Recruiting a Finance Manager During a Pandemic: A Coronavirus Success Story

Since the Coronavirus pandemic began, it has presented some big challenges for the many organisations that have continued to recruit during this time. We have been speaking to some of our clients and candidates to find out what they thought of the process, how they have adapted to social distancing measures and what they have learned.

We recently spoke to Nicola Hayes, Customer Service and HR Manager at Schulke and Mayr, who recruited a new Finance Manager during lockdown, to find out about their experience and what they have learned throughout this process.

 

Background - Requirements of the Role

Elevation were approached by Schulke and Mayr UK Ltd. to recruit a Finance Manager for their business. Elevation have worked with Schulke and Mayr a lot over the years and so we were offered the role on an exclusive basis.

Nicola explained how this is a crucial role for them and meant that it was absolutely vital that they continued to recruit during this time:

Our previous Finance Manager had left and this is a really key role for us, particularly because we have gone through a change of ownership recently so obviously the role was really key at that time and there was a lot of pressure on to ensure that we recruited the right person.”

 

The challenge

Schulke and Mayr are a manufacturer of hand sanitisers for hospitals. This has put them in a very unique situation during the pandemic in so far as demand for their products has continued to thrive.

Nicola explained how their success has at times been a challenge for them: 

“We supply infection control products to NHS and Pharmescuitical wholesalers for hand, surface and instruments so we are absolutely booming, particularly for the hand and surface disinfection. Demand obviously went through the roof at this time but we've had a huge success."

However, the key challenge for the client was their desire to still hold face to face interviews with candidates, whilst ensuring that the safety of all parties involved. Nicola discussed why they were determined to keep the process as normal as possible and how they found that experience:

“It would be wrong to say that we weren’t nervous about recruiting during this time and making the decision as to whether we should do it remotely.

 A couple of weeks before recruiting for the Finance Manager, we went through a recruitment process for another role and we did an initial video interview for this. However, as much as the interviews went well, you still got more from them meeting them face to face - it is easier to put people at ease as they can see that we are friendly and I do believe that that made a huge difference. Therefore, we chose to interview for this role in the normal manner, obviously observing social distancing."

 

The Approach - As normal a recruitment process as possible

Elevation conducted a market-wide search using our extensive network of candidates as well as advertising the role across our website, LinkedIn and various job boards. We spoke to a range of potential candidates that were on our books as well as those that approached us directly through our marketing efforts.

We conducted an initial screening process of candidates that we had identified as a great cultural fit, as well as having the right skill set required by the client’s job specification. We provided the client with an initial shortlist of five candidates.

Nicola discussed how her experience of working with Elevation on this role was a really positive one:

"We’ve worked with Elevation for a number of years and we have a really good working relationship. Working with Steve has been really positive - he put us at ease and spoke on our level and it’s just been quite an easy process. I think it is fair to say that the candidates that Steve put forward were particularly strong and there was a really good level of understanding as to what the business actually needed and what our brief was.”

The client delivered face to face interviews with three of the candidates we put forward, ensuring that the interview process adhered to strict social distancing guidelines.

 

Outcome - A great candidate, delivered in a timely manner and some key learnings for the future

Whilst lockdown presented some clear challenges for both Elevation and the client, we were able to ensure that the client had a strong selection of candidates to choose from.

In all, from the initial job being acquired by Elevation, the process of our screening and the client’s interviews with the candidate’s, the client had selected their final candidate in just over two weeks. Our strong network of candidates meant that we were able to provide the client with a shortlist of high calibre candidates and find the right fit for them, with a really quick turnaround, especially given the challenges that the pandemic had presented.

Elevation and the client were able to work together using the the resources at our disposal to deliver as normal process as possible, even during the pandemic to find them an excellent new Finance Manager.

Nicola discussed how they also adapted their on-boarding process to ensure that the candidate felt at ease during their transition period from one job to another, with great success:

“We have had contact with the candidate via video calls in the lead up to him starting with us. Often you find that when you leave a business, you are stuck in the middle of no-where, you don’t feel like you quite belong to where you are leaving, or anywhere new. We really felt that it was important to start the on-boarding process straight away so that he felt part of the team prior to starting, particularly as life is very different right now. I think that has been a huge success.

Because of the current situation, we felt this would be an important thing to do and it’s been really beneficial from both sides and was very well received by the candidate so it is absolutely something we will do going forward."

 

What the Candidate Had to Say

We caught up with the candidate following the recruitment process to get their perspective on what it was like to search for a new job during the pandemic. Here is what they had to say:

“Usually, the finance job market is fairly buoyant, so it did not come as a surprise that the number of opportunities dried up quite rapidly as businesses put their recruitment on hold. The challenge for me personally was being considered by recruiters for an interview when the range of candidates would be vastly greater than usual for the few opportunities available.

I had already engaged Elevation in finding me a new role. Steve touched base with me at the outset of lockdown and was aware of the type of company and job role I was after and I entrusted him to find me something suitable.

When interviewing for this role, I was asked if I was comfortable with being part of a socially distant face to face interview beforehand, which I was. Working from home probably gave me a greater opportunity to attend an interview, so there was advantages to that.

I prefer a face to face informal interview as it gives me the opportunity to present my range of skills and experience better and I become quite animated in that environment hence the interview process suited me completely. I understand if there are hesitations about attending an office in the current climate especially when other methods such as video call are available. However the interview panel were incredibly mindful of hygiene and social distancing.

The biggest challenge was moving away from home working to travelling into an office however I relish this as it feels like more of a return back to normal.”

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Even during the pandemic, and especially now that lockdown is beginning to ease, there are still plenty of ways of ensuring a successful and ‘normal’ recruitment process to find the best candidates in the market to fill your roles
  • Most candidates are now more than willing to conduct face to face interviews, especially now that life is beginning to return to normal, and they may even prefer it. Consider what is right for both you and your candidate(s) when deciding what approach works best. This case study shows that Shculke and Mayr have tried and tested different methods and chosen what worked best for them and their candidates in this particular role. Don't be afraid of trying something new, even if ultimately you might decide that it’s not for you going forwards
  • It is important to consider the requirements of the role and your business when thinking about the best approach to recruitment - there is no one size fits all approach and if cultural fit is a key factor of recruitment, then face to face interviews might still be the most important way for you to recruit. Just be sure to reassure your candidates that your business will conduct this process in a safe and responsible way.
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