Experiences in fully digital recruitment – is it possible to hire an executive without meeting them in person?

The ways of working have changed in many industries

As we all know, the ways of working have changed in many industries over the past two months. Like the entire recruitment industry, MPS has also emphasized that its services are fully available on digital channels: “Dear customer, there is nothing to worry about, full speed ahead!”

Certain steps of the recruitment process were digital even before the pandemic, and remote contacting methods are used frequently, such as traditional phone calls. In some cases, the entire recruitment process has taken place remotely in the past, as well. However, we have never before concluded entire recruitment processes without meeting any of the participants in person. How has it been?

My personal experiences are from a handful of recruitment processes that either took place fully during the COVID-19 era or were concluded after the outbreak. I will discuss a few aspects of recruitment from the points of view of the recruiting supervisor and organization, the candidate, and the recruitment consultant, starting at the phase that includes dialogue with the candidates.

Fast start

Identifying and reaching candidates is exceptionally fast these days. For recruitment consultants, this means a fast start: the calendars of busy candidates are no longer full of travel and work stages that require physical presence; everyone has time to answer the telephone and read their messages. Surprisingly many have even updated their LinkedIn profile and seem to read their messages on LI. Uncertain times also create more supply on the job market. Right now, many experts see are willing to look at their next potential role in wider terms than before. It is easy to move to the first discussions and interviews quickly with digital tools.

Progress can be projected without major risk provisions

Finding the time for a remote meeting is typically easy, even if the participants are located in different countries. The decrease in work-related travel manifests itself as emptier calendars. The exceptional times enable exceptionally thorough interview rounds that involve key decision-makers at the right stages. Nowadays, we do not have to schedule a candidate’s trip to, for example Basel, meeting with four different people while in town and stopping at Stockholm on the way back.

Personal evaluation provides valuable information that can make up for the feeling of uncertainty and answer the questions left open by remote interviews

The candidate does not have to travel for the personal evaluation, which makes the schedule more flexible. The candidates can choose the date when they do the evaluation assignments, as long as they complete them before the deadline. This means that sleepless nights caused by stress before the evaluation are no longer a problem.


It all sounds great so far. Where are the problems?


There is no warm-up time in the interview!

Both parties can reasonably be expected to prepare for the meeting, whether they will meet remotely or in person. When there are several interviewers, they prepare for the digital meeting almost without noticing, because they have to discuss their roles in advance. For the candidate, the challenge is that their motivation and level of preparation must be spot on at a time when they might not be sure about their personal motivation. Some people only “come to live” properly when they meet others face to face and get to join an inspiring conversation. This does not happen as easily online, which is why it takes more effort to appear energetic and enthusiastic in digital encounters. The screen does not always transmit humour, because it leaves out some of the subtleties in the tone of voice and gestures. In this situation, the recruitment consultant should take responsibility for ensuring that both the client and the candidate are well prepared for the discussion and understand the limitations and challenges of virtual meetings.

Not to mention technology and the unavoidable surprises and problems related to it

I recommend testing the remote connection beforehand, especially if you have not gained extensive experience of remote meetings in your work. A lot has been written on the correct behaviour in online meetings, so I will not discuss it in more detail here – but I recommend reading about it.

What remains out of our reach – what can we not be prepared or responsible for?

My own informal survey among clients and candidates revealed a clear wish: everyone would like to meet the other party face to face at some point in the recruitment process. Some choose to postpone the eventual decision or contract negotiations until it is safe to meet in person. Personal chemistry is difficult to determine, but it is extremely important for working together smoothly. Some organizations have decided to finalize their recruitment processes even without testing the personal chemistry in advance. Even in this case, it is a good idea to reserve enough time for the end negotiations and to use several tools: e-mail, phone calls and video conferences. The more contacts you have with the new person – even if these are short phone calls or online meetings – the more familiar you become, which means you can start building mutual trust.


Even executives can be hired without meeting them in person.


I look forward to the time when I can also meet people face to face. I hope to see you soon!

Stay tuned!