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How to conduct a great remote interview

Written by: Chase Charaba
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Published on July 20, 2022.

After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many organizations shifted to virtual interviews to follow social distancing guidelines. But, as remote work has gained popularity, video interviews appear to be here to stay.

According to a 2021 HireVue1 survey, 41% of hiring managers planned to use a combination of regular in-person interviews and video interviews. Additionally, 23% of respondents planned to move to a remote interview process.

With remote interviews becoming the norm, how can hiring managers ensure they’re conducting them properly?

This article will explain the pros and cons of remote interviewing and provide tips for conducting an excellent remote interview.

Hiring remote workers? Learn how to offer employee benefits no matter where your team lives with our guide to employee stipends

Advantages of remote interviewing

There are many advantages to conducting a remote job interview.

In the regular interview process, hiring managers often have to deal with cancellations and rescheduled appointments for a physical space, which can result in a slower hiring process. Candidates may also get lost on their way to your location, leading to a late start. Other times, candidates may have difficulty scheduling time for a physical interview, especially if they’re currently employed.

With a remote interview, you can conduct more interviews thanks to increased flexibility and availability of appointments. Candidates can join the interview at the start time instead of driving to your location, making the process easier for both parties.

Remote interviews also make it easier for other company stakeholders to join without needing a larger physical space. If you get the candidate’s permission, you can also record the interview so that others at your organization can review it on their schedules.

Perhaps the most significant advantage of remote interviews is the ability to hire remote workers from outside of your local area. Instead of limiting your talent pool to just those within 30 or 50 miles of your office, you can hire qualified candidates for your remote teams no matter where they live.

Disadvantages of remote interviews

While there are many advantages to conducting a remote interview, there can also be significant disadvantages.

In-person interviews often provide greater engagement, allowing hiring managers to read a candidate’s body language or have candidates demonstrate particular skills that can only be showcased in person.

Perhaps the most significant disadvantage is that some candidates may not have a stable internet connection, webcam, or laptop for them to do an interview. Others may feel uncomfortable with video conferencing because they aren’t familiar with it.

In these cases, an in-person interview would be a better option (provided they are near your location).

Steps to great virtual interviews

Now that we’ve covered the pros and cons of remote interviews to help you determine if they’re the right option for your organization, let’s discuss how to make your virtual interviews successful. Here are six essential remote interview tips.

1. Set realistic expectations

Video interviews can come with various challenges not seen with a traditional interview. One of the biggest hurdles is technology.

The job candidate you’re interviewing may not be familiar with your organization's video platform, such as Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams. To ensure that candidates know where and how to download the software and join the interview, you can send instructions along with the invite.

Even with these instructions, candidates may be a minute or two late as they try to navigate the new programs.

Tech issues are also bound to happen during the hiring process. That’s why it’s good practice to test your equipment before the interview starts. Make sure you can see yourself on screen, that your microphone and speakers work, and that your internet connection is stable. Ask your interviewee to do the same.

While most glitches can be fixed with troubleshooting or rejoining the call, sometimes, you won’t be able to proceed with the interview. This could happen if your internet connection goes down (or your candidate’s), a laptop dies, or an outdated driver causes audio or video problems.

In this case, make sure you have the candidate’s phone number to continue the conversation in a phone interview or reschedule for a better time.

By planning for these issues, you’ll be able to handle them as they arise.

2. Dress as you would for an in-person interview

Even though it’s a remote interview, you should dress as you would if interviewing someone in-person. For most organizations, that means looking professional. However, you should convey your company culture, whatever that may be.

With a remote job interview, there’s more to looks than just how you dress. You’ll want to ensure your lighting is good so interviewees can see you, and you should position yourself so that you’re centered on the screen.

Ensure your background looks clean and organized if you’re interviewing remotely from home. If not, you can use one of the built-in presets in your video conferencing software for blurring your background or adding an overlay.

Dressing appropriately for the interview, using proper lighting, and having a professional backdrop will help you look your best.

3. Have questions ready

With any interview, you’ll want to review your candidate’s resume and cover letter thoroughly to prepare questions for the interview. Create a list of interview questions and print them out along with the resume to ensure you have them available for quick reference.

Start with an introduction and a few open-ended questions to help everyone warm up and get comfortable with the remote setting. Many interviewers ask, “can you tell me about your background?” to help break the ice.

You’ll want to ask a mix of questions that help you identify the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and how they’ll fit into your company culture.

For remote or hybrid work positions, you should ask additional questions about communication, working independently, and what the job applicant looks for in their role.

For example, you might ask an interviewee about a time they had to communicate information to both in-person and remote team members to understand how they can navigate a hybrid workplace.

You should also prepare for any questions the candidates may have for you. Interviewees might ask about compensation if you didn’t list a salary range or employee benefits in the job description. Make sure you have an idea of the range being offered and what their schedule might look like.

4. Minimize any distractions

You need to minimize or eliminate distractions if you're remote from home. Find a space where you can interview without being distracted by family or pets. You’ll also want to mute your mobile devices so nobody can disturb you.

This also goes for visual distractions in the background, as this can make it hard for your candidates to focus on the interview.

5. Have a backup plan

A critical part of conducting a great remote interview is having a backup plan. You never know when tech issues or emergencies will cut interviews short.

This could involve calling the candidate to complete the interview by phone or rescheduling for a different time or day. It’s always best to postpone the interview than allow these issues to cut the conversation short, which can lead to increased stress and frustration.

6. Let the candidate know about the next steps

Once you’ve completed the interview and asked for any final questions or thoughts, close the interview by letting the candidate know the next steps. Thank them for their time and explain how your interview process works. If you have more candidates to interview, let them know when you’ll finish interviews (or first-round interviews) and when they should expect to hear back from you.

It’s a good practice to let the candidate know whether they got the job or not when you’ve finished making your decision. That way, they can move on to the next opportunity if it isn’t the right fit.

Conclusion

Remote video interviews can have unique challenges compared to other types of interviews. By setting realistic expectations, dressing appropriately, preparing interview questions, minimizing distractions, and letting the candidate know about the next steps, you’ll be on your way to conducting a successful interview.

Having a backup plan and approaching situations with patience and understanding will go a long way when problems arise.

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1. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/pros-and-cons-virtual-in-person-interviews.aspx

Originally published on July 20, 2022. Last updated July 20, 2022.
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