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Hiring During Lockdown

Hiring During Lockdown

7 months ago by Steve Twinley

Rose Clad Cottage

This case study illustrates Next Phase's ability to consult with hiring managers and HR, to help them continue to hire new staff despite the restrictions. The Covid-19 lockdown has had a significant impact on how we recruit, but we ensure that our clients can continue to hire people with minimal disruption.


A leading global Pharmaceutical company in the South East has manufacturing, lab and office staff on one site. The lockdown in March 2020 led to most office staff working from home, whilst the manufacturing and lab staff were put on an alternating weekly rota. One of the many challenges the Covid-19 lockdown posed was its impact on recruitment, given that the company began 2020 with a strategy to hire around 50 people over the year, across all operational areas.

The biggest difficulty for us has been managing the recruitment process, both the logistics and also ensuring that the interview format would give all parties enough confidence to move forward. So much of the decision-making in interviews is based around the building of rapport, the eye contact, the handshake, and the “energy” in the room. How could interviews possibly work well if we have to compromise by conducting interviews by video, or in person but from a distance?


Our first objective was to consult with several hiring managers and HR representatives, to talk through their ideas and potential concerns. Some of these individuals thought initially that all recruitment would have to stop completely during the lockdown. However, they also acknowledged that something would need to be done – otherwise the longer-term business impact would be awful.

Once all parties had accepted that they had to make some compromises, we discussed the pros and cons of various options including:

  • Telephone interviews (interestingly, these were the least-favoured option)
  • Video interviews, hosted by Next Phase
  • Social-distanced face-to-face interviews

Overwhelmingly, everyone settled on video interviews. Next Phase provide a premium platform on Microsoft Teams which enables multiple hiring managers to interview a candidate online, without anyone having to download anything (though an app was also available). The Next Phase consultant sends a link to all parties. Then, when they click the link they join a team call, which enables the sharing of presentation slides and other material, with no time limit and with pristine video and audio quality.

The process for manufacturing and laboratory interviews has evolved into 2-stages:

  • 1st stage: Microsoft Teams video call, with 1-2 hiring managers and an HR representative
  • 2nd stage: Face-to-Face tour of clean rooms and labs. Detailed instructions provided to candidates beforehand about what to wear and what to do (including avoiding handshakes and going closer than 2m from the interviewer).

For office-based roles, the interview process is now conducted over one or two video calls, but no face-to-face meeting. This was unsettling at first for different people who prefer in-person interactions; but as the weeks have gone by everyone has become more accepting of this as a standard process.

The Result

The company’s recruitment processes have been able to continue. They have admittedly not been at quite the levels that were anticipated at the start of 2020, but it is still a positive outcome that recruitment has not had to be halted. In fact, in the majority of cases we have found that the “time to hire” period has reduced significantly, because video interviews can typically take place very quickly, rather than having to wait for a suitable face-to-face interview to be arranged (especially for senior-level roles). It seems clear that our current restrictions will here for some time to come, so it is very positive to know that the recruitment process can continue, provided all parties accept some changes to how things are done.

Next Phase is a specialist life science recruitment agency. Please call us on 01403 216216 to discuss how we can help you with your next recruitment project.