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Facebook’s head of recruiting on what COVID changed about hiring

To adapt to a new workplace, recruiting has to pivot, and the changes are likely for good, says Miranda Kalinowski, head of global recruiting at Facebook.

Facebook’s head of recruiting on what COVID changed about hiring
[Photo: celsopupo/iStock]
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The shift to remote work during the pandemic changed employee expectations. In turn, job seekers have changed their expectations, too. An EY study found that more than half would quit their jobs for good if their company didn’t offer flexibility. To adapt to a new workplace, recruiting has to pivot along with it, and the changes are likely for good, says Miranda Kalinowski, head of global recruiting for Facebook.

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“Last year, we hired over 10,000 product and engineering folks,” says Kalinowski. “I’m very grateful that we were able to keep recruiting throughout 2020; I know not all companies were in that same situation. We’ve got over three billion people who rely on our products and services every month. It felt like people were depending on [our products] more than ever before. We needed to continue to hire great builders to keep them up and running and fast and reliable.”

Onboarding such a high number of people required the social media platform to change its recruiting methodologies.

Looking for new characteristics

Remote working arrangements required new employee strengths. Kalinowski says she looked for candidates who demonstrated strong conflict resolution and effective communication styles.

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“These were attributes that were definitely amplified throughout the pandemic,” she says. “And we continue to look for those today. While Facebook has a strong infrastructure to support working from home, this is a pivot for us because we were used to placing a lot of emphasis on face-to-face working.”

Trying new outreach methods

Recruiters also adapted their strategies for reaching candidates and found greater success with less-tech-driven methods. Traditionally recruiters send an email or LinkedIn message. During the pandemic, however, many people had email fatigue. As a result, some candidates preferred to receive a phone call or a text message. “That took us back to some less used practices, but they were highly effective,” says Kalinowski.

Leading with empathy

Facebook recruiters also became keenly aware that candidates were living under different circumstances. That meant one size of recruiting would not fit all, says Kalinowski.

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“We recognized some people were juggling homeschooling and remote working and at the same time,” she says. “Some were navigating devastating job loss or sickness. We really wanted to lead with empathy in our connections with people.”

Facebook recruiters spent time like checking in with candidates to see how they were doing. While some were interested in engaging in the interview process, others didn’t want to introduce more change or complexity into their lives that a job change would bring.

Overcoming virtual interview challenges

The pivot to virtual interviewing was also a big shift, says Kalinowski.

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“In a typical interview, there’s a cultural experience you’re trying to create with candidates and that happens more easily in person than it does virtually,” she says. “We typically do office tours and show people around to get a real flavor for what their day would involve. We wanted to help people get a sense of what it’s like to work here if they haven’t stepped foot into an office.”

For some positions, Kalinowski’s team offered Oculus virtual reality office tours to share the experience in an immersive way. Recruiters also had photos and descriptions of specific buildings so they could see what it would be like if they return to an office someday.

Another experience recruiters recreated was the typical start to an interview. “With an in-person interview, someone walks with the candidate to the interview room,” says Kalinowski. “That’s a time of high anxiety for a candidate, and that walk can help calm them down and give them a sense of what’s coming in the interview. That’s a really important human connection and we needed to replicate that albeit virtually.”

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Kalinowski’s team scheduled time for a candidate to spend with a coordinator before the interview for a similar exchange. “That was really well-received by candidates,” says Kalinowski. “Diving straight into the interview can be quite jarring.”

Adding more remote positions

In addition to the hiring process, the employment experience changed, too. Remote work is going to be a critical candidate decision driver because there’s an increased appetite for the flexibility that people have enjoyed over this time.

“We recently commissioned a survey that showed that the majority of professionals in the US and UK would prefer at least half of their days remote once COVID is over,” says Kalinowski. “Remote and flexibility now feel like table stakes. They’re here to stay.”

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The benefits

One of the benefits of a new way of recruiting was that recruiters found it easier to connect live with candidates, which helped the hiring process move faster. “Prospective candidates seemed to be more available to take calls,” says Kalinowski. “They were more available to network because they had less time spent commuting and traveling.”

Thousands of interviews take place on any given week, and virtual connections made it easier to match candidates with hiring mangers at the right place and the right time. “In the past, the right place was being in the right room at the right building off the right shuttle bus,” says Kalinowski. “It was quite the logistics challenge.”

Adding more remote positions also provided access to a broader talent pool, increasing diversity. “Candidates who wouldn’t have considered working at Facebook because they weren’t wanting to move to be near one of our office locations are now able to consider what we have to offer,” says Kalinowski. “That’s different and exciting as we look to include more underrepresented talent in our workforce.”

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Moving forward

Recruiting in a post-COVID world will take a new outlook, says Kalinowski.

“I think shifting a mindset from bringing the talent to the company to bringing the company to the talent is necessary,” says Kalinowski. “We’re really happy to be able to offer employees a choice to make a decision about what is right for them, whether it’s remote or in the office. We’re taking a strategic and thoughtful approach to remote work to set everyone up for success. I think it’s a necessary thing for companies to think about.”

Kalinowski says companies also need to embrace the new way of working that’s backed up with effective technology, but not at the cost of human connection.

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“People still want to be able to experience the connection with people the way they used to,” she says. “Continue to invest in the physical office but also invest in the virtual office. And be flexible. From an operations perspective, flexibility is the key if you’re going to be successful recruiting in this new environment.”