What it Was Like Starting a New Role During a Global Pandemic

Joining us in the thick of the global pandemic David McGowan, Executive Search Consultant within IT/OT Convergence & Cyber Security tells us all about his remote onboarding experience. He also has some helpful tips for remote on-boarding dos and don’ts.

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How did you come across Collingwood Executive Search?

I was introduced to Doug, MD at Collingwood Executive Search shortly after being made redundant during the height of the Pandemic (2020). He was very upfront with me about the fact that he was not actively looking to recruit as, like many other businesses, the pandemic had encouraged the need to be a little more cautious than in previous years. But Doug was also optimistic that this could change in the new year, at this time it was the end of September. We talked a few times before the new year, and he took the time to get to know me–and to allow me to get to know him and how Collingwood works. We shared a few similar experiences, and I found very quickly that his values and those of Collingwood were very similar to mine. 

All this was done remotely, which was completely new to me, but having regular contact meant it didn’t feel so unusual.


What was the interview process like compared to previous experience?

When I have interviewed for positions in the past, I suppose it goes without saying that I have met the people who have interviewed me in person, and this has always been several members of the team from peers to managers. This was impossible during the pandemic; I was able to meet virtually with two other members of the team other than Doug.  It was not even possible to go and see the place where I could be working when things got back to normal! It was an unusual situation, which could have been unsettling, but with everyone being in the same position, and so much communication throughout, it made things much easier.


What was the onboarding process like?

I was offered and accepted a job with Collingwood Executive Search in January and started in February this year (2021). This was another new experience, my on boarding with the business was completely remote – I did not have the chance to meet any of my new colleagues until March and all of my first introductions with them were conducted over a team's meeting. I joined as things were starting to get really busy again, so it was a baptism of fire! Thankfully, a lot of time was taken to make sure that the first few weeks were carefully structured, which made things much easier. Also, the team were very welcoming, taking the time to speak with me and meet virtually outside of any arranged meetings.


Now 6 months on how do you feel about the whole experience?

I am now 6 months into my career with Collingwood and it was certainly well worth the wait. I eventually met Doug in person towards the end of my first month, and then as things settled down following lockdown being lifted, and I began travelling into the office more regularly. A few months in I had finally met everyone in person. Although by that point I had already got to know everyone really well virtually. During my time here, even in the first 6 months I have already learned and achieved a lot. The team has a lot of experience, and everyone is always ready to support each other.

What has been refreshing is how everyone is encouraged to share ideas and to speak openly about challenges, successes, ways to improve and learn – in fact this is the only place I have worked where time is specifically put aside for us all to get together and collaborate on learning ideas. It is clear that care has been taken to bring people into the business that share experiences and values, and the level of autonomy given has been incredibly empowering!

Can you share with us your top 3 do’s and don'ts for companies thinking of onboarding remotely?


  1. Emphasise Communication – not just formal meetings, make the time for more sociable meetings too, and involve the whole team when you can
  2. Plan, in detail, a structure beyond the first few weeks
  3. Be clear on your company culture and values – this becomes even more important when you cannot meet someone in person, it should show through from decision maker to peer


  1. Rush the process
  2. Limit the number of people involved in meeting your new employee
  3. Forget to communicate between making an offer and your new employee starting with your business. They are a part of your team from the moment they agree to join, not from the first day they start



What are your 3 top dos and don’ts for candidates going through a remote onboarding process?



  1. Do your research – this takes on even more importance because if you are going to take advantage of the flexibility of some remote or hybrid working you need to prove from day one that you are proactive and can self-start
  2. Keep the communication open, it works both ways. Make the time to communicate in between the scheduled meetings you have during the interview process
  3. Be authentic, you need to build that personal connection, so wherever you can (respectfully) share insights into your personality and interests, do so. It all helps to verify that culture fit!



  1. Neglect to ask questions about, and look for evidence of, a clear culture. Go beyond the words being said and ask questions, ask for examples
  2. Hold back – if your new employer is scheduling meetings for team building and socialising then get involved, have an opinion and be ready to bring suggestions
  3. Forget to keep that communication going once you have started. You cannot rely on being able to walk to someone's desk or chatting over making tea or coffee – so use teams (or zoom or whatever) as a social tool and not just a meeting tool


About the author
David McGowan
5 min read

David is one of Collingwood’s newest members joining as an Executive Search Consultant and leading recruitment within the Industrial IT/OT and Cyber Security market.

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