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We’re losing the office buzz and human touch, say Singapore and Hong Kong recruiters

It’s been just over a year now since finance recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong started switching their operations online as Covid-19 hit Asia before the rest of the world. Most recruiters are still working remotely most or some of the time, despite comparatively low current rates of Covid in the two financial hubs. The need to conduct virtual interviews has been the most obvious change for recruiters over the past 12 months, but the pandemic has upended the industry in Asia in other ways.

It’s become more challenging for recruitment agencies to build their team cultures with “reduced physical interactions”, says Gary Lai, managing director, South East Asia, at Charterhouse Partnership. In a sales-driven industry like recruitment, some employees feel more motivated by having colleagues around them creating an “office buzz”, he says.

Junior employees often develop their careers faster through on-the-job training and by observing the working processes of more experienced colleagues, says Lai. This is much harder to achieve via Zoom. “To make remote working arrangements more effective, there should be clear deliverables and measurements. This will ensure the recruitment company is focused on processes and is ultimately obtaining its results. Regular engagement with employees is crucial,” he adds.

Catching up with clients and building relationships with them have been more difficult during the pandemic, says headhunter Angela Kuek, director of Meyer Consulting Group. “Most clients work from home, so lunches or coffees in town have decreased. Ours is a people business, so face-to-face meetings still work best to build rapport,” she says. As more people start returning to offices this year, Kuek says recruiters must make the effort to meet clients and candidates in person. “There’s now a level of lethargy towards traveling to the office or meeting people, but it’s good to be mindful not to go overboard on video meetings,” she says.

Rachel Liu, a director at Profile in Singapore, says recruiters are speaking to more clients and candidates than they did before Covid because it’s easy to do back-to-back video chats. “But while we seem more efficient, I find that we’re losing a lot of the human touch. Building deep relationships is much harder.

Technology means we might be able to screen candidates faster based on quantitative indicators, but we might end up missing out the rest of the important qualitative factors,” she adds.

The age of virtual recruitment has brought some advantages, however. Liu says that the shorter duration of most video calls has made recruiters more efficient in their line of questioning and better able to deliver bad news to candidates in a more straightforward manner.

Zoom isn’t the only tech platform that has taken off during the pandemic. Recruitment agencies in Asia are also making better use of online assessment tools to assist in measuring the “skills and character fits of candidates”, says Lai from Charterhouse. “Internally, recruitment firms are also using statistical data through their CRM systems to complement recruiters in achieving a higher productivity output,” he adds.

Working remotely has also allowed recruiters to fit more into their day. “Employees save time by not needing to travel into the office as much, although in a smaller country like Singapore the impact is not as beneficial as in larger countries. Recruitment companies also have the option to reduce their office space, resulting in cost savings,” says Lai.

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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