How has COVID-19 changed the way we recruit?

Interview with Ben Craig (TransferWise)

We recently sat down (virtually) with Ben Craig, Head of Recruitment & Employer Brand at Global fintech company Wise (formerly TransferWise) to gain his insights into the recruiting market during COVID-19, what challenges in-house recruiting teams have faced, and how will they adapt as the economy improves.

Wise launched in 2011 and employ over 2,200 people across 14 global offices, processing around £4bn in cross-border transactions every month.

Based on the current COVID-19 and economic climate when do you envision the recruiting landscape returning to some sort of normality?

It’s difficult to be specific on a date or timeframe, however, certain industry sectors are continuing to scale and recruit as they are closely aligned to consumer demands (Pharmacy, Grocery and Delivery etc.) Financial stability within companies will also dictate on the landscape returning, if they can be nimble in their approach and adapt to the workforce being remote.

When that time comes around how do you think organizations will have to adapt in how they attract and recruit talent?

Currently it’s too early to tell what normality will begin to look like. Employees may consider leaving their organizations and roles may be eliminated, attracting talent directly may not be the initial strategy.

Leaders may have to review internal talent who can skill up and move into the roles while revisiting succession planning will also be crucial.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing your industry today in recruiting and how do you think the organizations will plan to overcome them?

Employees have had to adapt quickly to working remotely and managers adapting in how they lead teams remotely. This occurred as a result of the stay at home orders which came into effect quickly without preparation. Leaders will have to be conscious of employees experiencing isolation at home, juggling childcare etc… checking that their employees are set up effectively in a home office (technology, monitors, desk, chair) and how can they accommodate various time zones.

In addition, onboarding new team members through a virtual process and influencing Executives and Founders to a new thinking is a challenge, while figuring out the impact of a partly or 100% remote workforce!

How do you think external recruiting partners should adapt given we are now in a client-driven market rather than a candidate-driven one?

Some open critical/complex leadership roles may remain with a recruiting partner currently, however, recruiting partners need to be more creative in their approach. In addition, a deeper diligence on their candidate’s backgrounds and how they are presented to the in-house recruiting team should be a key focus.

Also, if a recruiting partner’s in-house recruiters are not aligned to any open roles then they could be allocated to the client in an in-house capacity. They could work across a multiple of roles on a flat monthly fee until the market picks up. Obviously being mindful to not dilute the recruiting partners offerings once the market changes!

Search Firms in particular, how do you think they will have to adapt? Will they have to be more creative around their fee structures?

Yes, currently they may have to consider a reduction in their fee structure and possibly extending the guarantee period.

During our market research it became evident that some organization’s recruiting teams had significant headcount reduction due to the current climate. In your opinion, would recruiting partners that offer a source, screen present model and/or a flexible demand recruiter model be attractive and support the organizations recruiting function?

Recruiting leaders will probably have no additional fixed headcount for their recruiting team for the remaining financial year. They will need to consider a costed solution that will help them continue to hire fixed roles and scale up across the organization as the market begins to grow.

A flexible recruiting model offered from the recruiting partners can also add value at various stages of the recruiting funnel. An example could be a purely sourcing solution option enabling the in-house recruiters to focus on a thorough assessment of candidates and driving a positive hiring manager experience. The recruiting partners solutions must be agile, cost effective and scalable as the organization begins to get back on the hiring track.

It appears that recruiting leaders are investing time across their function, upgrading or refreshing their ATS, designing and launching an executive recruiting process, revamping the EVP and implementing a fully new virtual interview process. Do you see recruiting teams investing in such areas?

Those organizations that have scaled back in recruiting as a result of the current climate, their recruiting teams will have the time now temporarily to review and to drive more optimization and streamlining of their function.

Small to medium-sized recruiting functions would benefit from a consultant that can assist on specific areas i.e. ATS, D&I etc. However, the recruiting consulting firms will also need to be agile in their approach, offer a cost-effective solution and perhaps a concise consulting agenda across a day rate instead of the lengthy more complex solutions.

  • Ben’s insights are consistent with what we are hearing across the recruiting industry. Organizations will need to leverage every option available to keep their workforce and customer as safe as possible.
  • Regardless of the industry sector you are in, it is likely that the pandemic has impacted your recruitment process in some way.
  • Recruiting leaders will take on a key role influencing executive teams to adapt quickly to virtual interview and onboarding processes for talent.
  • In addition, recruiting leaders will partner with their recruiting firms, devising new creative ways to assist the in-house recruiters. They can drive efficiencies, maintain both a positive candidate/hiring manager experience, and a cost-effective solution that still ensures that the organization remains a choice employer within their industry!


RTM build and deliver talent solutions that help shape your digital future. To find out more, get in touch with Craig Gordon (RTM Managing Partner – US) and book an introductory call.