How to hire when you can’t meet

March 26, 2020

We are now working in unprecedented times. Executive Leadership hiring will continue in any economy, however with a prolonged period of self-isolation and working from home, businesses are faced with a unique challenge; how do you hire with confidence when opportunities to meet are so severely restricted?

A typical executive search process involves numerous in-depth face-to-face meetings with key stakeholders across a business, yet with social isolation now the norm, such a process has become impossible. Yet many senior hires remain business-critical, so hiring committees must now utilise alternative means to qualify and assess leadership.

At Bailey Fisher, we’ve used remote interviewing with increasing regularity over recent years. Below are the key practices that we integrate into our processes to ensure a thorough assessment and a great candidate experience.

Process Planning & Clear Candidate Management and Communication

These are also unprecedented times for candidates, who are likely about to embark on an assessment process unlike anything they’ve experienced before. Each stage of the assessment should be carefully planned and agreed across all stakeholders, and communicated to candidates in full as early as possible; candidates must know what to expect and what each step aims to achieve. Candidate experience is always crucially important, and even more so in this environment, so a clear, considered, professional process will inspire huge confidence in your business.

Use of Technology

Embrace technology at every step; you’ll be using video conferencing already, options are free, high quality and easy to use, and have supplemented interview processes for several years. Today’s technologies allow for multiple invitees, screen sharing, and anytime-access from phones and tablets, meaning board presentations and multi-person interviews from anywhere in the world are all possible. Supplementary assessment methods (discussed below) are generally delivered online and can provide valuable insight into character and ambition.

Whilst a formal F2F meeting may be preferred at closing stages, our experience suggests all other interview stages can be successfully managed remotely; when combined with appropriate candidate management, you may be surprised at how well you can assess a candidate’s suitability without meeting them in person.

Extensive 360 Referencing

Deep referencing has always been a cornerstone of good executive search practice, and is more important than ever in the current situation. Think strategically about referees, and pick several targeted individuals to address specific requirements, from operational capability, to strategic vision, to cultural fit. Timing may be sensitive, so this will need to be managed closely with the candidate to ensure discretion, however you can quickly build up a complete picture of an individual’s suitability if handled appropriately, and this will often instil confidence over and above the interview process itself.

Supplementary Assessment Methods

In our experience, supplementary psychometric assessment methods can be divisive; whilst some hiring committees consider such testing as extremely valuable, others view these methods with scepticism. What is clear, however, is that such testing can provide important insight and food for thought to guide your interview focus and support your decision making. Tests are easy to deliver, and have been proven as reliable indicators of future performance and cultural fit; as such, they are a valuable tool in the current environment. The range of tests available is diverse, however, so be clear in your goal, do your own research, and choose a testing method accordingly.


We are living in strange times, and whilst the current environment is not ideal, there are straightforward, easy to execute practices that will ensure leadership hiring is able to continue despite COVID-19. With the right planning, forethought and discipline, it is possible to remotely work through all but the very final stages of a candidate assessment process, and be confident that when the time for a closing F2F meeting does arrive, such a meeting is very much a formality. In some cases, you may even find you’re able to hire without any F2F meeting at all.

In business as in nature, those who thrive are not the strongest, but those most adaptable to change. Integrating these practices into your senior hiring processes will ensure you’re able to keep momentum, and hire quickly and confidently when the time comes.

This article is by James Houlder, Director of Research & Operations

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