Virtual interviews, commonly conducted via video conference or other online communication platforms, are common for screenings and first-round interviews where the candidate and hiring entity are in different locations. This allows the candidate and hiring team to get to know one another while being respectful of the candidate’s time and other commitments, from family to their current work obligations, and without the costs associated with travel and other arrangements until further in the selection process. Despite the virtual aspect, video interviews should be taken just as seriously as in-person interviews by both parties.
With many offices and cities around the country still shuttered indefinitely through the pandemic, the chances of hiring a candidate without having ever met them face-to-face are increasingly common. Additionally, many companies throughout the United States will be hiring a remote or partially remote workforce, as companies increasingly adopt expanded work from home policies and employees embrace the change.
According to a recent Pew Research Center Survey, most workers who say their job responsibilities can mainly be done from home say that, before the pandemic, they rarely or never teleworked. Only one in five say they worked from home all or most of the time. Now, 71% of those workers are doing their job from home all or most of the time. And more than half say, given a choice, they would want to keep working from home even after the pandemic, the survey found.
The shift in workplace dynamics means remote and video interviewing has become an essential part of the hiring process and is here to stay. Listed below are some best practice guidelines for hiring organizations to follow as they embark on their virtual hiring journey.
For many candidates, remote interviews may be a familiar and easy process. Others, including both candidates and those on hiring teams, are still adapting to new technologies. Ensure that whatever platform you decide to use—be it Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or other, more specialized tools—offers a friendly user experience. It should be easy to join the meeting, speak, mute/unmute, share your screen, and send messages or attachments if needed.
It’s helpful to have a documented remote interview guide for your company because not all platforms or processes are the same. Documentation should include everything from what software the organization uses, how to download it and set up an account, a timeline, sample questions, and troubleshooting tips if something unexpected arises before or during the interview.
To guarantee each candidate’s privacy, use technology that offers dedicated meeting IDs or links for each candidate so interviews don’t unintentionally overlap. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of video interview software’s “waiting room” feature. The interview team can gather together and let the candidate in when everyone is signed in and ready to begin.
Keep in mind that there are equity issues associated with video interviews. For example, candidates may be interviewing from their home, where they may or may not have the luxury of a private room. If a candidate is working on-site, they may need to participate from a parking lot, outdoor coffee shop, or another seemingly unusual place. According to the UBC Equity and Inclusion Office, “How people present themselves online can subject them to bias, as suggested by the Videoclassism of socio-economic status.”
To help combat this, the office suggests inviting candidates to use a standard digital background and conduct portions of the interview without video. And if privacy isn’t an issue, access to technology and high-speed internet connections might be. Be aware that what you see may lead you to make judgments that you otherwise might not. Try to be flexible with candidates who face additional challenges during the virtual or video interview process.
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Finally, work to “separate ‘style’ from ‘content’ during the interview. Cultural differences, well-being levels, comfort with technology, response to interruptions, and physical settings may have a huge impact on style and how a candidate is perceived, and it can distract us from the content the candidate presents. Remember that you are assessing for content primarily, and in the deliberations, challenge the comments from yourself and other selection committee members that over-emphasize style,” the UBC Equity and Inclusion Office advised.
Another note to keep in mind is that not all candidates excel in video interview formats; some excel in phone or face-to-face interviews. Stay focused on the most important aspect of the interview: “Will the candidate perform his or her duties well if given the opportunity?” and try to be cognizant of what might cause a person to seem flustered during their interview, from their environment to comfort with the technology and other factors.
There’s nothing more frustrating for candidates than an unorganized interview, be it virtual or in-person. Strive to be transparent throughout the process, telling them as much information as you can (legally!). Make sure they know the technology that will be used and if they have to do anything extra for it to work on their computer, names, and titles of those who will be in the interview, whether it will be recorded and for what purpose, important dates and times, and how to connect if the video portion of the interview doesn’t go according to plan.
Help your candidates successfully prepare for their interviews. Include instructions on how to download the software (if applicable), how to test their connections, and basic frequently asked questions in case there’s a technology glitch. Additionally, if candidates will be expected to share their screen to demonstrate work or walk through their portfolio, ensure they understand this in advance to prepare adequately. Don’t spring any surprises on candidates during the interview.
We’ve all been there: technology fails. It can happen to the most vigilant. While most people understand and empathize, save yourself from embarrassment by checking and double-checking all of your technology. It’s also helpful to schedule a 10 to 15-minute buffer between interview sessions to get prepared and in case there are technical difficulties that cause the interview to start late or run longer than expected.
Other technology considerations include:
Reviewing your remote interview process and ensuring your recruiting team is adopting best practices will go a long way toward ensuring the success of your search for the best candidate for your organization.
Impact Opportunity would like to thank Karen Butterfield for her work in writing this article. Karen is the Founder of KE Butterfield, LLC., a communications firm. Prior to launching the company, Karen served as a Director of Communications for an executive recruiting firm and spent nearly a decade as a reporter and editor for an award-winning community newspaper and publishing company. During her tenure there, Karen earned more than a dozen state and national awards for her work. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Webster University in St. Louis.