How to interview candidates remotely.

Millions of people are staying in their homes at the moment to stop the spread of covid-19.

Although many companies have put their recruitment plans on hold, there is still a need to interview key workers such as drivers and retail assistants.

If you’re recruiting for your business, chances are you’ve probably cancelled those candidate interviews until all this has blown over.

In either case, you will find some useful information in this post about how to interview candidates remotely.

For those of us safe at home, there are things we can do prepare our businesses for when things hopefully go back to an assemblance of normality.

We can anticipate our recruitment needs and write job descriptions.

We can level up our interview skills.

We can spend time preparing interview questions that extract the precise information we need.

We can interview our candidates online, so that they’re ready and set to go.

Perhaps your ideal candidate could start work with you remotely, depending on your business set-up of course.

How to interview candidates remotely. Person on laptop.


Interviewing online.

One of the best online meeting rooms I’ve used is zoom.

Zoom is a great tool for remote interviewing because you can record meetings.

When the interview has finished you can then watch the recording back to evaluate the candidate’s responses.

Side note: – If you’re not evaluating your interviews then you’re in danger of making poor hiring decisions and you most definitely need to upgrade your interview skills!

If you’re going to record interviews, it’s important to get permission from the candidates upfront.

The great thing about zoom is that more than one interviewer can be present. You can have a colleague on the panel with you in a 3-way meeting.

UPDATE – APRIL 3RD 2020. I’m updating this post to acknowledge reports that security risks have been identified in Zoom. Zoom have responded by adding extra security measures such as passwords and waiting rooms. What is your preferred platform? Let me know in the comments section at the end of the post.

How to prepare.

The first thing to do is to understand your legal obligations and be sure your interview process and questions are free from discrimination. You don’t want to end up with a fine and/or a terrible reputation.

Create a structure for your interview and an interview questions template.

Then, prepare some questions that are relevant to the job requirements, job description and person specification, designed to extract the information you need.

I always recommend pre-qualifying candidates with some essential questions before you take them through to the main interview. This is so you don’t waste time interviewing unsuitable people (it happens A LOT).

Schedule your interviews so that you have time immediately after each interview to evaluate while it’s fresh in your mind.

Be sure that you either record the interview (with permission), or have someone you trust join the video call to take accurate notes. This is so that you have information to evaluate when the interview has finished.

Our brains can only hold a certain amount of information. Evaluating interviews prompts us to remember parts of the interview (often important stuff) that would otherwise be overlooked or forgotten.

Having a second person on your panel is helpful to get another perspective when you come to evaluate.

How to interview candidates remotely. What to do during the interview.

An online interview can be handled the same as an offline interview.  You will still be able to observe what the candidate is saying and doing.

If you’re not recording the interview, have a second person take accurate notes.

Ask the prepared questions and then be silent. Give the candidate time to respond.

Do not judge. One of the biggest mistakes interviewers make is to judge and conclude whilst interviewing. This leads to confirmation bias and poor recruitment decisions.

Never offer the job during the interview.

How to evaluate and select candidates.

Once your interview has finished, it’s time to evaluate. Go back over the interview questions and ask yourself to what extent their answers met your expectations. Then give each answer a score of 1, 2, 3 or 4.

1 – Below expectations

2 – Slightly below expectations

3 – Meets expectations

4 – Exceeds expectations

Then give your candidate an overall score and rating of 1, 2, 3, or 4.

Normally the highest scoring candidate is your strongest candidate, but there’s a caveat.

Maybe the strongest candidate has given you a red flag you just can’t ignore. If so, then their overall score should be 1 or 2 and they are therefore unsuitable.

Do not offer to any candidates with an overall score of 1 or 2. They are not suitable. Wait and hold another round of interviews.

Bias and gut feelings.

Understanding bias is vital to making great hiring decisions. We are all biased, but most of the time we don’t realise it.

We gravitate towards or away from candidates without thinking about why.

Why do we feel the way we feel about them?

Not exploring this leads to bad hiring decisions.

If you have a feeling about a candidate, good or bad, then I urge you to explore where this feeling comes from so that you can articulate it.

Bias can often disguise itself as a gut feeling. It’s important to know the difference.

Generally speaking, a feeling is a poor indicator of a candidate’s job performance.

It isn’t legitimate evidence for a hiring decision under equality legislation.

I’m not saying ignore your feelings. I’m saying explore them.

Making the job offer.

When you come to make the offer, be prepared for the possibility that the candidate may want to negotiate.

I recommend that you clarify the salary and package in the pre-qualifier and the main interview to minimise the chances of this happening.

On-boarding a candidate.

It’s a good idea to have a phone conversation with the candidate’s referees if possible. It’s unlikely you’ll get a written response at this time.

Contracts of employment can be issued online. If you prefer to wait until after the pandemic for a physical copy you can make use of e-signature software.

Be sure you’ve got copies of all the relevant paperwork before they start.  Get work permits, photo ID, tax forms, qualification certificates and a driving licence (if applicable) to name just a few.

You will need to see the original documents. This can be tricky at the moment. I recommend making a diary note so you can see and verify the originals after the pandemic, if it isn’t possible now.

I also recommend setting objectives for the probationary period and diarising a probationary review. This meeting can be done online if we’re still in our homes when the probationary period is up.

I hope you’ve found some useful information on how to interview candidates remotely. I’d love to know your thoughts on this post. Please comment below 🙂

Stay safe, and as positive as possible during these unusual times.

Thanks for reading.

With big boss level love,

Sharon xx


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