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April 1, 2021

Overcoming the Challenges of Virtual Recruiting

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“It’s not, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t do this.’ It’s, how can I do that? How can I make this work?”

Sales recruiter Jay Webb is talking specifically about his own early career experience venturing into recruiting, but this line of thinking is exemplified more broadly in the successful candidates he finds and places for a living.

As the founder and president of the j. David Group, the host of the successful interview-based podcast Over Quota, and a long-time recruitment specialist, Webb knows firsthand what successful candidates look like.

He shared his expertise with us on a recent episode of The Adapter’s Advantage as we dove into the challenges of finding the right candidate, including:

  • The dynamics of virtual recruiting
  • The value of emotional intelligence
  • Strategies to optimize a candidate’s success

#1 The Dynamics of Virtual Recruiting

“Whether it’s interviewing or presenting, just making sure that you show up to the camera and to the video, ready to go and in control.”

It’s no secret that virtual is the new normal, but what does that mean for recruiting? So many parts of the experience can be replicated, but as Webb points out, “the soft sort of walk back to the door or back to the parking lot where it’s a little bit more lighthearted” is not one of them. The interview is over with a jarring click of a button and no way to assess the vibe or gauge your performance.

But there are other ways to make a good impression, including certain ways to show preparedness and attention to detail:

  • Choice of background
  • Lighting and visibility
  • No distracting pings, beeps, and other notifications
  • Level of apparent readiness
  • Strength of Internet connection

Of course, Webb points out that in this work-from-home environment there are always factors beyond your control, but focusing on the ones you can control will go a long way.

#2 The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

“I mean, frankly, if you have candidates that are showing emotional intelligence… What I mean by that is that they are curious, they’re prepared, they’re intellectually engaging, I’ll say… They’re interesting. They’re doing things slightly differently than other folks.”

When asked how often emotional intelligence is a primary differentiator between the cream of the crop and the average salesperson, Webb responds quite simply, “There’s no question, it’s… always.”

From his perspective, there are several key indicators of high emotional intelligence:

  • High level of self-awareness.
    For Webb, you can tell an interviewee’s level of self-awareness based on the way they tell a story, how they’ve framed their experiences “and the decisions that they’ve made.” Engaging storytellers are often highly self-aware, Webb claims.
  • Intuitive understanding of appropriate behavior.
    This is the other facet of self-awareness, including, from Webb’s experience, “understanding when they shouldn’t talk too much, when they should emote, when they should do certain things, when they should ask qualifying questions, when they should match and mirror,” and so on. The opposite would be self-sabotaging behaviors, such as not listening to advice, overtalking, and becoming defensive.
  • Good follow-up, even after bad news.
    Emotionally intelligent individuals are able to recover gracefully. “How are they responding to criticism or critique? How coachable are they?” Webb asks. “All those things really fall into the emotional intelligence because people who are, let’s say, overly emotional, have no room for being self-aware.”

“Speaking of jobs,” Webb continues, “are they just kind of interviewing for a job, or is it really something strategic that fits into the trajectory of their career, right? Like this really matters for a particular reason.” This is another key indicator of a highly engaged, committed candidate.

#3 Strategies to Ensure the Right Fit

“It’s difficult, right, because they’ve clearly interviewed well, and then they show up, and it’s a completely different thing.”

Sometimes, you find who you think is the perfect candidate with all the right qualifications and skills, only to end up 60 days down the line with an absolute wrong fit. This scenario that Webb describes is every company’s—and recruiter’s—worst nightmare.

To get in front of and hopefully avoid this dreaded situation, Webb shares some of his own best practices:

  • Backchannel referencing,
    “I think that rather than just outwardly asking for references, just find out, where did they work most recently or the time before that, and do your due diligence and fish around because you’re going to get a different perspective than you would if they were to just share specific references with you.”
  • Assessment tests.
    “It doesn’t necessarily mean that the assessment will rule them in or rule them out but at least help you onboard them appropriately,” Webb says, and allow you to coach to their most notable weaknesses.
  • Onboarding.
    Companies need structured onboarding processes to set new candidates up for success. This includes effective skills training, team-building with peers and managers, and cultural indoctrination that allows new employees to fully invest in your company and what you’re selling.

Webb tells the story of a recent Chris Rock interview. “He said something like, ‘Our selves don’t show up. Our representatives show up, like we send our representative,’” Webb paraphrases. “Jay Webb does not show up to the interview. It’s Jay Webb’s representative that shows up, and it’s the best version of Jay Webb, right?”

Effective onboarding and diligent investigation can account for some of the disparities between a candidate’s hyper-polished persona and the genuine character that shows up on their first day of work.

Adapting to New Circumstances

“I wasn’t sure what it was going to be, but I knew I was going to start a business because I needed to … I have a mind that needs to be untethered, and I need to explore those things. I always have.”

Jay Webb always knew he would run a business someday, but he still had to adapt to the twists and turns along his journey to success.

Learn More

You can listen to the complete episode of The Adapter’s Advantage: Finding the Best New Hire for more insights into virtual recruiting.

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