Is virtual onboarding and recruitment the future for Azure talent?


The pandemic changed the way we do a lot of things, and with health and safety at the top of everybody’s priority list over the past two years and beyond, so many different industries were tasked with providing online solutions to ensure everyone could carry on with their tasks from the safety of their own home.  

From an influx in online food shopping, to smaller businesses having to develop ecommerce websites to survive, maximizing digital presence and efforts was a crucial part of companies’ marketing strategy. But it’s not just these industries that moved processes online, with activities such as internal onboarding and recruitment being taken online more readily as well.  

In fact, research has revealed that since the start of the pandemic, 89% of organizations have shifted to virtual recruiting (Gartner). Not only does this help streamline recruiting processes, but it also widens the net for talent as candidate pools are no longer confined to or restricted by geographical areas—which also helps to improve diversity hiring efforts. 

In fact, virtual recruiting and onboarding has become so helpful for some companies, that 48% of companies believe their recruitment processes will still mainly be virtual in five years’ time (ISE). Combine this with the significantly fast-growing market for Azure—specifically growing by 46% to acquire 21% of the worldwide cloud infrastructure spending in Q1 of 2022 (Canalys)—and the subsequent race for talent, and it’s clear that anything that makes the recruitment process simpler to coordinate and faster to carry out, will be a hit. 

Taking the above into account, the question on everybody’s lips is, is virtual onboarding and recruitment here to stay or not for Azure talent? In this blog, we explore this topic further. 

Virtual onboarding and recruitment: From 2020 till now

Although carrying out important hiring and training operations is nothing new, when the world was sent into chaos from the pandemic, we entered a new realm of work where virtual processes overtook face-to-face communications. This meant that for a lot of businesses, they had to totally restructure the way they sought out candidates, how they interviewed them, and how they got them up to speed with the rest of the team.  

Prior to 2020, digital hiring and training only occurring if the company were already operating on a remote working model, or a candidate was willing to relocate once they had the job—or often as a last resort. However, all this changed during the pandemic, where in-person interactions had to be prevented where possible. 

More specifically, a huge 79% of employers were conducting first-stage interviews over the phone or face-to-face, and by January 2021, 86% of employers favored video calls as their primary means of interviewing. Since the start of 2022, the number of companies carrying out video interviews decreased by 10%, but this still demonstrates a 57% increase since pre-pandemic times (Job Description Library).  

Now that things are gradually going back to normal, we’re still seeing companies praising virtual recruitment for its array of benefits including saving time and staff resources, as well as a shorter time-to-hire. Plus, virtual recruitment also ensures a more streamlined hiring process, and a better candidate experience where the applicant has more control over when and where they do their interview (SHRM).  

The pros and cons of virtual onboarding and recruitment  

Nothing is perfect, and virtual onboarding and recruitment is no different—particularly as it’s only just started being used on a widespread scale. So, what can you gain from carrying out these types of hiring and training practices? And where does it inhibit them compared to usual face-to-face and telephone methods? 

The pros 

It’s cheaper
The average cost-per-hire is $4,425 (SHRM), using more traditional methods, which is based on unavoidable costs such as job board ads and talent acquisition system costs, but it also considers expenses such as travel for both the interviewer and interviewee, as well as relocation costs and those associated with the admin required for interviews.  

By turning to virtual interviews, we can remove some of these costs and spend more on other important resources, whether that’s new Azure tools, project spend, or salaries and bonuses.  

It breaks geographical barriers
As many companies move towards remote working as their standard means of working, recruiting virtually has become more common and helped to improve the diversity of candidate pools. This in turn promotes better creativity, inclusivity and innovation.  

It saves time 

Virtual recruitment means you’re able to screen more candidates than you would usually with traditional recruitment methods, saving you time throughout your hiring process—particularly if you build automation into some of the processes, for example, an online competency test before they pass through to the first or final interview stage.  

It adds flexibility 

As well as a time-saving benefit, virtual recruitment adds an element of flexibility to the recruitment process. Where you’d previously need to book a specific meeting room at your headquarters and have it for an allotted time slot, hiring managers can now simply arrange a Teams or Zoom call at a time that works for both them and the interviewee. Plus, by removing the need for travel, you also save time and money for the candidate.  

It lends a competitive advantage 

With flexible working arrangements, including remote work being a top priority for Microsoft professionals—in fact, 38% of Microsoft professionals have said homeworking would entice them to accept or consider a new role, and a further 22% said flexible working hours could be enough to sway them (Nigel Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 & Azure Edition 2021-22)—recruiting virtually can show candidates that you are forward-thinking and keeping up to speed with modern workplace trends. This can help to paint a picture in their head of what type of company you’d be like to work for and can lend you a competitive advantage over other companies who are insisting on face-to-face interviews.  

The cons

Technology can be temperamental  

We’ve all faced the dreaded breakdown of technology when we need it the most, and there’s every chance something can go awry when you’re conducting a virtual interview. Whether it’s a faulty mic, a dodgy webcam, or something on the candidate’s side, doing an interview online can take an extra bit of planning to ensure there are backups for if something does go wrong. Make sure the interviewee is aware of these precautionary measures so they can have as smooth an interview as possible. 

It can be tougher to read body language 

Using body language as a cue to how somebody feels can be good not only for assessing their confidence levels when discussing the role and duties associated with it, but also whether they are comfortable speaking with unfamiliar people—because we all need to be great communicators in business. When you’re only viewing a headshot frame of a candidate, it can be difficult to tell what the rest of their body might be doing, making it harder to cater to them or know when they might need some extra reassurance.  

It can be harder to build a rapport 

Being on camera, and particularly in instances where you might be recorded, can be an uncomfortable position for anybody to be in, and therefore your candidates may feel a little more tense than usual. In turn, this can make them a little less chatty and able to act like their normal selves. Luckily, many managers have the communication skills to help people who may feel nervous to come out of their shell—but being aware that they may feel anxious can help you to make sure you’re not striking off great candidates.  

There are legalities to consider
Data protection regulations means organizations need to be careful about what personal information they’re storing about candidates, so in some cases, you’ll need to find a technology vendor that is able to create consent forms and disclosure notices for candidates. This can mean extra costs, paperwork, and training needed for team members who will be dealing with recordings or anything to do with the interviewing process. 

It can be complicated for training purposes
Trying to introduce a new starter to various technologies, tools, and platforms that your team use can be difficult. Although screen sharing can help, when they’re not sat with you and able to practice with you in person, they may feel a little overwhelmed and need more training than they would if you were carrying it out face-to-face. 

Is virtual onboarding and recruitment here to stay? 

Ultimately, different businesses will have different views and results from virtual onboarding and recruitment but overall, for many organizations, it might just be what they needed. From saving them time, money, and resources, to helping diversify their candidate pool, there are plenty of benefits businesses can get from implementing virtual hiring and training practices. 

As face-to-face interaction reverts back to how it was pre-pandemic, it’s likely that some businesses will still want to hang on to that human element and implement it centrally to their hiring processes, even just some of the time. This is why hybrid work models are becoming increasingly popular, with statistics confirming that 50% of Microsoft professionals would prefer working on a hybrid approach going forwards, and 33% still being keen to work remotely full-time (Nigel Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 & Azure Edition 2021-22). In support of this, a survey found that most respondents were expected to be in the office between 34 days per week, highlighting the importance of the social work element (TravelPerk). 

Doing things virtually doesn’t just add convenience for a business, but it can also give them an edge over competition, particularly if they are offering these flexible work models alongside them. For example, if a candidate notes that you’re interviewing virtually and offering full-time remote work, they may be more likely to apply as it adds flexibility to their schedule and shows you are a forward-thinking company keeping up with the wants and needs of the modern workforce. But also, it can insinuate to candidates that they will be getting a good standard of support and training if your organization is comfortable with doing things virtually.  

Although it might not be the case for all organizations, in short, virtual onboarding and recruitment processes seem here to stay because of the adaptations more businesses have made to accommodate the workforce’s demands. With work potentially never reverting to how it was, and more flexible work models becoming the expectation rather than a perk, doing things digitally and from a distance looks to define the industry for years to come.  

When the pandemic hit and there were more professionals out of work, there was a direct impact on the time-to-hire and many organizations were struggling to find the talent they needed. Add The Great Resignation to the mix and these experts were even more scarce. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the recruitment industry as the widespread introduction of virtual interviewing as standard meant businesses could work through more candidates in less time—with HireVue’s 2021 Global Trends Report finding 54% of hiring leaders claimed this sped up the recruitment process for them and 41% said it contributed to them being able to find the best candidates. 

Of course, especially for fast-growing tech like Azure, things are subject to rapid change. So, can we be certain of what the future recruitment and onboarding processes look like? Technically no, but all of the above and the successes of it so far show that it’s highly likely to remain an important tool for businesses use going forwards into the future.  

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