Often, we focus on the mistakes that job seekers need to avoid when interviewing. Rarely do we discuss the mistakes that hiring managers make. Yet those same mistakes could be causing great candidates to decline a second interview, or turn down your job offer. Good interview etiquette helps you minimize problems that can arise and help you avoid creating a bad impression.
With the need for more and more remote interviews lately, hiring managers and HR teams are struggling to keep up with the changes. The way you interview when you work from home is completely different to in-person interviews and therefore requires different skills. So how do you conduct effective remote interviews? If you’re new to remote interviewing or want to improve your process, read on.
First of all, fully functioning technology is the key to success in a remote interview. This can’t always be controlled but you need to do your best to ensure that it is all working.
Do a Trial Run
One way you can try to ensure that your video conferencing software is working as it should is by testing it before the interview. If you and the other interviewers meet online beforehand, this is a great chance to check that all of you have your internet connection, camera, sound, and microphones working. That way, when the candidate logs on, if there are any issues, you can be fairly sure that they are on the candidate’s end. This saves a lot of hassle and time wasted, especially if you have back-to-back interviews.
Review your current interview process
If you’re switching to remote interviewing, now is a good time to review and streamline the process you already have. Is it effective? Is it structured? What can you do better?
For a lot of companies, hiring isn’t a dedicated process, it’s a bunch of meetings with potential employees. But you’re not just meeting another person, you’re gathering evidence to decide if that person has the necessary skills, values and cultural fit to carry out a role at your company. Therefore, by turning your adhoc recruiting efforts into a structured recruitment and interview process, and ensuring that everyone involved is trained on it, not only maintains consistency throughout the entire hiring process, but it results in a more accurate and reliable hiring decision.
Also, pay attention to how you’re shortlisting candidates for your interviews. Now more than ever, online assessments are important to help you narrow down your candidate pool. Without being able to meet and speak to people in person, it is essential to make sure you can assess applicants for the skills and competencies they need in a remote setting.
Get the right tools
When remote interviewing, having the right tools is key to success.Are you going to stick to phone calls? Or are you going to conduct one-way video interviews, live virtual interviews, or both?Meeting the candidate face to face, albeit over a screen, is infinitely better than just having a phone call, as it allows you to gauge various non-verbal cues.
While you could use video platforms such as Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Go-to-meeting to host the interview, there are dedicated remote interviewing tools that offer you additional functionalities for efficient recruiting, like embedded evaluation forms and simple interview recording. If you plan on conducting interviews that include whiteboarding, you can find a tool with that capability.
In short, carefully analyze your needs before you select an interviewing tool. Also, make sure that your virtual interview software integrates with your ATS and is compatible with mobile devices.
Educate yourself about remote interviewing ‘etiquette’
You want to show all potential candidates that just because the interview is remote, it is no less professional than if you were to meet in an office. Be just as engaged in the conversation, so get rid of all potential distractions by finding a quiet space.
Here are our top tips for remote interview etiquette:
- Prepare – if you are switching between screens to see your interview questions, this will be obvious to the others in the interview and can be distracting. We recommend either printing them out or writing them down so that you can just glance down and read them. Switching between screens is okay but minimize it as much as possible.
- Body language – remember that body language will still come through during online interviews. So, don’t slouch, just because you’re at home. Sit as you usually would during an in-person interview to portray a professional persona.
- Keep eye contact – eye contact is perhaps even more important when an interview is digital. There are very few body language cues for the candidate to read, so maintaining eye contact shows that you are interested in what they are saying. Remember not to look at the screen when speaking, but at the camera. This will give people the impression that you are looking at them, even though it may seem strange as you are seeing them on your screen.
- Mute your mic when you’re not speaking – you may not be used to muting yourself, but doing this can prevent background noise from distracting the candidate when they are speaking. You never know when your phone is going to go off, or you may inadvertently rustle some papers. Even small sounds can seem loud if they are near the microphone, so muting when you’re not speaking is considered best practice. Just make sure that you unmute yourself when you start speaking again.
- Active listening – you’re muted while the others are speaking, so it can be hard to communicate that you’re listening. Nodding or smiling as the candidate is talking is a helpful way to show that you are listening to them.
- Wait a few seconds before responding – ever been in a video meeting where people keep accidentally talking over each other? It’s awkward and can become extremely distracting. This happens due to the time lag that can occur on digital platforms. That’s why we suggest waiting a few seconds before answering a question or talking, to allow for any lag time in case the person was still speaking.
- Sit in a neutral, quiet space – clear any visible clutter from your desk or table and sit in a space where no one else will pass through. Having others walk through the background of your screen is distracting and off-putting for candidates and the other interviewers. Ideally, sit in front of a white wall for minimal distractions and a professional look.
Develop a process for remote team/peer interviews
You will most likely need to involve multiple people in the remote interview process – hiring managers at the very least. Also, your candidates want to meet their potential colleagues. So have a standard process of how this could work and make sure that everyone knows when in the interview process this will take place. If the peers aren’t usually in on interviews, educate them about how to do remote interviews and let them know what the agenda is and the order of events.
Keep your focus and listen actively
When you’re holding your remote interview over Zoom, for example, it’s not your imagination, it is harder to focus without face-to-face communication, video chats require more concentration. Every time we communicate with someone, a friend, a colleague, only a tiny percentage of what we communicate is verbal. The vast majority (70-93%) of what we convey is through non-verbal communication, where the meaning is innate and instinctive for us. Things such as body movements, facial expressions, eye contact, hand movements, body posture, even tone of voice, carry depth and create meaning for the words we are saying. When remote interviewing, most of these non-verbal cues are not easily observable, making it harder to communicate – so you really need to listen actively to what the interviewee is saying.
Try and treat the interview as if you were conducting it in person and think about your body language – sit up, lean forward, smile when appropriate, demonstrate that you’re engaged in the conversation.
Take time to introduce your company culture
Your candidates might not have the opportunity to see your office and meet your team. Or maybe you don’t even have an office. So, make sure candidates don’t miss out on finding out all about you. Give them background introductions, tell them about your company culture, what values you hold. Share stories, examples, references to what you mean by your culture – don’t just state the values that you hold, explain the behaviors that you expect employees to demonstrate for each value and give candidates best practice examples to help them understand what you mean.
Trying to understand a company’s culture when you can’t experience it firsthand is tough for anyone, so build a picture for the candidate.
Make it a two-way conversation
Like any job interview, a remote interview is a two-way conversation. Give candidates enough space to ask questions – actively encourage them to ask. You might think it’s difficult to assess if a candidate is a match remotely (if you’re new to remote hiring) but bear in mind that it is just as difficult for the candidate to picture themselves as an employee in your company, if they haven’t had the chance to look around and meet you and your team in person.
Interviewing remotely is just as much a risk for the candidate as it is for you, so provide plenty of opportunities for candidates to ask questions and be ready to give answers. You could even preempt potential questions that they might ask and if they don’t ask them, you could pass on the information anyway. The more you can find out about one another, the easier the remote interview will be. To help keep the conversation flowing, treat the remote interview like a regular interview and make sure you have your notes to hand – you’ll want both a list of pre-determined questions as well as the candidate’s resume in front of you.
Have a plan B ready
As earlier stated, remote interviews rely on technology. And technology can also fail. So have a plan B in case something goes wrong.
For example, if the connection fails – make sure you have the candidate’s phone number so you can easily switch to a phone call from a virtual interview, should the need arise; or have a system set up so you can reschedule for the first possible opportunity.
The reason the connection was lost could be as simple as a battery dying on a computer or a smartphone, so give the candidate time to switch devices or to plug their existing device into a power source before you try to reconnect. And don’t hold any tech issues against them – they may not have fast internet or the most modern devices at home.
Remote interviews can be an effective employee selection method if conducted right. But remember that you’ll need to pay extra attention to building connections with your candidates as you have to do it without actually meeting them face to face. Developing a structured interview process, making it a two-way, informative conversation, focusing on candidate communication before and after the interview goes a long way in conducting productive remote interviews.