The days of physically going in for job interviews may soon be over due to Covid-19 restrictions, which include social distancing. This has seen an increase in virtual interviews.
Human resource managers face the daunting task of determining the suitability of candidates based on online interviews.
Seeking a job during a pandemic is no walk in the park as Melisa, not her real name, discovered. She was scrolling job sites when she spotted an ad that matched her academic qualifications for a front office executive.
The requirements of the front office job, among other things, require at least a degree, good interpersonal skills, computer literacy, and be able to multi-task, an important requirement that an online interview may not effectively show.
“I emerged the best candidate for a job in a certain city hotel. I was invited to visit physically and pick my letter. I was to work for three months upon which the employer would review my performance,” says Melisa.
“But I was shocked when within the first week I was asked to step aside. The manager cited the effects of coronavirus measures and politely told me to wait until the situation improved.”
And with that, Melisa watched her job slip through her fingers. Even though she toyed with the idea of going to the employment court, she held to hope that her employer would honour their promise and re-hire her.
However, upon close scrutiny, while she had a good certificate in computer literacy, Melisa was clueless in using hotel property management software, which was urgently required for the job.
The employer blamed it on a failure to conduct a practical and face-to-face interview partly due to the pandemic.
“In good HR practise, you may say that online recruitment is advisable for sorting out the large number of applicants. But in terms of getting the right candidate, you need to see the candidate to know if he or she is the right candidate,” said Robert Egessa, a HR expert and Dean, School of Business and Economics at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology.
Dr Egessa, who is also a senior lecturer at the same university, acknowledges the advantages of online recruitment saying it saves on costs.
“Online recruitment has the advantage of storing bio-data in a data bank where it's easier to retrieve,” he said.
But when it comes to selection bids, many organisations prefer a face-to-face interview.
“Face-to-face interviews have their advantages because you see the candidate's body language,” said Dr Egessa.
If you don’t know your way around the Microsoft Office suite, you’re going to have difficulty landing a front desk job. Further, the interviewing panel discovered that when it comes to multitasking, the employer noted plenty of mistakes.
“When you are interviewing somebody, you can get certain body cues of how truthful she or he is, with regard to the position. With a face-to-face panel, a candidate can be offered a practical interview. Unlike the online recruitment process where you just have to rely on the documents tabled,” said Dr Egessa.
In certain circumstances, to ascertain whether the documents are genuine, HR may refer to some of the documents.
Further, online recruitment is facing legal challenges in circumstances where one is terminated on flimsy grounds such as in Melisa’s case.
Betty Oppollo, an advocate and expert in labour laws based in Mombasa, said Melisa can seek legal redress.
However, in an online recruitment process, the employer may not be able to fully capture all the necessary requirements for a job seeker, hence may look for an excuse to sack the candidate and begin the process afresh, a move that could be costly to both parties.