How Recruiting Changed in 2020

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Gayathri KannanJanuary 18, 2021

COVID-19 took the world by storm this year. While many industries hit the brakes on recruiting, others had to hire thousands very quickly. Plus we all had to make the switch to remote recruiting and working. 

Like any other storm, this too shall pass (and hopefully soon). But the changes brought about by COVID-19 will impact recruitment in 2021 and beyond.

In this blog we outline four changes to recruitment caused by COVID-19 and discuss how we adapted to them and what learnings we can take into 2021. 

1. Making the switch to remote hiring

Lockdowns and social distancing mandates made in-person hiring unfeasible for many of us. But the show had to go on and most businesses switched to remote hiring. WorkPac, one of Australia’s largest recruiters adopted remote recruitment and noted it was a smoother process than anticipated. 

Almost a year into the change and businesses are seeing substantial benefits. Digital recruiting is not only cutting hiring time and expense but also allowing diversity to flourish. Many digital recruiting solutions help minimise human bias by offering standardised processes and conducting blind screening. This gives each candidate a fairer chance at success. For example, Curious Thing screens candidates through AI voice interviews that measure behavioural traits without judging things like appearance, tone of voice or gender.  

Our experience

Here at Curious Thing, we made the shift to remote hiring. Our screening process was already remote (we use our own product for this) but where possible we liked to conduct in-person interviews. 

We hired five new people during COVID-19. Prior to hiring we wondered how we would find the right fit without at least one face-to-face interaction. More importantly, we wondered how we would virtually convey our team culture. 

It turns out our concerns were unfounded. Thanks to screening candidates with Curious Thing, we had more than enough data to ensure we got to know candidates during interviews on Zoom. 

Also, since we switched to remote working our culture adapted to this new environment. It therefore made sense that we conveyed our culture to new hires the way we worked, remotely. Two ways we did this were explaining the way we communicated and worked with our candidates and inviting them to virtually meet other team members. Ten months into the process and virtual recruitment has become second nature to us! 


The rapid shift to remote recruiting showed we’re all capable of adapting quicker than expected. It also highlighted the benefit of recruitment technology that standardises processes and reduces bias. With these tools, candidates can be quickly screened and sorted in the fairest way possible.

In 2021, many parts of the hiring process may remain remote and so businesses will likely keep investing in virtual hiring tools. The trick will be using tools that not only solve short-term problems like the need for virtual interviewing but long-term ones too like wanting to process more candidates in less time.   

2. Prioritising candidate experience

Have you heard the saying people will forget what you said and did, but will never forget how you made them feel? This applies to hiring too.

According to a pre-COVID report by Deloitte, 87% of candidates said a positive interview experience could change their mind about a company they were unsure of and 83% said a negative interview could make them reconsider a role.

The pandemic has left many people without jobs creating a candidate-saturated market. This has amplified the importance of a personable candidate experience, and rightfully so. Candidates expect empathy from recruiters and will make judgements about company values and culture based on their hiring experience. Showing empathy and making the effort to create a great candidate experience goes a long way in attracting top talent and shaping an employer’s brand.

An IBM study suggests 38% of candidates are more likely to accept an offer after a good experience. They’re also twice as likely to recommend the organisation to others even if they’re not offered the job.

Our experience

In order to create an amazing virtual candidate experience, we put ourselves in our candidates’ shoes and aimed to reduce the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding job applications. 

How’d we do it? By over-communicating.

We started by clearly detailing our job advertisements. This included information about our company and team, culture, responsibilities tied to the role and what we’d like in an ideal candidate.

During the assessment stages, we made sure to send follow-up emails informing candidates of what they could expect next and when. We also provided ample opportunities to ask questions and offered personalised feedback when requested. 

Altogether, we wholeheartedly embraced transparency.


It’s more important than ever to cover the basics in providing a good candidate experience. Honesty and transparency are as much a dealbreaker for candidates as for recruiters. 

Clear and timely communication can make a world of difference to the experience you provide your prospective employees and help reduce stress during uncertain times.

3. Assessing culture fit

Remote working and hiring made assessing and communicating company culture trickier for some businesses. Culture is the glue that holds an organisation together. It’s difficult to define in tangible terms but the absence of good culture is easily noticeable. 

When a candidate walks into your office for an interview, they can gauge company culture from people’s interactions, body language and even whether or not elevator conversations exist. But in a virtual setting, they have limited information.

To meet this challenge, recruiters have come up with different ways to communicate culture from videos featuring team members to virtual tours and Zoom lunches. We’ve all had to get creative. 

Our experience

A recruiter can’t always paint a complete picture of a company’s workplace culture at the best of times. So we gave candidates a chance to virtually interact with multiple people when hiring so they could get a feel of what working with us might look like.

We included separate culture interviews with different team members and our CEO. This allowed us to get to know our candidates’ unique personalities better and learn how they measured against our core values. 

During these conversations, we shared how seriously we take our water cooler moments like peer-appreciation tacos on Slack, virtual hometown walkthroughs, even discussions about food (yes, we’re a team of food lovers!) and our candidates appreciated the insights we provided.


Culture works its magic only when every member lives and breathes it. To avoid errors in judgement while recruiting remotely, hiring managers should explicitly communicate their culture and values. This way, they can ensure candidates know what is expected of them and help avoid confusion around what they’re signing up for.

But first, having a rigorous definition and understanding of your company culture is a must. In 2021, we expect more companies will spend time doing this. After all, you’re not looking for individuals who fit a particular mould but for those who can thrive in the environment you offer. Culture isn’t meant to stifle people but allow them to grow into their potential.

4. Hiring for soft skills

Employees of the future need to be well-equipped to work remotely, innovate and adapt. This calls for specialised skills like flexibility, resilience and emotional intelligence. But these aren’t easy to judge when hiring remotely. 

That’s why a lot more employers are focusing on assessing soft skills in early stages of recruitment. A Linkedin report shows 91% of recruiting managers agreed that soft skills were important to the future of recruiting, with 92% saying they take precedence over hard skills.

There are a lot of tools that help employers measure soft skills. For example, Curious Thing lets you assess candidates on behavioural attributes and provides benchmarkable scores, making your job easier. All you need to do is look through data points to pick your top candidates.

Our experience

We are an outcome of our product and have always tested for soft skills during recruiting. When hiring our Marketing Associate recently, we used Curious Thing to evaluate candidates on their teamwork skills, adaptability and lifelong learning, competencies that were critical for the position.

After narrowing down our talent pool, we conducted a task-based assessment to gauge hard skills and subject-matter knowledge. This ensured every candidate we progressed to the second round demonstrated high competence on the soft skills we deemed must-haves.


If you aren’t already assessing soft skills during recruiting, now might be the time to start. When vetting candidates, we think more and more companies will lead with soft skills. While technical skills can often be honed on the job, soft skills are generally more difficult to acquire. But they have the potential to influence the pace of the entire team. We want our teams to grow from strength to strength, not get weighed down.

Looking to 2021 

Overall, in 2021, we will see many businesses begin to expand on the changes prompted by COVID-19. Hiring managers are increasingly putting people first and this trend is likely to continue. After all, an organisation’s greatest asset is its human resource. This includes prospective employees who’ll one day be the flag-bearers of your company, making hiring the right candidate crucial.