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  • Writer's pictureAJ Cheponis

How to conduct a remote interview

Despite COVID-19 reverberating across our economy, some businesses still can’t afford to stop hiring. As a potential employer, you may already be used to conducting remote interviews, but when all your interviews are remote, what are things you should keep in mind to still get the same impact?

We’ve broken down the remote interview process into three buckets.

  • Candidate experience.

  • Prepping your interviewing team.

  • Logistics and operations.

Candidate experience

Given the circumstances, many candidates are probably expecting an onerous interview experience right from the get-go. Differentiate yourself by offering an excellent interview experience.

1) Think about the remote interview process systematically. Email invitations and confirmations will have to be rewritten to better support a remote hiring experience. Pro tip: Use a template—from Gmail or your ATS—to simplify things for your recruiting team.

2) Streamline your teleconferencing links. If you conduct multiple interviews in a day, there may be no need to have unique video conferencing links for each interviewer. Work with your IT department to create a unique yet efficient experience – ideally one in which the candidate only has to click one link throughout their hiring process.

3) Digitize everything. Where you used to print out hard copies of who the candidate will be meeting with, as well as topics, times, contact info, you’ll now want to make sure to have digital copies of those items attached to your invites and email communications.

4) Overcommunicate and humanize the process. The person interviewing today is experiencing far more uncertainty than someone a month ago. In the first five minutes of a Zoom (or other teleconferencing software) interview, relieve the tension of an unorthodox interviewing experience by clearly setting expectations and being very transparent.  For example, take the time before the conversation gets started to say: “If you have any questions, if our communication gets cut off, if you have to drop, if your internet goes out, etc, just reach back out to us and we can take it from there.”

5) Remember that interviews can be strenuous. This still applies when they’re conducted remotely. We give a $5 Starbucks gift card to all of our candidates who go through all-day interviews. Now, given the remote nature with which we have to conduct these, that Starbucks gift card is an Amazon gift card. Small gestures like that set you, as an employer, apart.

If you have the chance, you can also have your People Ops/HR team conduct a recording of the physical office. You can then use that recording to give candidates a virtual tour. That way, they can see the office space and get a glimpse into culture. If not a video, then pictures work too.

In the end, conducting remote interviews means being more accommodating and empathetic. Most companies throw people into an interview—remote or in-person. Being remote means you should be even more mindful of a candidate’s experience.

conducting remote interviews

Prepping your interview team for candidate evaluation and assessment

There are things you lose when you conduct remote interviews—things like body language, eye contact, and a measure of formality in the process itself. Here’s what you should keep in mind to prep your interview team for remote interviews:

1) Be aware of the assumptions you’re making about the candidate’s ability to have a successful interview.

For example, does your candidate have access to a stable internet connection? Do they have a laptop or computer with video? A phone with video? Can they find a quiet space to have this interview?

2) Go over things you usually keep an eye out for during an in-person interview.

This applies to the factors you would consciously consider making or breaking an in-person interview. For example, is this person directly answering questions? How is their tone of voice? Should they still be wearing typical interview attire? These things become more important to reconcile when you’re not sitting next to someone.

The in-person aspect of interviews means you can take a look at body language for help. In its absence, take some time to go over what factors are important and translatable when going remote.

Interview Prep Guide

Logistics and operations

Logistics become even more important to nail down for remote interviews. This is the difference between an interview that’s efficient and an interview that has to be rescheduled on everyone’s calendar because technology failed you.

1) Don’t have a single point of failure. If possible, have backup personnel on call to help manage the “hour-by-hour” coordination of a candidate’s process, particularly in the event things don’t go as planned. The lead recruiter shouldn’t go it alone. For example, at PI we have a talent design coordinator who manages logistics. That way the recruiter always has support in case something goes wrong. An office manager or someone from the HR team at large can also suffice.

2) Schedule a 15-to 30-minute debrief with the interviewers on the same day. If you have software like Slack or Microsoft Teams, create a group message for all the interviewers involved so that the candidate is still fresh in everyone’s minds. You can forget a lot of insight if you wait until the following day to regroup. Of course, avoiding groupthink remains essential, so it’s still prudent to complete personal assessments first, so as to avoid having your own opinions (positive or negative) influenced by the evaluations of others.

3) Before the interview, make sure the candidate is prepped with the proper tech. Primarily, that means ensuring they have the platform (e.g., Zoom, WebEx) necessary to conduct a video interview already downloaded and troubleshot. Advise them to take 15 minutes beforehand to test sound, video, and a backup mode of communication. Every minute counts.

In uncertain times, candidate experience is more critical than ever.

Just as you are interviewing a candidate, the candidate is assessing you. How smooth their interview process is will leave an impression on their perception of the company as a whole. Make sure they have a good experience by nailing down logistics and operations!

And remember, a remote interview experience may extend into a remote onboarding and working experience too. It doesn’t end with hiring.

During uncertain times, employee experience and engagement is even more important than usual. Find out more about how we help companies with managing and inspiring teams.

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