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Why Virtual Interviews Don’t Need to Compromise on Quality

March 23, 2020

Access to top talent, elevated team productivity, improved well-being, and increased employee retention are just a few of many reasons that flexible and remote working arrangements have risen in popularity in recent years.

Virtually overnight, however, remote work has become mandatory in many areas of the world as employers promote social distancing as a precaution against COVID — 19. As many of us shift to operating completely virtually, our hiring and interview processes must also quickly become fully remote, a transition that could prove challenging for many existing recruiting processes.

Even those of us who feel completely confident in our current interview practices are going to experience hiccups as we transition. Part of the difficulty lies in our unconscious reliance upon the physical routine of interviews. A candidate is greeted with a handshake and a quick tour. Interview panelists pop in between meetings to sit down and can physically engage with a candidate in question-and-answer or a brainstorm. Employees can drop by desks to share thoughts and compare notes. All of these habitual activities are gone in a fully remote scenario, and the transition can be disorienting — especially as many of us are dealing with new challenges, from self-quarantine to managing children home from school.

But with the right approach, virtual hiring can be incredibly successful and ensure your business continues to attract the best talent. Below are a few best practices to help you manage a fully remote interview process without compromising on quality or your hiring goals.

Structure interviews with consistent questions

In a time of increased unpredictability, having a consistent interview structure can help combat our distractions and reduce bias. Structured interviews are based on the notion that an interviewer asks every candidate a set of behavioral-based questions that can later be measured by a clear evaluation or rubric across an interview panel.

Google’s approach to structured interviewing is a great option to help get you started:

Four aspects of Google’s approach to structured interviewing

Structured interviews can help better predict a candidate’s future job performance, create alignment among interviewers, make faster decisions, and improve candidate experience.

Make sure everyone is prepared

A good on-site experience doesn’t just happen — it’s crafted via routine and preparation. Remote interviews shouldn’t be any different.

In a typical onsite your candidate arrives and is greeted. You then answer any questions and set the stage for what to expect in the hour(s) to come. As a recruiter, you’d likely check in with the candidate throughout the onsite interview and debrief at the end, setting expectations for what they should expect next.

In a remote scenario, it’s important to decide how you’ll prep your candidate in a way that mirrors the in-person experience. You might schedule candidate prep calls, walking them through the schedule, demoing the interview technology that will be used, testing audio quality, and providing a contact method to notify you if technology fails or if an interviewer is late. Some companies use a shared Google doc or Slack channel as means to collect and answer of candidate questions in real time, or to communicate within the team as interviewers transition through their virtual line up.

When interviewing face-to-face, interviewers can often prepare less and rely more on physical cues, which itself is a mistake. By relying on these luxuries and not doing the appropriate amount of preparation in a virtual scenario will expose the flaws in your current process.

Listen actively

Practicing active listening is key in every interview (and let’s face it, in life in general). Asking consistent and focused interview questions, staying physically and mentally engaged and giving feedback or asking follow-up questions throughout the interview can extract better information and help you make confident hiring decisions.

Setting expectations on how you’ll engage throughout the virtual call can help both put your candidate at ease as well as help you remain attentive. As an example, by letting your candidate know you may shift your glance from the camera to typing notes, ensures they won’t mistake this action as a lack of focus.

Also, if you tend to speak quickly (as a New Yorker, the struggle is real) or are interviewing someone whose first language is different from your own, be mindful to speak deliberately and directly toward the camera, and provide plenty of time for the candidate to respond.

Lead with empathy

The spread and impact of COVID-19 is fast-moving and frequently changing and we’re all taking each day one step at a time, adapting to changes both at home and at work. With increased school closures, people with children may have new obligations throughout the day. People are doing their best to be professional and it’s essential to act with empathy and patience with hiring teams, interview panels and candidates.

You’ll keep strong talent engaged through the interview process by being transparent with candidates about interview scheduling timelines and allowing them to pick from a range of times. There are many good scheduling apps to choose from that can ensure your candidate and interviewers are able to find optimal timing as they integrate work and personal schedules and responsibilities.

Despite a shift, you can still find great talent virtually

While the current global climate has quickly made virtual and remote work a requirement, it is likely that companies will need to become very good at virtual interviewing for the long term. In an increasingly interconnected global economy it’s likely that nearly every company will begin to seek out great talent in new markets where most of the interaction is virtual. If you take these best practices seriously while interviewing remotely, you’ll not only be able to make confident, timely hiring decisions, but also carry these learnings and best practices forward to future hiring efforts, both in-person and virtually.

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