e-business 5-minute Q & A

David Evans, 40, is head of HR at financial services company Virgin Direct and its e-business spin-off Virginmoney.com which launched last week. The dotcom aims to compete with the likes of Egg and Fidelity.com. It employs 140 permanent and contract staff; average age is 44


PT You’re a traditional HR manager, how did you make the move to a dotcom company?


DE I was headhunted by Virgin Direct from Independent Insurance. We started the Virginmoney.com project last November. If you had have asked me 12 months ago if I ever saw myself working at a dotcom company I would have said “no”. I wasn’t looking to leave Independent Insurance but you don’t get the chance to set up a new company every day of the week – not of this size or scale.


PT Why do you think you were you headhunted?


DE Virgin Direct was four years old when I joined in 1999 – the same age as Independent Insurance when I joined it in 1992 – so there were lots of parallels, such as getting professional HR practices and strategies in place, building the profile of HR in the business and adding value to all that we do.


PT What have been the main challenges recruiting for an e-business?


DE There have been two main ones – finding specialist IT people and working out the right rewards and benefit strategy. Several e-businesses have gone down the route of “selling the dream of being millionaires” through the successful growth of the dotcom business. Evidence has shown that Amazon.com has had to reconsider its strategies as its share price slides. We are focusing on salaries, bonuses linked to retention and a range of flexible benefits to suit the profile of our staff.


PT You mentioned recruitment, what methods have you used?


DE We placed job adverts on Monster.co.uk, The Sunday Times and two computer magazines. Candidates responded to a recruitment company in Manchester. We use a screen-to-screen system whereby candidates first watch a video about the company and its culture and are then given the option of deselecting if they wish. If they’re still interested, they go through an interview and psychometric testing. They are interviewed and filmed on a camcorder. They are all asked the same questions. The interviews are put onto CD-Rom and sent to us to watch so we can de-select if we wish. In one hour we can see footage of 15 candidates which would have taken something like five-and-half hours to see them traditionally.

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