How to make online recruitment work – for candidates and interviewers

Photograph showing a close-up of a man sitting down with a laptop and a leather satchel

Since lockdown, BookMachine members Inspired Selection have been hard at work, talking to clients and candidates and communicating about changes in recruitment patterns. We are all painfully aware about the impact of Covid-19 on recruitment in all sectors. Inspired Selection have been doing a brilliant job of keeping us updated with opportunities, so we wanted to find out a bit more about their own experience of managing this as a business, and to ask for some tips for succeeding at interviews – for both candidates and interviewers.

Business life under lockdown has changed hugely: how has it impacted your work as recruitment specialists?

To be successful at what we do as recruitment specialists, we need to be constantly communicating with the market. When it came to lockdown, we approached it with a proactive attitude and immediately switched to 100% remote working – first and foremost to protect our staff from the virus. It was very simple from a technology point of view and we were keen for this not to impact our service levels or the team’s confidence. We have the most amazing team, that’s what makes Inspired such a great place to work. We didn’t want to dilute our values as this is what differentiates us and what our clients and candidates both expect and enjoy. Inspired’s energy, creativity, passion and collaboration are so unique and we needed to find ways of cultivating this.

We, like many, adopted video calls for internal meetings, ensuring we continued to collaborate and communicate well – as well ensuring time for downtime, and a cuppa with our colleagues. With flexible working already in place this wasn’t too foreign for us, and we have regularly used video conferencing for most staff meetings to allow us to come together as one without the need to travel. This has been so helpful over the years with our staff being based in Spain, Oxford, London and now Scotland.

We also needed to move all our external client meetings and candidate registrations to video or via telephone if video wasn’t possible. We have been using video and telephone conferences for many years to provide an alternative for our candidates who aren’t able to travel to our offices.

The impact on us operationally has been minimal and we now realise how achievable flexible working is for us. Although it’s important to recognise that not everyone is in the same boat, and whilst some may love the idea of working from home, others will not and we plan to offer both home and office working when we eventually return to the office, based on individual needs. I think this is something worth investing in with each individual, especially your top talent!

How well do you think online interviews work, compared to meeting candidates face-to-face?

We have always preferred to meet our candidates face to face but where this is no longer possible, or necessary, we switched to video interviews. As I mentioned before, we have actually been interviewing online via Skype or Zoom for many years so that we can register candidates all over the world. We headhunt roles across Europe, APAC and the US and a lot of the preliminary stages are conducted via video.

I suspect the online interview will now replace the telephone interview for many of our clients moving forwards. I think it gives so much more breadth and choice for a more diverse pool of candidates if you are not demanding that candidates travel to your office. It also allows you to continue hiring rather than putting a role on hold because you can’t physically meet someone.

It is a highly effective and efficient way to approach interviewing and should be embraced by all if it hasn’t already. It is inexpensive, and in most cases a free service, so if you haven’t already, do set up a Zoom account and give it a go!

What are your tips for succeeding at interview, for job candidates?

Preparation is absolutely KEY for a successful interview. The candidates that are standing out at the moment are the ones who go the extra mile at interview, those who can demonstrate that they have not just understood what the company does, looked at the website and what they are publishing, but those that have perhaps gone out to market and surveyed the products, compared them to competitors, given insight into what they could do better, or maybe interviewed professionals to validate their research and understanding of the products, sector and trends. 

And what tips do you have for interviewers?

Coming out of lockdown, life as we know it will change but I think it’s important to remember that each person will have different needs. I’ve heard too many podcasts and read too many articles demanding for 100% home working, which is infuriating for those that simply don’t have the choice! Think about those who don’t have enough space for a desk, hunched over a burning laptop on their bed! I think if we can offer a greater choice and be more flexible then that will ensure a successful recruitment campaign. Now more than ever it’s about optionality and we need to remain flexible and open to the different needs of our current and future employees.

Use this time to revisit your diversity and inclusion strategy and policy. We have all seen, participated or campaigned for better diversity in our world during lockdown so let’s put this as number one on our agendas and publish your diversity statement on the job advert. Celebrate it and encourage greater diversity.

Transparency is king when it comes to attracting talent and another movement you will have seen within social media is now calling for salaries to be included on all adverts as well as other factors that can be included to improve transparency for the publishing industry:

  • Be very clear in the terms of the role – can it be based from home / do you offer flexible hours etc.
  • Share a clear vision on the trajectory of the role
  • Include the salary level on the job advertisement clearly
  • Introduce your company and the role to give context to the conversation at the start
  • Have a pre-prepared list of open questions to ask all candidates so you can assess every individual fairly
  • Have a diverse interview panel
  • Be open to transferable skill sets

Make sure you do this for every candidate!

Finally, do you think online recruitment actually offers some advantages compared to traditional office-based interviews? 

Absolutely, I think the biggest has to be diversity! Online recruitment gives us the greatest opportunity here to break down barriers based on geographic location. Candidates interviewing for roles in London when they are based in the north of England, have not been offered financial assistance for their travel making it less appealing. We now have the opportunity to interview a much wider pool of talent and should embrace that! I feel like finally, we can make change happen at a much faster pace!

Suzy Astbury has been working in publishing since 2003 and publishing recruitment since 2008. She acquired Inspired Selection in 2013 and has since gone on to win two awards: Best Company to Work For at the IRP Awards 2019 (The Institute of Recruitment Professionals) and Best Small Business (Southwark Business Awards 2019). Inspired also celebrated turning 20 last year. Suzy is a huge fan of goal-setting in her personal and professional life, so much so that she gets her business and all its people to set themselves goals in and outside of work too.

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