A CEO’s personal journey: Recruiting, onboarding & building a team in a virtual world


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By The Bedford Consulting Group Partners

(Shelley Copsey, CEO at FYLD)


A handshake has been the unwritten seal of a deal for centuries. But in this new virtual world, a firm grip signifying ‘you’re hired’ to a new CEO is no longer the norm. In fact, the whole process of recruiting and onboarding top talent has fundamentally changed. How can organizations and C-suite candidates use the new normal to be successful?


Succinct Sells

The ubiquity of zoom/video interviews during the pandemic is changing the nature, tone, style and dynamics of interviews.  Here are a few vital steps executives can take to stand out.

  • Be quick and deliberate: Since the pandemic, interviews have become shorter, as people have a litany of zooms and need to stick to more strict timelines than they would have in the past.  So how can you adjust your interview approach to address this shift?


“You have to become quite skilled at getting your message across quickly,” says Copsey, who recently went through the entire recruiting and onboarding process virtually, as the new CEO of Fyld, A UK-based company that specializes in developing real-time handheld technology for fieldworkers. “I presumed the people interviewing me would have limited time so I prepared by being more granular about showing them why I would be a good fit and why they would want me.”

  • Approach zoom interviews as a dress rehearsal: Copsey went through five interviews – two with Bedford and three with Fyld – en route to becoming the CEO. In all interviews, including a case study presentation, the way she handled herself on zoom demonstrated her potential to be a leader in a virtual a landscape. Her comfort on camera, how she articulated her value proposition and her presentation skills conveyed agility, adaptability, innovation and the capacity to connect. “You have to build rapport over zoom in an interview which requires being more prepared, because everyone is there for purpose – they all have back to back zooms and you need to convey your value in a very deliberate way,” Copsey reveals.

Even as interviews are returning to in-person settings, Copsey’s points apply.  You need to tighten your value proposition and showcase your ability to lead and connect with people virtually. This will show your potential new employer that you can lead remotely with confidence and competence.


Get Onboard in a Structured Way

Data strongly supports the importance of a robust onboarding process, even more so in this virtual context. When done well, virtual onboarding will enhance your new leader’s performance and ongoing success and that directly impacts company culture, morale, and productivity.

“My onboarding process was very structured and detailed with each session being about 1.5 hours,” Copsey says. “We also have daily meetings which has enabled me and others who are onboarding to settle in and build relationships.”

Copsey adds that as she builds her leadership team, she will leverage interview case studies as on onboarding tool because “you can see the level of effort a candidate puts in and they end up learning a considerable amount about the company before they even start, which will help us begin the onboarding process.”

We advise that virtual onboarding programs provide excellent opportunities for stakeholder introductions and relationship-building. It is also essential to have a clearly defined process that outlines each step and stage to acclimatize a new leader.


Nothing Beats Being Yourself

There’s a baby crying in the background. A dog darts across the floor. You’re in casual clothes. Could you have imagined working with these scenarios a few months ago? Certainly not. But today, these situations are common as millions of people work, are recruited and onboarded for roles in their homes.  A particularly unique opportunity being at home provides for leaders is an excellent forum for authenticity.

“I feel much more comfortable with people seeing the real me,” says  Copsey, who is into her second week at Fyld. “When you’re on a zoom screen, it’s easier to be authentic because people see you at home. They see your children. They see you in less formal clothes. You also see yourself on the screen, which makes you more acutely aware of how you come across visually and that can help you feel more relaxed.”

Seeing executives at home provides a window into who they really are; it makes them more personable and relatable. Organizations are putting greater emphasis on  observing these ‘human traits,’ such as empathy, honesty and authenticity, as they seek out their leaders of tomorrow. We advise candidates and clients to embrace being real.

Recruiting the right leaders is perhaps more important now than ever, as you want new talent to hit the ground running, just as Copsey has. For candidates and companies alike, preparation, acing zoom interviews, having robust virtual onboarding and being the real you will all bode well for leading successfully in this new world of work.