The Department for Transport has been experimenting with asynchronous interviews that can be recorded in any place at any time of day during Covid and there are key benefits for diversity and inclusion.
Necessity has long been the mother of invention and Covid-19 has put many employers in the position of having to innovate to survive. As more and more work processes have gone online and employees have struggled with doing home and work roles simultaneously, employers have had to be smart about the implications for everything from productivity to recruitment and onboarding.
Usually it is smaller employers and the private sector who find it easiest to innovate, but when it comes to Covid recruitment the Department for Transport [DfT] has come up with an approach which could have longer term implications for inclusive practice.
The Department had already been using asynchronous video interviews – interviews that can take place at any time in any place – through the civil service fast stream graduate scheme. They made sense because graduates are based around the country, but during Covid they decided to apply the process to bulk campaigns – recruitment campaigns for large numbers of policy-based roles across the organisation which require the same kinds of skills. In bulk campaigns there is one job advert for 30 to 40 roles and there is usually a high number of applicants and hundreds are shortlisted for interview. On Department for Transport interview panels there need to be three people and the panel needs to be diverse.
It seemed to make sense – based on a time cost benefit analysis – to use asynchronous video interviews for the campaigns. Another big bonus is that asynchronous interviews open the pool of applicants much wider. Candidates do not have to travel to interviews, a big bonus during Covid and a particular advantage for those with disabilities or with caring responsibilities. They also provide a solution to the scheduling challenge of homeschooling and working that many parents – particularly women – faced in the first lockdown. “You can fit the interview around you,” says Jade Jones, Inclusive Recruitment & Assessment Partner at the DfT, “and you can chunk up assessments and interviews rather than having to spend a day being assessed. There is also a consistency of approach with less chance of leading questions being asked. Each candidate has the same experience.”
For the first bulk campaign using asynchronous interviews, the DfT worked with Capita to create a branded interview platform with back end support. Capita did the first sift and the shortlisted candidates were sent a link to the interview. Around 400 candidates were interviewed at a cost of £11 per candidate. They had around a fortnight to do it. Candidates could not re-record their answers and had to complete the questions within the allotted time. Department interview panel members watched the interviews afterwards and scored them.
Jones says the campaign was accompanied by virtual open evenings where candidates could meet members of the Department and talk to them. She feels it is important that there is some element of human interaction during the process and that candidates have a chance to see some of the people they will be working with.
Jones is proud that the Department is ahead of the curve and says there has been a lot of interest from other Government agencies.
“I think it shows that we are trying to branch out and try new things that can be more inclusive,” she says. “I love that Covid has forced us to go for it. Asynchronous interviews are another string to our bow now that the Covid ways of working are likely to be with us for the foreseeable future.”