In this new age of remote working, thanks to the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19, it is important to outline a standard process and best practices for remote interviews. Conducting remote interviews may seem like a foreign (or even stressful) prospect if you’re never done it before. Even if you have, there are best practices that can help elevate your interviewing skills to the next level. Below, we have outlined a few tips for leading remote interviews to help you make the most of the conversation and find the best fit for the job.
The Logistics: Who, How and Technology
Before interviewing commences, you should determine an interview team and interview process, taking into consideration candidate experience, a diverse interviewing team and the level of the role. As a rule of thumb for individual contributor roles, you should have no more than three stages to your process. Typically, you should start with an initial phone interview with the talent team, followed by an interview with the hiring manager, and then the final stage, with an executive/department head as necessary. For leadership roles, an additional one or two stakeholder interviews may be added. Some companies also like to include a less formal meeting as part of the process, such as a meet and greet with a colleague or other employee. If you are the hiring manager, you should ensure that you connect with your interview team prior to their interviews, to make sure they are clear on what areas they are covering in the interview. Typically, there should be no more than three people (including the candidate) on a virtual call at one time to ensure smooth internet connection, provide a positive experience for the candidate and to be able to control the flow of the interview efficiently.
When hosting remote interviews, video calls are preferred (versus a regular telephone call) as, this allows you to get a read of the candidate’s facial expressions, body language and natural demeanor as you would in a face-to-face meeting. This will allow you to interview the candidate as you would in person. Video calls also add to a positive candidate experience, increasing the likelihood of the candidate building a positive opinion of the company, and you. If a video call isn’t available to you, then telephone calls will suffice. Whether you are conducting a video call or telephone call, we have a few tips to guide you:
- Ensure you’re in a space that has acoustics that allow the candidate to hear what you are saying (areas with heavy echo can be tough).
- Practice your projection and annunciation of words.
- This may sound crazy, but even though you’re not on video, it is still important to smile and practice positive body language and tone while on the call — trust me it makes a difference in your voice!
As for the technology, the most common video conferencing tools are Zoom, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, WebEx and Blue Jeans. Your company should have a subscription to one of these technologies that you can access. For clarification, ask your IT team or Talent Acquisition team for the resources available. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, many of these companies are offering free access for a limited time — take advantage!
First Impressions Matter
The most important thing to remember during an online interview, is to proceed as if it were an in-person interview. Here are some helpful tips to set the tone for a professional environment, so you and your candidate have a successful video interview:
- Dress appropriately and professionally (if you look and feel good, this will come across in your interview).
- Prepare the space and set up your camera in a well-lit, clean and appropriate area (make sure there is nothing distracting in the background).
- Practice ahead of time. Make sure to practice your voice, tone, volume, facial expressions and body language in the camera (eye contact/body language still needs to be positive and open).
- If you are sharing a space with a home co-worker, make sure you agree to no interruptions at the scheduled time.
Each candidate and job function is different; therefore, it is important to have tailored questions to each interviewee and role. Below is a sample of prepared questions and areas to cover during an interview:
- Do they have experience required to do the job? Examples: “Do you have X years of experience in,” “Tell me about X project” or “Tell me about a project you have managed that is global in scope.”
- Are they a cultural fit to your company’s core values? Each organization has different values that run through the core of their organization; it is at the heart of what they do, and how they do it. To prepare some cultural fit questions, first think about the cultures that ring true to your organization. What are they? What behaviors do employees possess that demonstrate their cultural fit? Next take these behaviors and create behavioral questions. Here are some examples:
- “Tell me about a time where you were asked to do something you have never done before. How did you react? What did you learn?”
- “Tell me about a time your team failed to reach a goal. How did you feel?”
- “Give me an example of a time where you have taken colleagues perspectives into consideration to diversify your view. What was the situation?”
- “How do you build relationships with your key stakeholders?”
- “Tell me about one thing you have done in the last year to develop yourself in your industry.”
- Does the candidate possess ideal attributes and behaviors for the role? Examples: “Tell me about a time when you had to work as a team to achieve a goal, what was the situation and what was the outcome” or “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a challenging customer, what was the situation, how did you resolve the situation”
Professionalism is Key
Before logging on to the interview with a potential new hire, make sure you have established a clear process with your interview team. This includes:
- Have your questions prepared ahead of the meeting.
- If there are going to be multiple interviewers, be clear on who is going to ask what.
- Social cues are harder to distinguish on video calls, to prepare, have your interview team’s practice their sequence of prepared questions with each other through the video interface.
- Practice your culture pitch. Prepare the key points of what makes your company a great place to work for you, what core values do you see in your team, and share real stories with the candidate around your experience at the company.
- Test the link to the call.
- Set expectations with the candidate. Share tips for video interviewing with the candidate ahead of time. Talk through how the interview will play out, just like an in-person interview. Share attachments and/or visuals to back up questions/topics to be discussed to demonstrate life at your company and always, allow time for questions from candidate.
- Set up a debrief with the team to discuss feedback immediately following the interview.
- Always have a plan B – share your contact details with the candidate just in case the technology is causing delays or not going to plan.
While it is tempting to be more casual on a remote interview, using these tips to keep your conversation professional, planned and personal will not only help your company find the ideal candidate for the role, but will also build rapport with the candidate and allow professional relationships to deepen from the first conversation.
About the Author:
Natalie focuses on overseeing Talent Acquisition for Corporate Shared Services, Occupier Services and Property Management across North America. She also oversees recruitment coordination for the Talent Acquisition team, as well as being involved in key Talent Acquisition projects around candidate experience, process and employment branding.