Hiring During a Pandemic: How Spark Adapted to COVID-19


COVID-19 has drastically affected the global economy and all of the world’s industries. The pandemic has meant certain practices just don’t work anymore, and this includes well-established hiring processes. It was time to adapt to a new reality.

For Spark Networks, this meant switching from full-time at the office to working from home. Although we are a global company with offices in various locations and colleagues in other time zones, this was still a new experience for our organization and it presented a new challenge.

We established completely remote hiring and onboarding processes. This brought with it both positive and negative changes.

In the first month of the pandemic, we noticed two tendencies happening in the market. Firstly, people working in stable industries tended to be less open to new opportunities than under normal circumstances. Secondly, employees in industries that had been hit by the pandemic were actively looking for new roles.

Here at Spark, the working culture is vital – it’s why we used to conduct final interviews onsite. In-person interviews allow teams and candidates to get to know each other. However, due to local and travel restrictions, this practice became impossible. Therefore, we introduced a new onboarding experience described as “remote onsite”.

We use this oxymoron to describe the final stage in recruitment. During this stage, we get to know the final candidates more by assigning them a work-related challenge and introducing them to most members of their team.

Of course, this cannot replace a nice office tour, a team lunch, or a table tennis round with prospective colleagues, but it still gives candidates the chance to experience our culture and get to know their potential teammates. Also, a completely virtual recruitment process helped us save on travel time.

Despite these changes to the hiring process, there are still many ways in which you can adapt as a candidate and shine during a video interview. Here are some pointers to consider.

Things to check before the call:

1. Create a professional Skype or Zoom username. Use a variation of your real name so that recruiters can identify you easily when they add you.  

2.  Dress professionally, even if you’re sitting down. You never know when you need to stand up, so make sure your outfit is polished from head to toe.

3. Test your camera and microphone before the interview. You can ask a friend to help you and have a short test call with them beforehand.

4. Eliminate distractions. For example, silence your phone and disable popups on your devices.

5. Use a neutral background. Alternatively, choose a suitable virtual background for the interview.

6. Check the time zone. Candidates often assume that their proposed interview slot is set to their local time, but that isn’t always the case. Make sure to double-check.

7.Read about the company beforehand. Then, if the recruiter asks you why you’re interested in the role or company, you can answer them confidently.

Tips for during the interview call:

1. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand what an interviewer is saying over a video call, so if you don’t hear them correctly, politely ask them to repeat their question. It’s better to ask them to repeat themselves rather than trying to answer a question you haven’t heard correctly.

2. Try to speak clearly and slowly so that the interviewer can understand you.

3. Try to find a good balance when you’re answering questions and stick to succinct answers. If the interviewer needs more details, they will ask another question.

4. It’s always good to prepare one or two questions for the interviewer, this shows that you’re interested in the company.

5. Try to establish good, clear eye contact with the interviewer and nod your head to show that you’re actively listening

6. We regularly ask COVID-19-related questions during Spark interviews. In addition to your usual interview questions, we advise preparing for some pandemic-specific questions too. For example:

  • How have you adapted to working from home?
  • How do you manage your team remotely?

At the end of the day, nobody can say how things will develop in the future, but one thing we know for sure is that as an organization, we learned to adapt. We’re now confident that we can quickly adapt to unpredicted changes and provide a high-quality experience when it comes to hiring at Spark, no matter the circumstances.

By Inna Makarkina and Tatiana Egupova