Running a good on-site interview process is hard. Running that same process remotely isn’t any easier. In this article we talk about the benefits of remote interviewing, the challenges faced with a remote interview process, and the steps we can take as hirers to overcome them.
Remote interviewing is certainly not without its challenges, but it’d be remiss not to talk about its benefits:
With these benefits in mind, and the knowledge that the remainder of the challenges discussed are surmountable, there’s likely an opportunity for your business to benefit from remote interviewing in both the short and long term.
The best way to understand how to give a better remote interview is to first understand the challenges faced by candidates. These fall broadly into three categories: technical, environmental and communication.
Everyone has experienced some kind of technical problem during a video call and if this happens to a candidate during a remote interview (be it a phone call or video conference) this will immediately add pressure to an already stressful situation that they wouldn’t encounter in a face-to-face interview.
Technical challenges are thankfully some of the easiest to overcome with remote interviewing. Video-conferencing software is built with the average user in mind and the barriers of entry to its use have never been lower.
From your side, there’s a couple of small things you can do to keep things simple for the candidate:
Although this will vary on a person-by-person basis, there are likely to be many candidates who would much rather be in an office for their interview. Whether it’s the concern of being disrupted by a doorbell, noise from outside or their child asking for some biscuits, there’s a lot working against the candidate.
As an interviewer you have the potential to destress the candidate if anything goes wrong. As an example, let’s imagine a few different things that could crop up, and what you could say to best address it with the candidate:
These comments seem trivial but will go a long way to keeping the candidate on top-form and will assist you in getting the best out of them.
We take many of our communication cues from body language, much of which is lost with digital audio and a limited view of the interviewer. A slight nod, small smile or affirmative noise can easily be missed in a remote interview.
According to Dr Aaron Balick, up to 90% of non-verbal cues are lost due to the inherent constraints of video calls. This is both distracting and mentally-taxing in a way that will prevent candidates from being at their best. Interviewers who are already occupied by the task of running an interview and aren’t actively trying to compensate for the loss of valuable non-verbal cues will inevitably struggle to notice that a candidate is misunderstanding something or in need of guidance.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that when you run a remote interview process you unintentionally reduce contact and touch-points with the candidate. There’s no collecting the candidate from reception, walking them through the office or taking them to make a coffee. Whilst this is great in the midst of a pandemic, it doesn’t come without a cost.
Although these seem like disjointed problems, they can be solved together: build communication into your process.
Take some time at the beginning of the interview to replicate some of the benefits of meeting face-to-face that can help relax a candidate, like asking about their weekend or where they got the painting hanging on the wall in the background. These conversations give a better opportunity to build a relationship between the candidate and the interviewer, create a more comfortable setting in which the candidate can ask their questions, and give them a clear picture of what to expect next.
At the interview level, don’t be afraid of exaggerating some of your gestures, whether it’s a nod, a big smile or just more plainly stating things that won’t be visible to the candidate. The cues will help to compensate for some of the signal loss you’re facing within a remote interview.
Although remote interviewing has its challenges, acknowledging them and building a process deliberately designed to address them will allow you and your candidates to get the most from their interviews. Most of the adjustments needed are small and soon become second nature if your interviewers are guided by a well-defined process. With that in place we can not only better-assess candidates but also give them a great experience of your company and its values and make the job of interviewing easier for interviewers and hiring managers.