Fiona Todd, Director

As we all adapt to a new norm with remote working, we know that the need for virtual recruitment and onboarding is vital now more than ever.

Whilst currently it’s the way things need to be done – moving forward the ability to hire, welcome and train new staff remotely will not only set your business apart from an employer branding standpoint but it will ensure that key hiring decisions can be made and teams can be strengthened regardless of where your colleagues and your candidates are based.

Innovating the way your business communicates and performs is essential in today’s landscape. We’ve found that working remotely has given us the opportunity to bring to life our values of agility and team-spirit but in a new and exciting way. I’d encourage everyone to stop and take stock – the remote nature of our businesses now should give us the time to really evaluate and reflect on what’s important.
So how could it work? What does virtual recruitment and onboarding really look like?


Advertising and Applications
These have been done online since I started out in recruitment - though I’m told that back in the day my profession relied on something called a Rolodex for their CRM, newspapers to print adverts and Her Majesty’s good grace to receive and post out CVs! Whilst these aspects of the recruitment lifecycle haven’t changed much in these recent times – the remainder of the steps have.
There are so many fantastic tools available for video interviewing on PC, mobile and tablet. Skype, FaceTime, Google Duo, Odro, Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp video are all fit for this purpose, but we tend to use Zoom.
With Zoom we can easily get all parties of a hiring panel on the same call and welcome the candidate in, much like in real life. It’s also great for asking a candidate to showcase their work, or chat through a presentation with its ‘screen share’ function.
In the past few weeks, I’ve had many Zoom interviews conducted with clients in the retail space, healthcare & pharmaceutical, food & drink and higher education.
It works exceptionally well and is almost like sitting across from them in your boardroom (so long as the kids are entertained with a movie and a snack!).
Rest assured that even though we’re not able to meet our candidates face-to-face, our screening process remains robust. Whether it be asking for evidence of previous work (via Zoom), or using one of the many online testing programmes to assess skills and aptitudes – we continue to make sure that our candidates are first-class. We’ve also partnered with McQuaig Behavioural Profiles because we feel they’re far superior to other psychometric tests which simply give a report on each individual. McQuaig evaluates the role, in addition to the candidate, to ensure you get a shortlist of candidates that will deliver all the requirements of the position, instead of just aspiring to do so. In addition to the candidate profile, the McQuaig report contains a leadership style evaluation and gives you specific questions to guide you through the interview process.
Vetting and Referencing
We all know how expensive and time-consuming a bad hire is, which is why we use industry leading AmiqusID to ensure that every candidate submitted has been verified to work in the UK. With this government grade secure portal, we’ve ensured GDPR compliance at every turn and we can also complete employment referencing, Basic Disclosure Checks and ‘gaps of employment’ checks upon request.
When moving into a new way of recruiting – particularly when we’ve not yet sat in the same room as our candidates – fast and thorough screening is absolutely crucial.
If you don’t have access to online verification tools, my advice would be to get candidates to show you their documents during your video chat.
That way you’re seeing them with your own eyes, but not having personal data and documentation floating around your servers.


Once you’ve interviewed, tested and vetted, it’s time to make the offer. Which is exciting, but it’s certainly the more uncharted territory on our virtual recruitment journey. Hopefully, these tips will help you to navigate this new ground.
Offer Paperwork
It’s not needed……
I joke. One can dream! We all love the joys of recruitment paperwork don’t we? Offer letters, employment contracts, company handbooks – and don’t forget the stamped return envelope! This is where e-sign programs are vital.
There are loads on the market, from HelloSign to RightSign by Citrix, but we love DocuSign here at Denholm. This digital platform allows your new employee to read, sign and return all necessary paperwork at the click of a button. Once they’ve completed their forms, DocuSign will automatically email them a countersigned version to retain. For us, what’s great about DocuSign is that it can also be used for sending over terms of business, quotes or proposals to our customers – and again it gives them a countersigned version straight away.
It takes so much hassle out of securing new business.
For employee handbooks and any other policies and procedures – my advice would be to get all your important documents stored on a cloud platform. The biggest is arguably SharePoint – but you can also use OneDrive, Box, Huddle or Google Drive. Encrypt them and store them centrally. Your new starts will be able to read through everything they have to – and they’ll also have a point of reference moving forward.
An issue that we’re all facing right now, with everyone working from home, is a shortage of laptops. The best advice I can give to combat this is to forward plan as best you can. When you get sign-off for a new hire, budget for their laptop and get it ordered. The last thing you’ll want to do is postpone someone’s start date because you don’t have their kit available. You will also want to think (cost and cashflow permitting) about buying your remote workers a monitor to avoid them hunching over a laptop screen.
Another thing to bear in mind that Wi-Fi connections may need to be bolstered for all your up-coming video meetings and online learning sessions – be that by upgrading your new employees’ Wi-Fi package, providing MiFi, or having a signal booster delivered to their house along with their laptop. It’s these little things which are often forgotten, but they’re just as important as the computer itself!
We all know how nerve-racking the first few days (and weeks!) of a new job are. New hires will gravitate to longer-serving team members, or those who are especially helpful, as they try to learn the ropes and get into a rhythm with their new team. When I joined Denholm, that person for me was Jackie Anderson. I followed her around like a lost puppy for my first week and strangers must have thought her name was ‘Sorry’ as that’s how I teed up every question to her!
Now – imagine being new, but without your organisation’s ‘Jackie Anderson’ sitting opposite you.
It’s so important that new starts are not left feeling isolated or disengaged.
So, as part of your day-one induction, introduce the team properly and make sure that all key communications channels are outlined and for what purpose.
Do you use Zoom for meetings, Slack for day-to-day conversations, and MS Projects to manage workflows?
Or does Microsoft Teams do everything for you? Let them know – and make sure they are clear on how each program works (nobody wants to be the new guy who accidentally sends a message to the whole team about a confidential matter!). Bear in mind that not everyone will have the same level of IT literacy, so storing user guides or FAQs within your company handbook isn’t a bad idea. Especially since they’ll all be stored in the cloud and accessible to everyone.
Ensuring Productivity and Positivity
I don’t know about you – but I’ve always found that the day gets away from me when I’m working from home. Without colleagues around or kids to keep in a routine, I find it difficult to schedule a lunch break and often find that it’s 3pm before I realise that I haven’t eaten since breakfast. With a new start, this is also a possibility and what we’re finding is that without visibility in the office, new employees are overworking because they’re keen to impress. This needs to be discouraged, as it’ll only lead to job dissatisfaction and burn-out.

"Now, I think we can all agree that the strapline for 2020 is “unprecedented times”. But it’s true - this is all very new to us, and the reason that we’re having to work remotely is because there’s something pretty scary happening out in the world. As employers we have a duty of care and need to remember that our staff may be worried about what’s going on – perhaps from a financial perspective or because they have high-risk family members. It’s our responsibility to ensure that we are looking after our employees’ wellbeing as best we can."

At Denholm, we have many parents in our team, as well as those who look after elderly or vulnerable people. So very quickly, we decided to flex our working patterns and shifted to focus on output as opposed to hours worked. The team are always accessible on phone and email but we’re finding that by encouraging time for home-schooling, exercise and relaxation, they are all extremely engaged – and delivering on their project requirements above expectation. If you can do the same, I’d really recommend it.
Digital Camaraderie
Virtual onboarding is a great way to share videos and photos highlighting your vision, values, team and office space. We developed our own Denholm BrandBox which captures what it's like to work here and we’ll use this as a key part of our armoury when inducting anyone new. It doesn’t replace a personal welcome from our founder Nicki Denholm, or the beg of a belly rub from our office dog Coco – but photos and videos certainly add depth to defining your culture.
Schedule regular video chats with all your team and pay particular attention to any new starts. Try to bulk up their first few weeks with a series of one-to-one meetings with key people in the organisation and set up team and project meetings for them too. It’s important to make sure that you’re in consistent and regular contact with your new employee, giving them the comfort of knowing they’ll get an hour of your time at set intervals each week.
Encourage them to use this time to ask questions, share ideas and get more familiar with your business. Give them specific duties and tasks if you can, as this will make them feel like they’re adding real value – and will allow them to develop relationships with their new colleagues.
We’ve had a couple of new people join us in the past six months – and we’re fortunate that they’ve embraced all our digital groups! For our day-to-day banter and jokes, we’ve set up a WhatsApp group called the ‘Skin Tight Denholms’. There are more memes in that chat than you can shake a hand sanitiser at, but it’s kept the humour and buzz about our team.
We also asked for volunteers to be our Champions of Wellness (not my best acronym, I know) to ensure that we were staying physically and emotionally fit. We’ve had great recipes, exercise tips, mindfulness app recommendations and other kitchen hacks. It’s great, and I don’t think it’ll stop. Lastly – every Friday at 4pm we have our Zoom pub quiz. We all get a beer or a wine, relax into our comfies, and make a point of noting that the weekend has begun. It’s a great way for us to unwind and have a giggle learning all of the random information our colleagues know.
Finally, there definitely are a few moving parts, and it will require some investment - but if you get this right, you’ll feel like you’ve never been closer to your team – despite the distance.
It shouldn’t be about putting in place short term workarounds either, because if you do this well you have a real shot at emerging from this crisis with a more progressive employer brand and a much stronger team. One thing is for sure - we need to view what’s happening right now as an opportunity to be sustainable, forward-thinking, flexible and genuinely engaged with our people.


Talk to Denholm

We are a search, recruitment and employer brand consultancy that specialises in commercial marketing, sales & digital opportunities. If you'd like to find out more, call us on 0131 554 6191 or email connect@denholmassociates.com.