Selection & Recruitment: Story of a Completely Virtual Journey

Kilpatrick Group Success Case

By Claudia Paoletti | Managing Partner & Laura Cesati | International Client Manager

In this particular period characterized by the covid-19 emergency, many companies were forced to change their approach to personnel selection. Certainly, the video interview is not a new method, but it is now adopted in many contexts and for selections of different levels, from new graduates to managers Normally, however, the interview via web is only one of the steps of an articulated selection process. In some cases, it can be adopted for a further step but, usually, at the end of the path most companies choose to face their finalist candidate and seal the agreement with a handshake. The latter is in fact still a gesture appreciated by both actors, the employer and the candidate, because it implements the most emotional part of the choice.

All of this was questioned, without warning, by the health emergency that forced us to transform physical processes into virtual processes.

The reaction of many companies, also due to the economic impact following the health crisis, was to “freeze” the selection processes, pending the possibility of organizing the last step with the finalist candidate. Many candidates also preferred to wait to be able to “set foot” in the company, to evaluate the location, the environment and their future employer in person before accepting an offer.

There are, however, some exceptions that made us at Kilpatrick perceive how quickly the world is changing towards more innovative methodological approaches and how we are getting used to the filter of technological systems.

One of the testimonials that we are pleased to present is Planet Smart City, global leader in smart affordable housing, Planet Smart City designs and builds cities and neighbourhoods that place people at the heart of every project.

We asked Angelo Bestazzi, the Group Chief Human Resources Officer who, in this period, completed a selection of a key figure with Kilpatrick in a completely virtual way, how difficult it was to convince the Line Managers not to meet in person the candidate to make a final choice and if they were culturally ready for such a step.

“Planet Smart City is a company that has always been used to working remotely and in a smart way. I remember my interview, a year and a half ago when I joined the company: first Skype with the CEO who was in India, the CEO Brazil who was precisely in Brazil, the MD of the Italian subsidiary in Turin; after two days, talk with the head of the Financing Strategy who was in Madrid. Decision made and communicated via WhatsApp. Next detailed meeting via Webex over the weekend and, finally, meeting vis-a-vis, the week after things were done” says Angelo.

“It is obvious that the meeting in person is ideal because it can bring added value in making crucial decisions, however if, as in the case of my company, speed is a constant and if the organization is truly international and spread over several continents then, for some time, it has become fundamental to develop a personal and professional method and sensitivity to gather all the elements necessary to make the right decision even without being able to shake hands in person. The low turnover, the effectiveness of the insertion of new hirings evaluated not only at the end of the trial period but also validated with the talent calibration process based on the performance and potential assessment, make us say that Planet, to date, has been able to win this bet” adds Angelo.

Speaking of method and sensitivity, Angelo is keen to underline: “surely we had to put a good face on a bad game compared to the impossibility of personally meeting Stefano, our candidate for Global Head of Engineering, with all the different decision makers but, at the same time, we did not treated neither of a leap in the dark nor of a “cultural change”. In fact, we followed a structured process with a competent Head-hunter attentive to the needs of the company such as Kilpatrick and we already had the elements to confidently manage a fundamental decision-making process such as remote selection. Even more difficult to give the recipe for sensitivity. Because it is refined over time, it requires the ability to grasp the details and compose an image to be aligned with a nuanced but fundamental entity such as the company’s value system. Blurred but absolutely no less important than the baggage of skills that are more easily defined and measurable”.

Certainly, the possibility of a meeting in person always adds something to the interview and the difficulty, in the case of technological mediation, is perhaps more the responsibility of the candidate than of the recruiter. The remote interview, according to Angelo, is more “invasive” than an interview in the office. You have to be professional, cared for and punctual during connections. In some cases, there are candidates who show up late, on the sofa, with improbable backgrounds and unable to share a document on the screen. All evaluation elements for the recruiter…

But, what is the candidate’s point of view regarding the virtual selection process? We wanted to ask Stefano Baretti, the candidate chosen by Planet Smart City, how difficult it was for him to choose the professional next step without a face-to-face meeting and without sealing the agreement with a handshake.

“The first contacts with the Kilpatrick staff and all the meetings with Planet took place during the critical weeks in which the health emergency reached its peak, redefining priorities and completely reconfiguring the mental patterns and social proximity with which we are used to perceive and unfold our daily life. Video calls have therefore taken on the symbolic value of a still possible existence, which in spite of everything could look to the future”

“Fortunately, although my identity card constantly reminds me that I will never be a millennial,digitalization is part of my daily life and I am fascinated by the infinite and unimaginable evolutionary power still unexpressed. Digitalization in the professional field is the source of stimuli and accelerations that have been redesigning and enriching our profession for some years” adds Stefano.

We closed the interview by asking Stefano how much the decision not to set foot in the company and not to have seen the physical place where he would work for the next few years weighed on the decision to accept the offer.

“I’m not hiding, as a person extremely sensitive to the environment that surrounds him as well as to the  “beauty” perceived in every nuance of our daily life, the thought was there, but I was promptly sent a link from which I could virtually wander around the neighbourhood, see some pictures of the office and appreciate the setting… and, as if by magic, any doubt or fear vanished” replied Stefano.

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