How can you conduct a good interview without meeting a candidate face to face?

In our new norm of social distancing and self-isolation, how can employers confidently recruit important roles remotely?

Using video technology to recruit goes against many of our natural instincts, but technology is advancing so quickly. We are all adapting at lightning speed and the technology is available to make virtual interviewing a positive experience. Many large corporates have been using video interviews for some time. When done well, video interviewing can add value the candidate experience and reflect employer brand of the organisation and it resonates with the way we are all likely to be working in future with remote working being far more prevalent than over the last few years. For those who are newer to this form of an interview, here are some tips to ensure an effective, fair and inclusive virtual assessment and a positive candidate experience.

Recorded video applications

To enhance your initial screening over the phone, there is the option to send candidates some questions in advance and ask them to submit a video of them answering these. Whilst this stage does not give two-way interaction, it provides the candidate the opportunity to bring their experience and CV to life. Read our top tips for candidates on how to create a video application.

Video interviews

While it may seem a little different at first, virtual video meetings will become more of the norm. It still provides the opportunity to look at the candidate’s body language and facial expressions and allows them to get a better sense of you in return. As we are all likely to be working more remotely in the immediate future, this form of interviewing will become increasingly common and reflective of how many people will be working.  It can also enable quicker interview scheduling, rather than having to wait for key decision-makers to all be in one office.

Take time to prepare

Give candidates plenty of information about the software that will be used, how to download it if needed and the time for them to do this and practice.

Find a suitable space

Just as you would expect the candidate to do, prepare a suitable space for the video interview which is free from distractions and interruptions, especially if you are also currently remote working. Avoid bad lighting that means the candidate will not really be able to see you and distracting background noises from device notifications etc. Keep your background clean, clutter-free and neutral. Many of the platforms also allow you to ‘blur’ your background, which could be a good idea if you are home working. 

Test technology and practice

Consider setting up a very simple test call with the candidate in advance, making it clear that it is nothing more than to check everything is working and to say hello. This means you can help to fix any candidate connection issues in advance and remove that concern from both sides before the actual interview. Practice with a colleague, particularly if you are joint interviewing. Use the opportunity to set volume levels and set up your laptop or computer so your webcam is at eye level. While you will want to challenge candidates, continue to focus on why they are the right person for the role, not whether or not they are technically proficient.

Share agenda

This may be the first time people on both sides have interviewed by video. Set out an agenda of what will happen and take the ‘unknown’ out of what may be a first for some people.  For example, the agenda could start with introductions from the interview panel, then an introduction from the candidate, interview questions session led by HR lead, then the candidate presentation.

Have candidate contact details to hand

No matter how prepared everyone is, digital technology may fail. Especially when we are all working from home and really testing our broadband connections! Have candidate phone numbers to hand, so if something does go wrong and you cannot re-establish connection straight away, you can call them and not leave them hanging.

Be kind to one another

These are unprecedented times, we all know that many people are adjusting to new situations and working from home for the first time, in many cases with children off school. Do all you can to prepare, but if you are interrupted with a genuine ‘hadn’t planned for that’ moment, don’t let it throw you off. Just apologise, say you will call back shortly if you can’t sort it out there and then. Give the candidate the same leeway. As long as you can see they have obviously done all they can to prepare as you would expect, be kind if the unexpected comes up. After all, it could be a very good icebreaker you will all remember for years to come.  Dealing with the unexpected can really give an insight into people’s characters – yours as a potential colleague, employer or manager, and the candidate as an employee.

We are here to help

If this is the first time that you have conducted video interviews and remote recruitment, then please contact us to speak to one of our specialist recruiters. We are here to help.

 Lynn Walters profile picture

Written by

Lynn Walters

Lynn is a founding Director of Pure and leads Pure Executive. She has over 25 years’ experience recruiting for executive appointments, and helps east of England-based businesses with senior management and board-level recruitment. Lynn also leads our Best Employers Eastern Region initiative and Women’s Leadership Programme, both of which help companies and people develop.

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