We’ve come, we’ve seen, we’ve stayed. The zoom calls that we tried to adjust to over the first lockdown, then got used to over the second, and then stopped noticing by the third, are now well and truly our new normal. And with more people than ever working from home, and more companies looking into hiring remote employees, a lot of interviews have moved onto the virtual space as well.
In a lot of ways, a virtual interview may seem drastically different to an in-person one. You won’t get to see the applicant in your office environment, you won’t get to shake hands, and the ‘vibe’ will just be a bit different. But putting all of the initial unfamiliarity aside, a virtual interview in practice does not have to be much different and can even be more productive than a flesh-and-bone one. And, as a plus, it might give you the opportunity to hire even better talent from all around the world.
Without further ado, here are some of our tips on how to conduct an effective online interview (best paired with our Dos and Don’ts of a Good Interview for maximum efficiency).
1. Give your interviewee enough time to prepare
If you’re inclined to schedule a virtual interview for the same day, we get it. You want it out of the way, and it’s not like anyone is going to be traveling anywhere – right? Well, not necessarily. The good thing about scheduling interviews several days/weeks into the future is that it gives your candidate sufficient time to prepare. The person you will be speaking with might have other commitments that prevent them from being immediately ready, and you want them to have enough time to refamiliarize themselves with the job. And the amount of preparation they put into their interview will also be a great indicator as to how hard they are willing to work for the job.
2. And speaking about time, allow yourself some too
Just as you might expect the candidate to read more about the company ethos, prepare answers to some expected questions, and look you up on LinkedIn, you should be doing the same. Do you know enough about the person you will be speaking with? Or, better yet, are you confident enough about the job description to be able to answer any questions that you might be asked? Also take this time to refamiliarize yourself with what it is about this candidate that is making you want to speak with them, and tailor specific questions that you will want to ask them about their experience.
3. Prepare a points system
It doesn’t necessarily have to be points, but you get the picture – make sure you have a standard rating system that will allow you to rank the candidates objectively. Chances are, you will be interviewing more than one person for the same position. And chances are, these interviews will all be conducted virtually. A standard ranking system will allow you to defend your decisions with concrete reasons. And in order to have a standard ranking system, make sure you have standard questions that will be applicable to each candidate.
4. Find a place to conduct the interview, and test your connection
Will you be speaking with the candidate in your living room or in a café? How are background noise levels? Will your children be home that day, or is the café particularly busy at any time? How is the Wi-Fi connection in these places? Do you expect to experience any disconnection that you might have to plan for? Making sure you have the best setting and that you don’t run into any connectivity issues will help you maintain a professional image on interview day. After all, it’s not just you who will be picking a candidate. The right candidate has to pick you as well.
5. Dress professionally
And no, we don’t mean dress shirt on sweatpants. We mean the whole spiel, what you would wear to the office. If you dress the part, you’ll feel the part – and it’ll be easier to expect your interviewee to conform to those standards as well.
6. Be an ambassador for the company
Not literally, of course, but emotionally. Being enthusiastic about the company you represent goes a long way during an interview – especially a virtual one that might not generate the same personable vibes that an in-person one would. Have your positive attitude on, and answer questions eagerly. When it comes to talking about the company mission, know your business. What good do you do, and how are you changing the world one day at a time? Why are you passionate about working here? Remember, it’s not just you who might be feeling weird about a virtual interview. It’s also the interviewee who might need a bit of help feeling comfortable.
7. Keep your attention on the screen
Your laptop screen, that is. As easy as it might be to take a sneak peek at the messages waiting for you on your phone, or to minimize the interview window to give your emails a quick browse, don’t do it. Think about it this way – if you were in a room with this candidate, they would have your undivided attention. Which is how it should be during a virtual interview as well.
8. Foster a warm environment open to communication
Although you can’t shake the interviewee’s hand or offer them something to drink, you can still be hospitable and personable. By making sure that you are fostering an open and communicative environment during the interview, you are also allowing for the candidate to feel more comfortable. This helps ease any stress that a virtual chat might generate, letting the candidate be more openly themselves. Which, in turn, can help you truly assess whether they would be a good fit for the company – without virtual tensions getting in the way.
9. Set the story straight
End the interview like you would a real-life one: Thank the interviewer for their time and tell them what they can expect from you going forward. If, after the interview is done, you would like to offer or ask for any feedback, make sure to do so and to allow for the candidate to do so as well. In other words, maintain the professional order of things even after you have closed the zoom chat window.
So, here are the 9 steps to conduct a successful virtual interview by making it feel as close to a real life interaction as possible.