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Optimizing Your Hiring Strategies for Remote Interviews During COVID-19

In our current climate of remote work and physical distancing, it’s not surprising that hiring strategies have rapidly evolved! Standard routines such as inviting a candidate in for interviews or pairing a new employee with a mentor are no longer possible in this scenario, and many companies now have to reconsider recruiting and training methodologies.

“One of our clients needed to fill a position left vacant by someone who resigned, but the outgoing employee didn’t want any in-person contact with the new person coming in,” said Hire Velocity President. “We recommended setting both parties up on Zoom or GoToMeeting so that they could do a virtual training session to maintain social distancing. It was a great solution because they could record the call, including screen sharing, and use that information for training and knowledge transfer.”

As we all hustle to learn new platforms and processes that facilitate remote work, one of the challenges recruiters and hiring managers face is how to conduct an effective interview while following recommended health protocols. The good news is that we already have the technology in place to make it happen!

In this second in a series of seven posts on the remote workforce, let’s look at some best practices you can implement right now for remote interviewing, as well as some things you should consider to bolster your options for the future.

What You Can Do Right Now

If you have positions that need to be filled now, you may not have time to purchase and implement new technology to manage your current recruiting and hiring needs. That’s okay. You probably already have the tools with your phone or computer to do it right now. There are many tools on the market that you can start using immediately, and you can also adjust your practices to make the most of every interaction. Here are a few considerations:

Video Conferencing Tools

The best video conferencing tools include capabilities like screen sharing, call recording, text chat, file sharing, digital whiteboards, and conferencing for multiple participants. Participant limits can range from 50-100 for a free platform to several thousand for paid versions. While Zoom is a popular option, there are several other excellent platforms on the market that offer a variety of options based on your business needs, including:

If you need to set up a video interview quickly, FaceTime and Skype are free, readily available, and most candidates probably already have one or the other. With Skype, you can pay a monthly fee to access additional features designed for business.

Remote Interviewing Best Practices

Interviewing someone remotely can present unexpected challenges. Candidates may have a hard time acting naturally during the interview, you may run into technical difficulties, or you may have to adjust your techniques to accommodate the format. Whatever the scenario, consider these tips for making the most of each interaction:

  • Choose the format based on the nature of the job. Some jobs, such as a call center position, may not require the person to have face time with your customers. If that’s the case, then you will want to assess how they handle themselves on the phone, not necessarily in a face-to-face interaction. For these roles, a phone interview might be sufficient. However, if the job requires a physical presence, then visually assessing how candidates conduct themselves in personal interactions will be an important part of your decision. That’s when a video interview will carry the most weight.

  • Prepare your environment. Choose a quiet location with minimal distractions and good lighting. Distractions come in many forms, from the color of your clothing (white or bright colors don’t always render well on-screen, for example) to a barking dog to other people creating background noise. Do whatever you can to eliminate these distractions and present yourself professionally. Don’t forget to put non-essential programs on mute to avoid distractions.

  • Work out technical issues before the call. Provide instructions for the candidate and offer to answer any questions they may have before the interview. On your end, test your video and headset ahead of time so you can work out any problems.

  • Be natural. It’s tough to act naturally when you’re interacting through a screen or phone but do everything you can to make the interview feel personable and normal. For video interviews, place your camera at arm’s length and eye level and look directly into the camera when speaking rather than at the candidate’s image on the screen. This creates the impression of eye contact with the candidate. Remember to smile and be personable to put the candidate at ease.

  • Assess the candidate's presentation. Just as you would during an in-person interview, assess the way the candidates present themselves during the call. Take note of the candidate’s home office environment (if they candidate will be working from home, do they have a place conducive to getting work done?), visual presentation (if this is important for the job), professionalism, communication skills, body language, and ability to respond confidently to questions.
  • Incorporate pre-recorded interviews. Pre-recorded or one-way video interviews can be watched any time. The candidate will then record his or her response to send to you. These are helpful for screening early in the recruiting process and for interviewing high volumes of candidates.

  • Consider in-person interviews that follow social distancing guidelines. If your local guidelines allow, you may still be able to conduct an interview with social distancing in place. Hold the interview in a conference room where you can place appropriate distances between yourself, the candidate, and any colleagues who may be participating.


Prepare for Future Remote Interviewing Opportunities

While we all hope that COVID-19 will be short-lived and we can get back to our accustomed work environments soon, the reality of video interviews and remote work is here to stay. Now is the time to draft new protocols that will prepare you and your team for remote work scenarios in the future.

  • Video interviewing technology – The tools we discussed above can support phone calls and basic interviews, but it’s also wise to consider technology specifically designed for deeper video interviewing needs. Platforms like HireVue and InterviewStream enable you to optimize the candidate experience with digital interviews. For example, HireVue offers assessment tools to gauge the candidate’s skills and competencies. The platform also uses AI to help you learn more about candidates and make unbiased decisions. With InterviewStream, you can create a structured interview process that remains consistent for every candidate by incorporating question sets, interview guides for stakeholders, and candidate-friendly live interviews. It also integrates with platforms like ADP, Workday, and CareerBuilder to help you streamline your process. You may also want to consider other platforms such as VidCruiter, Spark Hire, and MyInterview.
  • Remote interview policies and strategy – Like many companies, you may be scrambling to navigate a huge learning curve during this sudden surge of remote work. That’s unavoidable, but it can also be a wonderful opportunity to take note of what works and what doesn’t. Document these experiences and insights, and use them as your basis for a standardized remote interview strategy.

COVID-19 won’t be with us forever, but virtual interviewing and remote hiring will. Now is the time to create a strategy, put appropriate technology in place, and give your hiring team the tools they need to connect with top talent, wherever their work takes them.