Why remote hiring isn’t going away and what that means to HR

This month, HRE is helping HR leaders prepare for the year ahead with a series featuring insights from industry experts, thought leaders and others about what we can learn from 2020 and the challenges coming in 2021. Read the series here.


This year has brought HR a host of unprecedented issues to navigate: employee safety concerns, engagement in a newly remote world, legal considerations and even the reshaping of the HR role itself. With all of that change just in the last few months, many HR leaders are looking to 2021 with a bit of trepidation: What’s next?

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HRE: What should be HR leaders’ first priority for 2021?

Karin Borchert, CEO of Modern Hire

Borchert: The top priority for HR leaders in 2021 should be focusing on helping their organizations adjust to the unexpected change of remote work and remote hiring–a trend that began this year due to the pandemic. This year ushered in many changes that required employees and their employers to act quickly and transition to remote work, which was a new concept for many and posed unique challenges. HR leaders should prioritize making the work-from-home situation as positive of an experience as it can be, as we’ve learned that it will likely stick around long after the pandemic is over. HR leaders must nail down the logistics of how their organization works, their policies, how they manage, how they engage, evaluate and promote their workforce and, of course, how they hire–all remotely. This will require organizations to adopt new technologies and methodologies in 2021.

HRE: In what ways has the pandemic impacted how HR will hire in the long run, when it comes to the technologies and strategies used?

Borchert: The pandemic has accelerated the use of technology in hiring and, moving forward, companies will continue to use hiring technology. For companies like Walmart and Amazon, business boomed amid COVID-19, and thousands of positions opened up to keep up with supplies that were flying off the shelves. Large retailers turned to technology to keep up with the unprecedented amount of applications they were receiving. By adopting technology like pre-hire assessments and virtual interviewing technology, which support fast and objective hiring decisions, companies were able to drastically reduce logistical constraints, shorten the time-to-hire cycle and keep both employees and candidates safe amid ongoing COVID-19 concerns.

See also: Employers make ‘remarkable’ pivot to virtual hiring

Because of the success these large enterprises saw with recruiting, hiring and onboarding new employees, they will likely keep their hiring processes 100% virtual post-pandemic, as technology allowed them to make smarter hiring decisions in a way that in-person interviews could not compete with. In 2021 and beyond, most organizations will do the same and continue completely virtual hiring processes due to the efficiency, effectiveness and fairness of the technology. And while some fear that they won’t receive a personalized interview experience with virtual hiring, an engaging, branded experience is still possible with remote hiring with interview features like virtual job tryouts, phone and video interviews, and automated chatbots to help candidates work through any issues they may be having during the process.

HRE: What does the world of work look like in 2021, particularly when it comes to remote work?

Borchert: Remote work will continue to be part of the job in the future, as most companies have learned their workforce can be just as productive at home as they are in the office. This means remote hiring will continue in tandem, as it has proven to be advantageous throughout the pandemic, for a number of reasons.

One of the biggest perks of remote recruiting is it allows not only a more diverse workforce but enables employers to bring in domain expertise without regard for geography. Aside from expanding the candidate pool, there are several other benefits of remote hiring:

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  • Job tests and simulations, including pre-hire assessments, are easy to distribute remotely and can better predict job performance and retention than in-person interviews through the use of more sophisticated and powerful AI-based algorithms. This can also result in shorter overall hiring processes, which candidates and hiring managers alike can agree is an excellent outcome.
  • During a remote hiring process, resumes, interviews and other unstructured sources of data can be parsed and analyzed scientifically using AI, which can lead to more standardized, fair, efficient and faster hiring. In the past, these types of data sources could not be processed automatically and would often be insufficiently reviewed or missed by overwhelmed recruiters, who are often bogged down by a high volume of applicants and administrative tasks like scheduling interviews.
  • Overall efficiency can be increased substantially through remote hiring by reducing overlap in distinct steps of the hiring process, such as eliminating redundancy in scheduling candidates while also increasing the accuracy of automatic candidate communication tools like chatbots.
  • To the extent that a hiring system knows a person’s protected class status, aspects of remote hiring–like algorithms–can continuously monitor how each class is doing and issue red flags or other alerts when they detect problems. In this manner, AI-powered remote hiring can help us identify and correct any sources of bias that can arise in the hiring process.
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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].