In the current conditions, many businesses are focused on supporting existing colleagues navigate the changes in working conditions whilst supporting their mental well-being. However, a significant proportion of consumer goods businesses are busier than ever; they need to adapt their processes to meet high demand and different purchasing behaviours, meaning there is still a requirement to fill skills gaps and hire new talent.
But how do you hire talent under current conditions? This is a common question both myself and my colleagues in the Consumer practice have been asked by business leaders over the past few weeks. At Berwick Partners, we have continued to run searches successfully from start to completion remotely, by adapting the assessment process to meet the needs of the client and the candidate, clearly demonstrating that remote hiring is possible.
In a recent conversation with Scott Chassels, Managing Director of FUEL10K, we discussed a recent appointment he had made remotely. I asked Scott if he would share his experience and learnings and I am delighted that he agreed to share his insight.
You have recently appointed and onboarded a new team member completely remotely. Can you give an overview of the process?
We were hiring for a wholesale and convenience sales manager and were introduced to a candidate who had previously accepted a role with another SME but had the offer retracted on her first weekend in Mexico (where she was travelling for 6 weeks between jobs). I spoke to her while she was still in Mexico as a first interview, mainly to check company fit, phone manner and get a sense for the type of person she was. She immediately impressed, engaging me with her enthusiasm and passion for food and the channel we were recruiting for. She had big business experience, having started as a graduate in a field sales role, then moved into wholesale before working on Tesco. I knew from experience that only the best graduates make that many moves and end up on the Tesco account within two years.
Following my call, the candidate spoke to our hiring manager who assessed in-role fit and competence, and finally one of our founders spent time chatting to her to understand more about personal interests and motivations. Following these three calls we made an offer, one week after the first call. She is now in her eighth week with FUEL10K. She still hasn’t met any of us face to face but has made a great impression with the full team through Teams or Zoom calls. Externally, she has already had numerous customer meetings with more lined up, and is pushing ahead with our plans, reviewing channel performance and pitching our NPD.
What gave you the confidence to be able to make the decision and hence not miss out on appointing great talent?
I think every so often you meet someone who you know is just right very early on, mainly driven by the feeling they give you and the enthusiasm and intensity you can see, or in this case hear, as well as their fit for the role based on their experience. I think when someone knows they can do a good job and apply their experience this shines through in the process.
We don’t get every hire right, so we are still fine tuning our assessment process. This example aside, we now have a 2-3 hour working session as a second or third stage, rather than an offline project to come back and present on. We feel this is more representative of the working environment.
What has the feedback been from the wider team?
The wider team have been very impressed. We are a very people driven organisation so being nice and personable goes a long way. We are a small business, so we don’t have ’blockers’ - we all work together to maximise opportunities and navigate around challenges, so collaboration and being personal in the way we all work is important.
Will you recruit remotely again and if so, is there anything you would do differently?
This is the second time we have recruited remotely. The first was two years ago for a brand manager role. Her old boss (who worked for us) introduced us and again, like in the example above, it was clear to see she was a great fit for what we needed based on her previous experience. Her CV alone was a showcase of skills we needed in our business and on the phone her energy, knowledge and passion was great. Again, we had two to three phone calls prior to offering her the role before she went travelling for four weeks - hence why we never met her face to face before she joined us. The first time we met her was on day one in role and I can say comfortably she has been one of the best hires I’ve ever made.
When hiring at a more senior level, it’s a big hire so it could be argued why break the current face to face process, however a senior hire will have a longer career history and more experience from which to assess so arguably more to refer to. Right now, engaging teams and customers remotely is an important skill and we can’t be sure how long this will go on for or just how important this will be in the future. Therefore, I don’t think the likelihood of getting a hire wrong increases because of a remote hiring process.
So yes, I would recruit remotely again, but my preference still is to meet people. However, when you know it is right, then go for it.
What advice would you give other leaders of SME’s who are thinking about recruiting remotely?
It isn’t that different to the normal process however I do think looking back, that this has worked for us because in both cases the previous experience has been a very close match to what we were hiring for. Both had food industry experience and their previous roles were directly related to what we were hiring for, so this, with the immediate ability to impress helped make these remote hires an easy decision.
If you would like to discuss how we can adapt our search process to continue to engage and appoint talent remotely or if you have any other questions regarding talent attraction and leadership in the Consumer Goods sector, then contact Katie Hart, a consultant in our Consumer Practice.