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What impact is the lockdown having on recruitment for businesses, candidates and recruiters ?

Edouard Normand, who heads up our digital practice, has had the experience of recruiting for two structures whose recruitment processes started during the lockdown period. He gives us his point of view as a recruiter and also cites the views of Etienne de Verdelhan, CEO of Airfree, who entrusted him with the recruitment of their CTO:


All French professionals have been affected by the Coronavirus, with more than 9 million employees affected by short-time working and others heroically going to work to treat, protect and supply us. We are deeply grateful to them.

For the rest of us, remote working is often the only way to stay in business and most companies have put their hiring on hold. The consequences are bound to be significant for job seekers and professional recruiters. However, all is not lost and some companies are managing to recruit profiles after receiving their applications during the lockdown period itself

I myself have had the experience of recruiting for two structures whose recruitment processes began during the lockdown period. In both cases, these are strategic positions with management and customer relationship skills.


Of course this raises certain questions: how is it possible for a company to onboard someone into its workforce without even having met them physically? Why change jobs and be on probation with so little visibility?


Our job as recruiters is undergoing a major transformation because we can no longer meet all the candidates we recruit for our clients.

In the professional sphere, much of what we think and feel is revealed by our body language and the expressiveness of our faces. These create the conditions for weak signals that allow us to communicate more naturally.

Videoconferencing tools are no substitute for face-to-face interviews because many of the weak signals escape us and it is difficult for some people to be comfortable in this type of situation. For example, looking into each other’s eyes is a natural and essential human need from early childhood. These tools produce an impression of eye contact that can sometimes be misleading for the interlocutors and lead to maladaptive behaviour.

Beyond the virtues that meeting candidates brings professionally, it is more the human encounter that we all miss and which is a basic necessity for our well-being. After all, we are social animals. The more real and positive interactions we have with other human beings, the more comfortable and confident we feel in our daily lives.

That said, in the digital recruitment sphere that I represent, we have long experienced a significant and growing talent shortage: speed of profile searches and recruitment processes is a key factor in a highly competitive market.

The lockdown forces us to compensate for a temporary decline in some of our face-to-face interaction capabilities by improving our remote working capabilities, and I have seen a number of benefits to this.

We talk more about extra-professional elements that create a warmer and friendlier climate. There is more engagement on both sides and ultimately we get to know each other better in less formal exchanges. We are more natural, empathetic and less guarded with each other.


In addition, the candidates talk more concisely about their professional experiences and the time we save by talking to each other by videoconference or on the phone is reinvested, if necessary, in additional coaching and development interviews.


It is therefore also very well suited to our Athlete Thinking approach, enabling us to prepare candidates for client interviews in the same way as we prepare athletes for sports events.

There are further positive points for candidates to bear in mind:


The competition they face is different and less crowded than in normal times. Professional recruiters have more time to target companies according to their profiles. As a result of the first two points, they have the opportunity to interview for positions they might not necessarily have been eligible for two months earlier for various reasons.


Furthermore, if we take the case of companies with the capacity to recruit, very high value-added elements can be observed:

Potential candidates have had more time to question themselves about their career and are more easily accessible.  Professional recruiters have also had more time to devote to their searches because they are working on fewer searches simultaneously. As a result of the first two points and the elements mentioned earlier in this article, recruitment processes can therefore be shortened. In my case, the recruitment processes were very fast (3 weeks in both cases with 3 to 4 interviews) because all parties had more availability and the job offers were signed electronically. Recruiting now will allow companies to be better prepared for the end of the crisis and it is a strong signal that allows companies to gain visibility and make their employer brand shine.

Returning to the CTO position mentioned at the beginning of the article, the candidate and the client agreed to take up the position before the end of lockdown date, involving a distance learning element so as to enable skills transfer as soon as possible.

Etienne de Verdelhan, CEO of Airfree, which develops an online duty free solution dedicated to airlines, gives us his views on this unprecedented recruitment:

“It was a question of recruiting a CTO – a strategic role in our company. If we hadn’t been in lockdown, we would certainly have proceeded differently. For all parties involved, meeting the candidate in the flesh would have been more fitting, but it seemed to us that, in a context where there are fewer recruiters, the quality of the candidate presented by Grant Alexander was an interesting opportunity for us, and we seized it. If we had not positioned ourselves, he would probably have found a position in another company and we would not have been ready for the business growth that awaits us after the lockdown ends.”

Ultimately, although there is no doubt that meeting face to face remains ideal and key to digital recruitment, the lockdown – like all the major crises that humanity has experienced – has enabled us to put things into perspective.  We can adapt by remaining efficient while enjoying the process. This test is doubtless also an opportunity for every human being to improve and be better prepared when the health situation returns to greater stability.


Avpril 2020, Edouard Normand, Head of Digital Practice,