COVID-19 has virtually upended every aspect of the modern workforce. Research from Gallup suggests that, as of May, 2020, seven in ten Americans worked on a remote basis at least on occasion. A trend that is only expected to continue throughout the pandemic.
But with businesses finally getting comfortable with the work from home culture, focus has shifted from not just maintaining the status-quo in an online world to building the future of their business. One key component of this, bringing on new workers. Once purely an option for prospective employees with a need to eventually relocate, video and phone interviews now represent the norm. This is true for both remote jobs and those that require employees to eventually show up in person.
Most remote interviewing resources focus on options for helping employees gain a competitive edge. Few however bother to answer a key question among management professionals: how can I interview someone online?
A strategic approach is critical on the employer's end. With the right equipment, questions, and observations, it's possible to determine whether applicants are prepared to take on not only the job in question, but also, a remote workplace. A few adjustments to the interview process can make all the difference. Here are nine tips to consider when conducting an online interview:
1. Dress the Part
Employers and employees alike should do away with the urge to go casual when interacting on a digital basis. Neither party can see the other person's entire outfit, but that doesn't make professional attire any less important.
First impressions matter as much for employers as they do for employees; virtual interviews help applicants determine whether they're truly serious about the job in question. This experience also sets the tone for the remainder of the employer-employee relationship. A groomed appearance can make all the difference for both the interview and any interactions that follow.
2. Pay Attention To Your Surroundings
With virtual interviews, apparel plays into an overarching effort to maintain a professional image. Environment also plays a crucial role in this effort. While some interviewers enjoy access to an office at work or other professional setting, others are forced to complete the process at home. In such situations, clutter or poor lighting can quickly destroy any semblance of professionalism.
3. Choose the Right Webcam
Your outfit and environment could be picture-perfect, but these elements matter little if captured on a weak camera. The image that greets prospective employees should be sharp and professional.
Keep in mind that a high-quality screen display won't necessarily be accompanied by a decent webcam. The camera on your smartphone could be far better than whatever is included with your otherwise high-powered laptop. Check multiple webcams to determine which will deliver the best image.
4. Don't Forget Sound Quality
Can applicants hear your questions? Or are they distracted by a muffled voice and background noise? Sound quality is just as important as the visual aspects of your videoconferencing session, and yet, many interviewers never bother to check their audio setup. Ideally, you will enjoy access to professional sound equipment from your place of employment. If not, make adjustments to your surroundings to support improved audio quality.
When considering audio quality, think about how where you conduct the interview could impact your audio. The clean lines that look wonderful in a videoconference interview can create unpleasant sounds by prompting waves to bounce off hard surfaces. Soft surfaces are preferable — especially carpets, rugs, and wall coverings. Combine this adapted environment with an external microphone. Wired headphones are good and old-fashioned headsets are even better.
5. Look For Signs of Strong Body Language
The visual aspects of confidence and professionalism can be difficult to assess via videoconferencing. This approach tends to throw off posture and eye contact, even among those who typically ace these essentials. Still, the ability to create an air of confidence remains important in a virtual setting, especially if you anticipate that future employees will spend a lot of time in conference calls or interacting online with clients or vendors.
Take note of whether interviewees look straight at the webcam or frequently shift their gaze. Posture can be more difficult to assess. If you watch carefully, however, you may spot signs of slumping or slouching.
6. Find Tech-Based Alternatives to Standard Interview Processes
While the question-and-answer portion of an interview is easy to recreate online, other aspects may prove more challenging. Many interviewers, for example, previously made ample use of whiteboards for problem-solving exercises. Today, this can be recreated with virtual whiteboards such as Miro or Google Jamboard. Take a close look at G Suite or Office 365 to determine which tools can lend greater versatility to the interview process.
7. Ask the Right Questions
Don't waste time trying to trick applicants with difficult questions they cannot hope to answer satisfactorily. While transparency and brevity are critical in all interviews, they're that much more important for virtual interactions. Focus on determining whether the employee's experience and values align with both the company culture and the specific nature of the position. Helpful queries include:
- Why does this role inspire you?
- How will your philosophy align with our company's culture and values?
- How will you handle the complications of a virtual work environment?
8. Budget Extra Time for Online Interviews
When scheduling digital interviews, consider the extra time it takes to set up and adjust to virtual meeting spaces. Prospective employees may be unfamiliar with your videoconferencing app of choice. Even if they practice in advance, they may run into technical difficulties. Build in plenty of time to handle these concerns while still allowing for a full interview.
9. Record All Interviews
The distractions of video interviews are such that you might not catch all worthwhile details during the actual process. Thankfully, many video conferencing systems make it easy to record and replay sessions. Take advantage of this opportunity.
After completing a full round of interviews, review all videos to compare and contrast applicants. Upon second glance, you may look at applicants in a new light.
The online interview process may seem like a hassle, but it can reveal a lot about applicants. View this experience as a valuable opportunity to assess prospective employees for their likelihood of succeeding in a virtual environment. You just might be surprised by the takeaways you glean from this process.