Interviewing in a Remote World- Tips & Tricks for Virtual Vetting
By: Amanda Hawthorne, Director of People and Culture
Two years into the pandemic, it’s almost hard to remember life in the “before times.” At this point, it’s probably fair to say that Covid-19 might be our lifetime’s ultimate ‘disruptor’ – a word that, in Silicon Valley at least, usually signifies a unicorn organization poised to create a true paradigm shift in how the world operates. So much as changed in daily life since March 2020 because of the pandemic. Whether it’s new safety measures or even the foregoing of certain regulations (to-go cocktails, anyone?), the change is undeniable.
For many office workers, these changes are most noticeable in how and where we work. Many of us are now working and collaborating in largely digital workplaces. Whether they’re sharing files and trading gifs on Teams, or messaging colleagues over Slack, or spending yet another afternoon on back-to-back ZOOM calls, more people than ever are working remotely… and with yet another surge of cases and the fact that so many have embraced remote work, we don’t see this changing anytime soon. Remote work is here to stay!
As we adapt to these virtual work environments, business leaders had to rethink almost every aspect of their businesses. While this has often been about overcoming obstacles, it’s also been about re-examining what’s possible. In the world of HR, this shift has been perhaps most dramatic in terms of what’s possible with recruiting, and we’re so excited about the possibilities we’ve uncovered in terms of hiring in a remote world!
Broaden Your Talent Pools by Recruiting in New Geographies
Managed Solution has long prided itself on being remote-friendly. As a technology services provider, we were early adopters of tools that allowed our team to work anywhere and everywhere. Even before the pandemic, much of our team worked from home a few times a week. Still, though, most of our employees were based in San Diego, CA, and most of us were commuting to a brick-and-mortar office at some point each week.
When we told our team members to start working remotely full-time during the pandemic, many of them began exploring opportunities for relocation – to their dream houses, to be closer to family, and even to be closer to the mountains for rock climbing! Before we knew it, our team was spread out across states and time zones.
Despite some early challenges with adding payroll in new states (who enjoys navigating the red tape of various state agencies?), we quickly realized the numerous advantages of having employees in different locations. For our 24/7 IT helpdesk team, we were able to staff different shifts in time zones that made sense for our clients’ needs – and our employees’ lives. Operating on a more national basis was not only good for our team, but great for our business.
Now, when hiring for our own vacancies, we began advertising our roles to candidates in these various states and were enthusiastic to see such high-quality resumes coming through our applicant tracking systems! Broadening your geographic search criteria gives you access to more candidates, increasing your likelihood of finding that perfect match!
But while we were singing the praises of a broader talent pool, we also realized that phone calls with candidates wasn’t going to cut it in this new world: video interviews were necessary to help us build a level of rapport with candidates that’s on par with the experience of in-person interviewing. Unfortunately, interviewing candidates on a video call isn’t always a no-brainer.
To help you get started on video interviewing (or to help you up your game!), here are some of our tried-and- true tips & tricks to ensure both a strong candidate AND strong employer experience in the interview process…
Virtual Interviews: 10 Tips & Tricks for Success
Get Really Clear on the Job Details.
Ideally, this happens before you’ve even posted a role, but especially before you get to an interview, you’ll need to really understand the job itself: what skills are must-haves, which are on the nice-to-have list? Be sure to also dive into when and where this role could be performed: is this job suited to remote work in the short term, but eventually you’d require a candidate to commute to the office? If so, be sure to communicate that! Is a position remote flexible but the function needs to be performed during specific hours based on the time zone for your home office? Share that, too! Being clear about the role not only lets you recruit among the broadest talent pool, it also helps ensure a strong mutual fit with any prospective candidate — and avoids an awkward situation down the road. Imagine accepting an offer, quitting your job, and showing up on the first day in your new role… only to discover that your understanding of your work schedule or environment was completely off?! No thank you! You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache as a hiring manager if you can get really clear on your job details before you start interviewing!
Revisit Your Interview Plan.
Start with the basics: map out your in-person interview strategy, including who was included and what the respective conversations were covering. Now, assess who else a candidate might benefit from speaking to. Perhaps now is the time to include a peer interview so the candidate can start learning who they’d be working with – not just After all, with in-person interviews, a candidate often gets to at least put eyes on the people they’d be working with. You must consciously create those opportunities in a remote work world! While you don’t want your interview process to become excessively slow – especially in today’s fight for talent – but you do want to have enough time for a clear picture of the candidate’s skills… and give them enough time to really learn what it would be like to work with you!
Give Your Candidate the Info & Tools Needed to Be Successful in Your Interviews.
Include all pertinent details in an interview invite, such as the names and positions of those who will be involved in the call. Be sure the candidate has the contact info of at least one interviewer in case something comes up last minute. Consider providing your candidate with the specific goals of each interview phase so they have some idea of what will be covered: is this a technical interview? A hiring manager interview? Peer interview? Let the candidate know what to expect. Clarity is kindness, after all – and being clear about the who/what/why of the interview also gives the candidate the chance to prepare appropriate questions for your team. (And also makes it less ok if they haven’t prepared at least a question or two ahead of time!)
Make a Plan for Technical Difficulties – And Make Sure Your Interviewers Can Help Troubleshoot Common Issues! We’ve all been through those video calls where someone’s network connection just isn’t quite cutting it, so you’re hearing only every few words at best. Interviews won’t be effective if there isn’t clear audio / visual on both sides and even in today’s world where virtual meetings seem common, it’s not unusual to come across a candidate who’s never used Teams (or whatever your tool of choice is). Head off the technical issues altogether by sending some brief instructions for your candidates about how to get connected. Let them know in advance that the interview will be video on and give them insight about your ‘workplace’ dress code. Consider encouraging them to use a background filter. And then be sure your own team is well-versed on your technology so they can help a candidate who may struggle.
Show Your Team in the Best Light Possible – Literally!
If your team is going to be on camera frequently for interviews, you may want to give them some guidance to help reflect positively on your organization. From displaying the appropriate dress code to a professional, neat background, to joining calls from a quiet space with good lighting… all can make your company appear coordinated and well-adjusted to remote work. Consider offering ring lights or monitor-mounted webcams to provide flattering lighting and angles – your interviewers will be more focused on the candidate if they’re not distracted by their own double chin in the video preview feed! Help your interviewers focus on the candidate’s video feed, or even direct them to look into the camera while speaking to give the feeling of eye contact. (Our Talent Advisor uses a sticker at the top/center of her monitor to give herself something to look at!) Remind your interviewers of good interviewing etiquette: close the door, turn off the laundry, silence your cellphone, have a glass of water nearby, and (at a minimum) have them skim the candidate’s resume in advance!
Expect the Unexpected.
Help train your interviewers on how to handle the realities of remote work: dogs barking, kids stumbling into the room, lawyers who are definitely not cats… interviewing in this new world is sometimes as weird as it is wonderful. Remind your team to keep it calm and collected, and help put candidates at ease, even when things run awry. The pandemic has reminded us that, at the end of the day, we’re all just doing our best to hold things together. Being flexible when things don’t work out quite like we expected reassures a candidate that your company values authenticity and understands that an employee is a person.
Educate Your Interviewers to Make Lawful Hiring Decisions.
When interviewing people from their home, you may see things in the background that give clues to a candidate’s life in ways you might not if they came into your office. Remind your interviewers to disregard anything they may see in the background which may suggest things about the candidate’s nationality, ethnicity, religious affiliation, marital/parent status, or other protected class status. (Remember, too, not to make assumptions based on what you’re seeing!) Give interviewers guidance on job-related questions to ask and consider rubrics for scoring candidates consistently across interviews. Work with your HR team or an outside consultant to be sure that your hiring criteria are valid and lawful, and to help you identify potential areas for bias.
If Possible, Consider Meeting In-Person – At Least Once.
Following CDC and other relevant guidelines, consider whether meeting a prospective candidate in-person is feasible, prior to issuing an offer. For some candidates, the chance to meet a potential manager gives them a better sense of your leadership style and interpersonal dynamic. For others, it’s reassuring to meet in person to help them trust that a job offer is legitimate before handing over their confidential details for a background check or I-9 form. If an in-person meeting isn’t feasible, you might offer your top candidates the chance to connect on a call with another employee who onboarded remotely or with a top performer in your org – not necessarily so that your employee can weigh in on the candidate, but so that the candidate can get a sense of what it’s like to work on your team – and feel confident that your offer is legit.
Give the Candidate Time to Interview YOU!
Many times, as interviewers, we’re so focused on getting answers to our questions that we may forget to reserve time for the candidate to ask us any questions they may have. Some successful interviewers preface their meetings by letting the candidate know he or she will have time to ask questions at the end: this can help keep a conversation on course while also giving the candidate the floor before wrapping up the call.
And our very best tip for success in remote hiring in this new world? Ask for help!
Implementing Microsoft Teams? Trying to map out an interview plan for a particular role? Looking for help in technical vetting of your top candidates? Just not getting enough qualified applicants for your open tech roles? Managed Solution offers a range of managed, professional, and technical services – including staffing! Our Talent Advisor can help you look at your hiring needs, improve your interview strategies, and connect you with our targeted solutions for staffing – remote or otherwise. Whether it’s working together on a Direct Hire Recruiting or Staff Augmentation Resourcing basis, or even helping you validate the technical skills of candidates your team has sourced, Managed Solution can take on the heavy lifting of hiring. And we’ll also be there each step of the way making sure you, your candidates, and your interviewing team has everything they need to be successful along the way!