A guide to conducting successful remote interviews

A guide to conducting successful remote interviews

Earlier this year I had just finished my university studies and was looking for a job. Looking for a job in a world that seemed to have been turned upside down. We all know that job interviews can often be quite bittersweet experiences – exciting, yet nerve wracking at the same time. So if that’s already the case when going to an in-person interview, what the hell happens when the interview takes place online? 

The first remote job interview I had was an absolute disaster. The communication from the company with whom I was interviewing was unclear (e.g. they gave me an estimate of what time the interview will take place and that’s all). I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Then, around 3pm, I got a call – that was the job interview. It took maybe 2 to 3 minutes in total, and the interviewer did not seem to be listening at all to what I was saying. And that’s on how to not conduct interviews remotely.

In the post-Covid era, remote hiring has become the new normal so it’s obviously also important to know how to effectively conduct interviews online. In this blog, I will share with you some tips to help create a remote interview process that is efficient, fair and successful, allowing you to hire the best talent. If you are new to remote interviewing or simply want to up your hiring process – continue reading!

Online interviewing challenges

Conducting remote interviews is not the same as conducting an interview in-person, and not every hiring manager and HR professional is aware of this. These are the biggest challenges of conducting remote interviews:

  • Where conducting interviews in-person can already result in a lot of bias & subjective interpretations, this danger becomes even more evident when interviewing remotely. Meaning that there is a higher sensitivity to context in which the interview takes place that might influence the impression of a candidate. Normally our first impression about someone is based on the way someone enters the room, even the way someone shakes hands with you, etc. And yes, first impressions can be dangerous, but with less possibility to observe the way someone acts, there is more room for bias to creep in. During a remote interview, you miss out on these aspects and begin filling these gaps with ideas based on your own frame of reference, leading to an even more biased first impression. 
  • Technical difficulties leave a bigger impact on the interview quality & efficiency than you would think. Without the right software and a good internet connection (amongst other things) – it is likely that the interview will not only take longer, but also not deliver all the insights necessary to make a final hiring decision. Moreover, connection issues might even make it awkward not only for the candidate but also for the interviewer. Because let’s be honest – a poor internet connection can heavily impact the flow of the conversation.

Additionally, not everyone is comfortable in front of a camera during a video call – digital interactions are substantially different from in-person conversations. A Candidate’s background during the video call might also lead to a biased first impression. For example, if their room is messy, you might think of them as less put-together and less professional – this is an assumption. 

So, let me tell you how to make the best out of remote interviews and create a process that is efficient, structured and allows you to bring the right talent on board!

How to structure a remote interview process

Be well prepared & plan the remote interview process

Thorough preparation is important in face-to-face interviews but it is even more important when it comes to remote interviews. We’ve prepared a few tips that will help you ensure that your remote interview process is better than ever before (and if you already are doing all of the below – good job!).

Tip 1. Don’t freestyle the interview

Good interviews require  preparation (or at least – they most definitely should). Lack of preparation can negatively affect the result of an interview. The more structured the remote interview process, the smoother it will go. 

One way to do so is by standardizing your interview process as it will make it easier to not only avoid bias, but also have a more structured way of assessing the candidate fit in an objective manner.(and compare objectively?) Read more about how job interviews can actually help you remove bias!

The questions you’ll ask during the interview process should be set up to draw responses that reveal the candidate’s ability to perform the job in question. These should be primarily behaviour-based questions. For example, “Tell me about a time when you handled a challenging situation”. Preparing questions beforehand will help you to stay on track during the interview and avoid getting too chatty about things that are not relevant. 

Tip 2. Get to know the candidates beyond their past experiences & education

In the screening stages, it is common to evaluate candidates based on their educational level, past experiences and what’s written in their motivational letter. However, that says little to nothing about who the person actually is.

Luckily, there is a way to make an informed decision about the candidate’s true potential and skills without ever even having met the candidates in person. It’s through data. Check out this blog we wrote about what data-driven recruitment is and how to implement a data-driven candidate evaluation process in 5 simple steps!

Why getting to know candidates beyond their past experiences is crucial when conducting a remote interview? Without being able to meet or speak to people in person, it is essential to make sure you get insight into the  skills and competencies that are required in a remote setting. That is why assessments, such as neuroscientific games, are extremely useful to help you narrow down your candidate pool.

Tip 3. Don’t forget about technology. 

Choose the right software, whether it be Google Meets, Zoom or any other platform – make sure you understand how it works and do a test-run beforehand. Keep in mind that the simpler the interface, the easier it will be not only for you to conduct the interview, but also for the candidate to participate in it.

Don’t forget about the candidate’s remote experience

Interview process is not only about ensuring that it runs smoothly from the hiring managers or recruiters point of view, it is also about ensuring that the candidate experience is excellent. 

Tip 1. Clearly communicate how the interview will take place.

Communicate all the relevant details with the candidates to not only make them feel more at ease, but also to make the interview process run as smoothly as possible. Specify whether it will be a phone or video interview, provide the candidate with all the relevant information. Whether it be the date, time, meeting ID and platform it will take place on, name of the interviewer or anything else that they might need to know beforehand. 

Tip 2. Relieve their tension & make the candidates feel at ease

Everyone of us has at one point or another been nervous about a job interview. Now, especially, when interviews take place remotely – this feeling of tension and uncertainty before a job interview is more prevalent than it was before. Meeting someone new in-person can already be stressful, let alone meeting someone for the first time online. They might be worried about their internet connection crashing, their dog barking in the background,  a crying child, or neighbours doing renovations. You can relieve the stress they might be feeling in regards to this by, in the first minutes of the interview, ensuring them that if any interruptions occur – it is completely acceptable and okay, so there is no need to worry.

Tip 3. Tell the candidates about the organizational culture

With remote work it has become increasingly difficult to help candidates learn about your company culture, team and your business as a whole. Try to explain what the core company values are and how that further relates to the overall culture. Give clear examples of how these values translate into behaviours and actions, this will create a clearer picture of what is expected from the employee.

Holding the remote interview

Even though remote interviews are similar to in-person interviews, there are a few key differences and, thus, also things to keep in mind when conducting an interview remotely:

  • Choose a distraction free environment for the interview (and encourage the candidate to do the same, yet ensure them if it’s not possible to be in an entirely distraction free environment – that it’s still okay)
  • Make sure to focus and listen actively
  • Provide the opportunity for the candidate to ask any questions about the company or the job role that they have applied for

Once the interview is done, make sure to follow up with the candidate. Whether it be a thank-you email, feedback or an explanation of the following stages of the hiring process, this is a crucial step in showing the candidate that their time is valuable to you and the company. After all, there is nothing worse than being excited about an interview and then never hearing back about it from the company.

Candidate experience is more important than ever, especially in a remote setting

Remote interviews (if conducted efficiently) can not only save time and resources, but also improve candidate experience.  It’s a two way street after all – the candidate is also assessing you & your interviewing skills. The interview process will leave a long-lasting impression of the company as a whole, not only on you as a recruiter or hiring manager. Don’t forget that an excellent candidate experience does not end here – it must extend into remote onboarding and working experience too.

Candidate experience is more important than ever, especially in a remote setting. Find out how Equalture can help you create an outstanding & unique candidate experience from the very beginning of the hiring funnel!

Cheers, Anete

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