2021 has arrived, and with it will come a further acceleration in what has already been quite a seismic shift in talent acquisition fuelled by Covid-19.

While some organisations may take a step back from the digital push when circumstances allow, there is general consensus that hiring solutions such as digital assessments, video interviewing and online reference checking will endure beyond the passing of the health crisis. This is laying the groundwork for further advances that are already in the works.

Set up in 2018, Glasgow-based Willo saw usage of its videoconferencing platform grow by at least 80 per cent per month in the wake of the first lockdown last spring. The product allows users to pose questions to which candidates provide a recorded video response, with those responses stored on a dashboard for easy reviewing and sharing.

Euan Cameron, Willo’s founder and chief executive, says the platform generates up to a 40% saving on the time normally required to schedule and conduct interviews when compared to traditional face-to-face meetings. This, he claims, can knock nine days off the UK average of 28 days usually required to fill a post.

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It also allows recruiters to hone their questions down to the most pertinent subjects and limit the length of recorded responses, making them easier to review later. For the candidates, there is the convenience of submitting their responses at a time and place that suits them.

“Our busiest time is between 5pm and 9pm, which is really interesting, because how many interviews traditionally happen between those hours? Rather than having to invent excuses to get away from their current employer during the working day, they can wait until they are in a comfortable and private place,” he says.

With demand for video hiring solutions surging across the board, Mr Cameron says the next step will be to create a seamless process for remotely onboarding new recruits, providing access to payroll, employment documents, video orientation and similar information usually dealt with during the first few days in the office.

“There is not a single system you would go through to find candidates, interview them and then onboard them,” he said. “That is a really exciting area for me, and one we will be working on to create a space where you can do all of that in a single ecosystem.”

HeraldScotland: Steve PerrySteve Perry

Though Willo has experimented with the use of artificial intelligence (AI), Mr Cameron said the firm is now focused on how technology can enhance the human aspects of the hiring process.

While some fear that the use of AI for screening will make their company seem impersonal, others argue that used effectively, AI can eliminate repetitive, process-driven tasks and allow recruiters to focus on the human aspects of hiring.

Steve Perry spent 25 years in various executive positions with Visa Europe until five years ago, when he became a full-time advisor and investor focused primarily on the FinTech sector. He holds non-executive positions within several start-up companies including Willo, where he is chairman and a minority investor.

Recounting the thousands of hours he spent reviewing applications while running large teams at Visa, he sees a place for AI in the screening process through further evolution of “sentiment analytics” to ensure a social and cultural fit between organisation and candidate.

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“I am not talking about a complete shift to where machine learning has a 100% say on who the next appointment will be,” he said.

“It is more about ensuring that the recruitment is correct, and that we are hiring the right people. In that way, it is about the time saved by not having to re-recruit.”

It’s a concept sometimes known as “hybrid hiring”, a combination of virtual and in-person recruitment methods. The key is to marry the best of both worlds, according to Denise Kirkham of Midlands-based Distinctive People, which specialises in executive recruitment in the not-for-profit sector across the UK.

“When you use the technology, you still find that there are a lot of touchpoints in the process where there are two people on either end of that technology who are building a relationship,” she said. “The important thing is to ensure those touchpoints are in there.

“There is a place for both, and that human element is really important.”