Interviewing candidates remotely in six simple steps

Over the last decade, many businesses have been growing more flexible, allowing employees to tweak their hours and work remotely here and there. As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the globe, working from home has become essential for all employees who are able to do so.

For businesses that had already embraced flexibility, it’s likely been a smooth transition to full-time remote working. For others, it may be a bumpy start with a few technical glitches, frozen faces on VCs (video conferencing) and couriering of equipment. But many companies that we're working with are reporting business as usual –just in a different way!

This means continuing with key hiring plans. Many people haven’t needed to use VC interviews previously so the following article outlines the six top tips that we have learnt through remote interviewing to help keep your interview process running smoothly.

We have actually found that now is a great time to reach people as many are more available to pick up their mobile and speak freely than if they were in the office. Especially those hard-to-reach, senior leadership-level candidates. And investment hires are still happening – those crucial hires that you want to have in place during tricky times.

Read on for our tips on interviewing candidates remotely in six simple steps. 

1. Determine the best communication channels

In face to face interviews, we often hear that first impressions are made within the first 5 seconds of meeting someone – for better or worse. A candidate’s appearance or body language could subconsciously disqualify them from the process before they’ve even had their fair chance.

Remote interviews can eliminate some of these unconscious biases from the in-person interviewing process, but how can we make sure we don’t miss out on the benefits of face to face interactions? Finding the best communication tool is so important for different stages of the interview process to ensure we are getting what we need from candidates to accurately assess their suitability for the role.

For instance, a phone interview could be best for first stage interviews to narrow down your shortlist, followed by video interviews for later rounds to better assess the full picture and establish a relationship with the candidate.

Free tools/tech for remote interviewing:

  • Phone/WhatsApp
  • Zoom (currently offering expanded services for free accounts)
  • Skype
  • Google Hangouts

 2. Prepare your environment and technology

To help ensure you can focus on your interviewee, take the necessary time well in advance to prepare your space and make sure all your technology is working properly. Check your Wi-Fi connection, do you have your logins for video calling, are there any potential disruptions in your space that you need to consider (another person in the room/house, an alarm going off, phones ringing, a dog barking).

You want to minimise distractions and create a space like the one you’d find in an interview scenario face to face. Also, ensure the candidate has all details about the appointment including any links for accessing the video call and an overview of what to expect in order to help them prepare and feel at ease in what may be an unfamiliar experience.

3. Have a clear objective

This is even more important in remote interviews than it is when interviewing face to face. A clear objective will help ensure you get what you need from the candidate for them to progress to the next stage. We always recommend using a scorecard when interviewing in any environment. That way you can clearly view the criteria and judge your candidates’ suitability in the most efficient (and consistent) manner.

When scoring your candidates remotely, bear in mind that some may be a bit uncomfortable at the start of the interview if it’s their first time on a formal VC interview. Interviewing can be stressful enough, so be generous and don’t judge too much in the first couple of minutes as they settle into the situation.

4. Plan your interview structure and questions

With your objectives in mind, plan a structure and outline the key questions you need to cover. You want to establish a smooth, free-flowing conversation with your candidate. To avoid awkward delays, keep your questions at hand to steer the conversation along.

Begin with easy, friendly questions to warm your candidate up, put them at ease, and establish rapport. Building that chemistry is essential. Ask those emotional, visionary, and motivational questions earlier in the interview. Then questions should progressively get more difficult with the trickiest and potentially more skills-based questions coming at the end.

Don’t forget to leave time for the candidate to ask you questions.

5. Choose the interviewing team wisely

Often, having multiple perspectives of a candidate is useful when hiring. However, this may need to be streamlined for remote interviews. The logistics of organising large group interviews can get complicated and messy remotely so whittle down the interviewing team to 3 people maximum in order to simplify communication.

Ensure that roles are assigned regarding who is speaking when, who is asking which questions, who is closing the interview, and who is doing the follow-up.

6. Keep the momentum

Make sure the candidate knows what to expect at the end of the interview. Is there another stage? When will they hear from you? As people are increasingly working from home, candidates may be more prone to worry if they don’t get feedback in good time. There are fewer distractions to keep their mind occupied and there's a lot of uncertainty in the markets. You don’t want to spur doubt, especially if you really like them.

Make sure you book in time with the other interviewers to discuss feedback, make a decision, and let your candidate (or recruiter) know the outcome. If there is a delay for any reason, check in with your candidate to let them know you are interested but need some more time and give them a realistic time frame.


Posted on 19.03.2020

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