The pandemic has changed working life forever, says Paul Dickens of York-based Shortlister

The pandemic has changed working life forever, says Paul Dickens, chief operating officer at video interviewing software provider, Shortlister. He spoke to Greg Wright.

Paul Dickens

WHEN Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown in March 2020, he was imposing restrictions that would leave an indelible mark on the corporate world.

Love it, or hate it, home working is here to stay. Employers who fail to acknowledge this fundamental change could lose some of their brightest stars.

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“I don’t think working patterns will ever go back to the way they were before the pandemic,’’ said Paul Dickens, the newly appointed chief operating officer at video interviewing software provider, Shortlister.

“The pandemic has accelerated the shift that was already taking place towards more digital and remote ways of working.”

“Those companies that try to go back to the old ways will lose out to rivals which offer flexible working. There is evidence that people want to spend around 2.6 days a week in the office after the pandemic ends.”

The fact that more people will be spending their working lives at home creates a range of challenges and opportunities. It also means the war for talent will be conducted virtually. Suddenly, your location won’t dictate your career choices.

Headquartered in York, Shortlister, and its sub platform Shortlist.Me, provides employers with video interviewing software. It also supplies candidates with a platform to hone their interview skills.

Mr Dickens joined the business in April from Ganymede — part of the AIM listed RTC group — where he was operations director, and brings 18 years of experience in sales, recruitment, technology and people management to a role which will focus on developing the company’s commercial team.

While Shortlister has been trading since 2014, it has really come to the fore in the last year as firms turned to technology to conduct interviews.

With sections of the economy set to stage a robust recovery, organisations are relying on Shortlister to cast the widest possible net to help find the perfect employee.

“Most people are not trained how to carry out interviews,’’ said Mr Dickens. “We provide a framework with a competency and strength-based interview system which is based on input from psychologists.

“It puts the candidate at ease. We encourage companies to approach interviews in a personable way.

“It’s about giving candidates an application platform that gives them the best chance of success, and removes the traditional hiring barriers.

“Our technology provides structured interviews that give the highest probability of success for both candidate and employer.

“We provide the technology platform to sift through candidates quickly and efficiently, and also allow candidates to display their abilities beyond a CV.”

The company, which has 15 staff, is particularly focused on finding talent in further and higher education so young people can prepare themselves for the workplace.

“Developing the employability of our early talent is vital,’’ he said. “We need to ensure top talent isn’t lost in processes that don’t allow all individuals to shine.”

Many young people are very ill-prepared for job interviews and need honest feedback, according to Mr Dickens.

“We use artificial intelligence to provide feedback about how their interview technique can be improved, and engage with careers services to ensure they have fully rounded coaching to prepare them for the real world of finding employment,’’ he added.

As the economy re-awakens, some sectors will face hurdles that didn’t exist before the pandemic. Hospitality businesses, for example, might experience difficulties because many of their former staff have left the sector over the last year.

“There are also challenges in the engineering sector which is suffering from a hangover from the lack of apprenticeships,’’ said Mr Dickens. “Once furlough ends we should see a return to normality, which will bring about hiring challenges that need to be effectively managed.

“Geographic boundaries to accessing talent seem to have dramatically reduced,’’ he said. “The war for talent has never been stronger.”

Shortlister supports more than 10,000 interviews per month, and works with brands such as Roche Pharmaceuticals and Virgin Media, during a time when there is pressure on businesses to show that they care about the world outside the boardroom.

Mr Dickens said: “There has been a real shift with people wanting to know what the business is going to do for them.

“Providing a salary is no longer enough. They want to know the company’s views on diversity and how it is managing social responsibility..The average time a person spends in each jobs is now only between 18 months to two years. The company has to be in tune with changing skillsets.”

He believes more leaders from the technology sector will head to York as part of a broader migration from London and the South East.

“You really can have a lifestyle which enjoys the great qualities of York while working for leading edge, forward thinking organisations which haven’t always been associated with the region,’’ he said.

“We are aiming to have a workforce of 50 people over the next three years. Our hope is that we enable people to perform to the best of their ability at interview and give them opportunities they would never have had.”