Remote interviewing: Tips for virtual interviews
Last updated on: September 2, 2022
Remote interviewing is here to stay. As the latest remote work statistics show — 76% of professionals surveyed in January 2022 prefer working from home.
Moreover, 88% of professionals believe video conferencing is best suited for remote interviewing, according to the latest meeting statistics.
This inevitably begs the question of whether your organization has what it takes to conduct virtual interviews effectively.
How is remote interviewing different from the traditional, on-site approach?
How can you make the most of a remote setting when conducting interviews?
Can you identify top talent from a distance?
Read on to discover our top tips on designing a smooth and effective virtual interview experience for everyone involved.
How is a remote interview different from an in-person interview?
Of course, the main difference between remote and on-site interviews is that they take place in two different environments.
On-site interviews take place inside company offices where candidates meet with the interviewers in person.
Remote interviews, on the other hand, allow both parties to log in from any location they choose — as long as it meets the requirements of the conferencing technology used in the process.
In an effort to get a better understanding of the main differences between the two interviewing processes from the interviewer’s perspective, I reached out to Tamara Spasojevic, our own Talent Acquisition Manager.
Tamara pointed out that interaction with candidates is one of the most significant differences between remote and on-site interviewing.
“During on-site interviews, we have the opportunity to meet candidates in person, shake their hands, and see how they really look and behave. There’s also more opportunity for informal interaction, e.g. striking up a conversation in the elevator, in the hall, etc. This allows us a better insight into how a person behaves and interacts with others in social situations in the workplace.”
Remote interviews offer a different perspective, as Spasojevic explains:
“When the interviews are conducted remotely, we only see the candidates when they join the meeting. The candidates are in their own home office or some similar environment, which means they are organized and ready to talk, without the presence of other people or exposure to different social situations. We can’t get a complete insight into candidates’ body language or other non-verbal cues as we are limited by the screen size.”
How remote interviews are improving the recruitment process
Before we get into the steps and tips for improving your remote interviewing, let’s first help you understand the process a bit more.
If you’ve been accustomed to on-site interviews until the pandemic, you might not have been able to see the potential and benefits of virtual hiring as it may seem less productive and engaging.
While there’s arguably nothing more valuable than meeting the candidate in-person, virtual hiring isn’t without benefits either. In fact, we can argue that the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to remote interviewing.
Here are some of the ways remote interviewing fosters a more effective hiring process.
Benefit #1: Remote interviewing allows for better time management
Virtual conferencing technology shortens the turnaround time. Hiring managers now review interview recordings instead of scheduling additional interviews.
Moreover, as Spasojevic emphasizes:
“Remote interviewing allows for a higher volume of interviews to be conducted on a daily basis as it reduces the time spent welcoming and greeting candidates in on-site interviews.”
Benefit #2: Remote interviewing improves candidate assessment
A remote environment allows you to get to know the candidates better.
Working from home creates a more safe space that lets people show more of their true personality — compared to the more formal atmosphere in on-site interviews.
Benefit #3: Remote interviewing allows you to access a global talent pool
Virtual recruitment lets you reach candidates virtually all across the globe — including people living and working in different time zones.
Benefit #4: Remote interviewing fosters objectivity
Video interviewing creates a more universal approach to candidate evaluation.
The virtual environment dictates a standardized approach to how you conduct interviews which inevitably reduces bias and prejudice.
Now that we understand the benefits of remote interviewing, let’s see how best to handle the process of conducting effective virtual interviews.
How to conduct effective virtual interviews
Effective remote interviewing requires modifying the traditional approach to hiring. As the workplaces made the shift to home and virtual offices, so does the interviewing process need a shift in perspective.
If you’re new to remote interviewing or want to upgrade your interviewing process, read on to find out the key steps to designing a successful virtual hiring process, including:
- How to effectively prepare for a remote interview
- How to evaluate candidates from a distance
- How to make the most of a remote setting when conducting interviews
- How to make the best first impression
Let’s get started!
Tip #1: Set the stage
Interviews can be stressful for both the interviewer and the interviewee.
One thing you can do to help ease everyone’s anxiety is to design a great foundation for success.
Here are some critical steps you can take to plan more effective virtual interviews.
Step #1: Prepare the questions
Review the candidate’s resume and make notes about details you want to address and prepare the questions and talking points for the interview.
Finalize the interview questions list with the rest of the interviewers.
Share the questions or the meeting agenda with other interviewers and ask for their input.
Step #2: Brief the interviewee
Make sure to share all the meeting details and information with the candidates in a clear and timely manner.
Spasojevic explains that this practice benefits both the candidates and hiring managers:
“Candidates can feel more comfortable and confident coming into the interview fully prepared. This means candidates will then have fewer additional questions — which consequently saves interviewers’ time.”
Step #3: Introduce the technology
Whether you’re using the most popular conferencing software, or the super specialized solution for remote interviews, it’s always best to provide instructions to candidates to ensure they can successfully join the meeting.
You can attach detailed guidelines and tutorials on the video conferencing tool you use alongside other meeting details.
Tip #2: Prepare a backup plan
It’s always a good idea to test-run your conferencing technology before the call.
Log in at least ten minutes before the interview to check your camera, microphone, and background. You can also go over some tutorials to learn how to resolve common problems if they occur during the interview. These are usually found in the help section of the conferencing platform website.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t insulate you from all incidents that can happen, such as computers crashing or internet connection lagging.
This is why it’s paramount to have a solid backup plan in store for emergencies.
One of the best and simplest ways to prepare for the worst is to switch to mobile phones.
To do so successfully, make sure to communicate all the info with the candidate beforehand so you can both be ready to switch to mobile in case everything else fails.
Tip #3: Look the part
It may seem too obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people gave in to the overly casual work-from-home looks and overall appearance.
And, while there’s nothing wrong with swapping the strict corporate look for a more relaxed dress code, there are still some basic rules to follow to look professional during virtual interviews.
Remember that you are probably the first face of the company the candidates see and meet — so make sure you’re presenting your organization in a positive and professional manner.
Here are some key appearance rules to apply next time you join a virtual interview with a candidate:
Rule #1: Mind your posture
Try to sit closer to the camera with your shoulders expanded, relaxed, and centered on the screen.
This communicates friendliness and shows that you’re engaged and interested in the conversation.
Rule #2: Set a professional background
If your home office isn’t really the most sophisticated backdrop, you can blur it in the settings.
Alternatively, you can choose a minimalistic background from your conferencing tool library.
Rule #3: Lighten up
This goes for both your ambient and your facial expression.
Check the lighting in your room and make adjustments if needed to help you appear more natural and welcoming.
And, of course, don’t forget to smile as it’s the single most effective way to set the right tone for the interview.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
To learn more about how to enhance your nonverbal communication during virtual meetings, be sure to check out our guide on the blog:
Tip #4: Reduce distractions
Although remote work can be super flexible and cozy, it also brings a unique set of challenges and distractions that can seriously undermine your efforts.
Everyone who’s ever had a kid or a pet show up on camera during a really important work meeting knows exactly what I’m talking about.
And while most people wouldn’t mind these little unexpected moments, they are still distracting enough to chip away from productivity and focus. They can leave a bad and unprofessional impression — which is certainly not a look you’re going for.
So, here are some tips you can apply to distraction-proof your remote interviews:
- Arrange a babysitter, a petsitter, a friend, or a family member to supervise the kids and pets — to ensure there are no unexpected cameos during your interviews.
- Turn off any alerts on your computer to resist the urge to multitask.
- It’s a good idea to have your phone on mute and completely out of sight — so as not to risk unintentionally picking it up.
- Hide the self-view feature in your conferencing platform — to make sure your complete focus is on the candidate. In addition to being able to assess the candidates more closely, you’ll also appear more engaged and interested.
Tip #5: Look beyond the skills
During interviews, you’re probably used to predominantly focusing on the skillset of the candidate and their IQs.
While there’s nothing particularly wrong with this practice, in these specific times of remote work and general uncertainty, this model of interviewing might be somewhat limiting.
As the pandemic and the overall uncertainty we experienced have thought us, we need:
- More resiliency and empathy,
- More effective communication, and
- Overall better emotional intelligence (EQ).
Unfortunately, a virtual meeting space is not exactly the perfect environment to assess these skills.
After all, body language and other non-verbal cues are far easier detected in in-person interviews.
However, there are still ways to learn more about the candidate’s EQ even in the virtual interview setting.
The key is to ask the right questions that will give you a better understanding of the level of a candidate’s emotional intelligence.
Here are some examples of questions you can ask to learn more about a person’s EQ:
- What motivates/inspires you?
- Tell me about the last time you received feedback you didn’t agree with. How did you handle that situation?
- If you got offered a major investment opportunity to start a company tomorrow, what would it be and why?
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake, failed to meet a deadline, or got into a conflict at a job. Were you able to resolve the issue/repair the damage? How?
It’s also important to mind your communication styles and to try to find a way to adapt to their style.
This will also help create a safe space for candidates to feel comfortable being open and transparent and not feel judged or formally assessed.
Tip #6: Make the most of the virtual environment
On the one hand, remote interviewing limits your ability to get the full picture of the candidates and their personalities. There’s less room to assess their non-verbal communication in interaction with other people.
However, the virtual environment also lends itself to better psychological safety, in a way. When executed right, remote interviews can facilitate more openness and authenticity than in-person interviews.
The screens, instead of being a barrier to transparent communication, can provide a more intimate space for candidates to express their opinion freely.
Working from home, or any other space people find most comfortable, creates a more relaxed work environment and inspires a sense of safety and openness among candidates.
Interviewers can make the most of this phenomenon to get a more accurate assessment of the candidates from the get-go.
Consider asking more meaningful questions from the beginning to get the candidates to open up right away. Ask about their background, family, friends, and inspirations — to create a sense of safe psychological space.
According to Spasojevic, another important aspect of this step in the interview is creating a more relaxed atmosphere for the candidate.
In her words:
“Candidates usually feel a bit nervous during interviews, so it’s a good practice to help them relax and feel more comfortable right from the start. For example, you can ask them unofficial questions, such as: How are you today? How are you coping with this heatwave we’re having? How is your week going?
This will help candidates relax and remember that we are regular people too and that there’s no need to feel nervous talking to us.”
Tip #7: Address the elephant in the room
Don’t forget about the context that caused most organizations to switch to remote work.
There’s no reason to pretend the pandemic didn’t happen — and, more importantly, that it didn’t create a new set of challenges and conditions.
Instead, use it to your advantage to learn more about the candidates’ personalities and the skills they developed during the challenging times.
For example, you can ask questions such as:
- What are some of the ways you’ve worked on improving your work skills over the last two years?
- Have you completed any training or professional development in the last year?
It’s a great opportunity to get insight into how interviewees cope with an unexpected crisis.
Tip #8: Ask authentic, concrete questions
To be able to get an authentic insight into a candidate’s character, try to avoid generic questions such as — What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Most candidates would answer that they are motivated and hard-working, which is a practiced, generic answer that leaves no room for authenticity.
But, if you phrase the question in a way that speaks to the specific circumstances and their experience of overcoming them, you can more accurately evaluate their genuineness and personal skills.
For example, you can ask something along the lines of — What’s been your greatest challenge working from home so far, and how did you overcome it?
This will help you get a more accurate assessment of the candidate — as you’ll be able to identify their authenticity by the tone of their voice and their expression.
So, the next time you’re working on interview questions, be sure to incorporate more concrete context to get more tangible answers.
Tip #9: Pay attention to how candidates handle distractions
Another great silver lining to remote interviewing is the potential to observe how candidates act instead of evaluating how they say they act in specific work situations.
There’s bound to be an unexpected situation during the interview — phones or doorbells may ring, a child or a pet may show up, or ads may pop up on a candidate’s screen. (I may or may not be speaking from experience here.)
These situations are perfect to get a great insight into how candidates react to distractions.
Are they too flustered by the situation? Did they lose their train of thought? Are they able to keep their focus and composure?
This will tell you a lot about how they would behave if something similar happens in front of their colleagues or when they’re on an important call with a client.
In case no distracting situations come up during the interview, you can always ask them directly to tell you about a time something unexpected happened during an important call. Observe how they tell the story to better understand the effect it had on them.
Tip #10: Take regular breaks between interviews
Often, interviewers find themselves juggling the impossible schedules of several back-to-back interviews per day.
And, even though it may seem like the right thing to do productivity-wise, it can actually be counterproductive.
Remote interviews can be extremely cognitively and emotionally taxing. The emotional labor that goes into always having a smile on your face while trying to balance being analytical and friendly can quickly take a toll on you if you don’t take some time for yourself to decompress.
To ensure you’re on top of your game and focused with each candidate you meet, consider taking short breaks between interviews.
If your schedule allows it, add 10–15 minutes after each virtual interview to breathe, get up from your chair, stretch — or use this time to take notes.
Tip #11: End on a high note
In Spasojevic’s opinion, it’s important to remember that the interviewing process works the other way around, too:
“Interviewing allows companies to get to know the candidates, but it also allows the candidates to get a better insight into the companies.
Therefore, it’s critical that you paint the company in the best light and have the candidates leave the interview aspiring to be part of such an amazing organization.”
The candidates assess your presentation to get a better insight into the organization.
While you’re looking for the ideal employee, candidates are looking for the best career opportunity. Remote work has broadened the pool for employees as well, making it more competitive for companies to attract and attain top talent.
Remember that you’re the ambassador of your company, and make sure to paint an authentic picture of your company culture throughout the interview, but especially towards the end.
A strong finish can make all the difference in terms of making a great lasting impression.
Here are the steps to include for a strong finish to the interview:
- Be sure to leave enough time in the interview to answer any questions candidates may have.
- Highlight any important points about the company, the culture, or the position you believe would make a strong impression.
- Put the spotlight back on the candidate for the final word. Invite them to share anything else they find important to mention or ask.
- Thank the candidate for their time and explain the next steps in detail.
Wrapping up: Embrace the future of recruiting
As remote work continues to gather momentum, organizations are tasked with adjusting their recruiting process to fit the needs of the new normal.
To ensure the best possible outcome for your organization while accommodating the remote workforce’s needs, consider making the most of the remote environment.
Use the tips provided in this blog post to design a productive virtual interviewing process and a positive experience for your candidates.
✉️ What about you? Have you created an effective virtual interviewing process? What are your key tips and takeaways? Do you have any additional tips for creating a successful virtual interviewing experience? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may include your answers in this or one of our future posts. And, if you liked this post and found it useful, share it with someone you think would benefit from it.