Hiring Gets Tougher in Never-Meet-in-Person Era

Quentin Marshall hired three people over the past two months. He filled the roles without meeting any of them in person.

Recruiting during a pandemic requires “breaking down a lot of prejudices about how to do things,” said Marshall, head of private banking at U.K. lender Weatherbys. “Once you get over this idea you must be sharing the same oxygen molecules as them, you just get on with it.”

Others are doing the same. Felipe Guerra, chief investment officer at Sao Paulo-based hedge fund Legacy Capital, made four recent hires through Zoom, though he had met the candidates before the lockdown. Jeanne Branthover, managing partner and global head of the financial-services practice at DHR International, recently completed four executive searches where the clients and candidates never met, though in one case they did have lunch together -- virtually.

Coronavirus-related closures have put millions out of work globally and caused many companies to freeze hiring. About 60% of firms responding to an April survey by organizational consultant Korn Ferry said they were delaying hires.

Still, some financial-services companies are using the disruption to fill key roles and bolster businesses. Fidelity Investments and Fifth Third Bancorp have been on “hiring sprees” in recent weeks, according to Korn Ferry. More than 100 people have started at Izzy Englander’s Millennium Management hedge fund since March, while Michael Gelband’s ExodusPoint Capital has added 20 portfolio managers this year.

The companies’ recruitment methods vary, but they offer a glimpse at the ways the pandemic could overturn long-established workplace traditions and practices when it comes to looking for new employees. It may not necessarily make things quicker. For new recruits, a remote hiring process is typically more exhaustive.