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Asking the right questions to find the right candidate even in a virtual setting

Asking the right questions to find the right candidate even in a virtual setting
Martin Struve, Mercuri Urval

My last blog article described how New Work and the associated methods have proved their worth during the coronavirus crisis. In the first blog, I outlined the skills and abilities managers need to remain in contact and achieve good results when working remotely. However, it is not only candidates for managerial positions who need such skills, both now and in the future, but also those whose job it is to find such candidates. One aspect requiring particular attention when hiring new specialists and managers is how to conduct an interview within the framework of today's ubiquitous video calls and online conferences. In-person interviews were previously considered absolutely essential as a basis, not only for managing staff but also for interviewing promising applicants.

Hiring the right personalities who possess the required professional qualifications and, above all, are the right fit for the company, its culture and way of working remains the top priority in our executive search activities. However, besides interviews, there are other professional tools that can be employed to filter out the most suitable candidates for the company and position concerned from a large pool of applicants. These tools will play an increasingly important role in the future, which is why I would now like to examine them in greater detail: references and predictive index assessment.

The experience I have had in filling vacant management positions in the last few months – I reported on two examples in my last article – came as a positive surprise, not only to me but also to the company and the applicants. There was no negative impact at all on the quality of the work done under the current restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. On the contrary, it became somewhat more efficient, as the usual travel time was saved. A video call has a number of advantages over an in-person interview when it comes to getting to know a person. In most cases, you reach people in their private surroundings, where they feel more relaxed than in a formal interview situation at the office of their potential employer. This makes them more open and more approachable with the result that they reveal more of their true nature.

References and predictive index assessments complement interviews

It seems to be something of a paradox that the distance imposed by the coronavirus pandemic has brought us closer to the candidates in quite an unexpected way. Our business travel has been significantly restricted this year, and we have used the additional time this has given us to find new ways and means of selecting the best candidates in our executive search activities. I am sure that these changes will remain in place beyond the – as yet unforeseeable – end of the pandemic. Three points are especially important to me:

Adjust interviewing style

As a rule, highly skilled yet essentially introverted people do better in a video call because they do not have to leave their personal comfort zone. Extroverts, who excel as motivators and salespeople, tend to excel more in in-person interviews. These distortions need to be taken into account not only when conducting the interview but also when assessing candidates in terms of their suitability for the vacant position.

Obtain references

Scandinavian countries, with their culture of openness, are leading the way with great success: in Norway, for example, background checks are used to obtain and verify information about candidates. Everyone knows that employer references only provide a very limited amount of information. It is better to speak to appropriate referees. These will normally be former line managers or perhaps a customer of the candidate. In Germany – due to the country's data privacy laws – candidates can determine their own referees. The HR consultant usually speaks to three different people to obtain a meaningful impression of the candidate.

Predictive index assessments to dispel remaining doubts

We use precise assessment methods to reliably predict a candidate's future performance and make sure the right person is hired. And we do so about 10,000 times a year in over 60 countries. The methods developed by Mercuri Urval, especially for selection and development purposes – as well as the psychometric tools the company employs – are based on over 50 years’ experience. They are constantly adapted to keep up with the scientific state of the art. We were the first international corporation to be certified to ISO 10667-2, the toughest standard for assessment services. We are recertified by DNV GL every year, so our customers can be sure that we are always in compliance with the standard. The result of our efforts is a success rate of over 94 per cent. In other words, the managers we recommend make a success of their job.

It all depends on the right people

The sudden changes in the search for specialists and managers forced upon us by the coronavirus pandemic will remain with us to some extent even after the crisis. After all, they did help to make the search and selection processes more efficient. However, to continue finding the best possible person for any position, a well-prepared interview and the use of predictive index assessments are more important than ever. Whether before, during or – one day – after the coronavirus crisis: an enterprise can only implement its strategy successfully with the right people in the right jobs.

Our series of articles entitled "Way Ahead" by Richard Moore, CEO and partner at Mercuri Urval, provides valuable insights into the type of managers you will need in the post-corona world.

If you would like to know more about this topic or would like to contact us personally, please get in touch with Martin Struve:

Martin Struve, Senior Consultant
Mobile: +49 175 119 49 62 Office: +40 85 17 16 28