and see how she feels like things are going. So it’s it’s a new world working virtually so we need to adapt and keep improving the processes John. Thanks so much for being our guest on the StaffingREEL. Oh thanks for the opportunity. I really appreciate it. And I hope that everyone listening can use this podcast as a way to strengthen their organization and how they’re handling the market remember that every strength you create is an opportunity to share with your clients and drive the value that’s expected of all of us. To everyone listening, please stay safe and healthy as we ride through this and we will be stronger for it on the other side keep up the great work that all of your teams are providing. Be well.