Tips for conducting successful virtual interviews

Oh, the remote world of working. The virtual arena has forever changed our hiring outlook. From Microsoft Teams and Google Video to Zoom and everything in between, the digital interview process is really ramping up.

“What do I wear?” you cry. “Where do I look?” you scream. And “Where the heck is Andy with my coffee?!” you fume. Well, cry, scream, and fume no more. We’ve put our transformative heads together and created a handy guide to help you navigate the virtual interview landscape.

From eye contact to attire and all the technological trimmings, if you’re wondering just how to conduct a virtual interview, set your status to busy and get reading.

Advantages of Remote Interviews

Reduced commuting time and costs

Commute. What commute?

The beauty of a remote interview is the time – or lack of it – it takes to get from your place of residence to your potential place of work. That is, of course, unless you are working from a coffee shop far, far away – your prerogative. But on the whole, you’ll likely be conducting the interview from your desk/kitchen table/possibly bed.

Not only does this result in more time to prepare for your interview – hurrah – but it also means you cut down on any unnecessary travel costs – double hurrah. Just try to harness any time you may have saved and channel it into a steady pre-interview prep session rather than snoozing the alarm and rolling straight from bed to desk. Bed hair is never a good look.

Candidates feel more relaxed

Do I really have to wear trousers?

For some, the office is a home away from home. A mecca, if you will, where work and home offer a clear divide. However, for others, the chance to work and interview remotely means a more comfortable experience than in previous times.

One benefit of the digital interview process is it allows managers to see how candidates conduct themselves in their home environment. This is especially useful if you’re hiring for a hybrid or remote working role. According to the BBC, ‘Prior to the pandemic, 1% of recruitment firm Reed’s job vacancies advertised remote working, but this rose to 5% in 2021.’ With this rise in working from home, it’s important to see if a candidate is up to the task.

The digital interview process can offer a much less stressful experience compared to in-person interviews, which helps to ease the interviewee in gently. Virtual interviews also allow both the hiring manager and candidate to meet in a place of their choosing. In particular, interviewing for a role in an area that provides familiarity can make the candidate feel more confident.

In peak pandemic times, people were enthralled by the notion of only dressing up the top half of their person. “Trousers?” they scoffed. Skirts?! Forget it. So, the real question you want to ask yourself is, should I be dressing my bottom half?

And while we wouldn’t dream of telling you how to dress (liberation is totally our thing), we think it’s probably worth embracing the entire get-up. Just imagine your doorbell goes halfway through, you forget to turn off the camera, and… we don’t have to tell you the rest.

More scheduling flexibility and a faster recruitment process

Conducting online interviews is beneficial for both the employer and the candidate. Not only does it allow for better scheduling adjustments, but it’s also easier to include and share information with other team members during the process. It also allows for a wider candidate pool and helps managers to make faster recruiting decisions.

The fact that the potential employee is logging on from a remote setting also helps to avoid any pesky travel delays and cut down on cancellations while also helping to reduce the overall time-to-hire. It also means you can interview pretty much anyone, regardless of where they might be located. This is a super appealing benefit in a world where time is very much money.

Want to see some statistics? Of course you do. The 2021 HireVue State of Hiring Report highlighted that 51 percent of respondents want to spend less time on scheduling and more time engaging with candidates. Forty-one percent of employers also said it helped them identify the best candidates (that’s you).

That being said, there are a few challenges the digital interview process can throw at you…

Drawbacks of Virtual Interviews

Technological glitches

Yes. As much as the utilisation of at-home media and the beauty of second, third, or even fourth screens with company statistics, well-researched notes, and maybe even a picture of your favourite pet to keep you going, there will indeed be unforeseen challenges. Mostly of the technological kind. And you should probably warn Dave next door to hold off on the DIY for the next 45 minutes.

Time to step into your best technology practice. As you may have already experienced from a previous remote working role, the most common issues come in the form of WiFi drops, camera issues, and Microsoft Teams simply not playing ball (not to mention the dreaded, “Sandra, you’re on mute love.” Oh, the horror. The audacity in this current post-pandemic era).

In these instances, there is only so much prep you can do. We’d suggest checking the internet connection and your virtual interviewing platform settings before attending the interview itself. If all else fails, try switching your computer off and on again!

You can even do a trial run with a colleague beforehand. If you know that the technology is doing its well-oiled thing in the background, it leaves you free to hone in on the candidate’s experience, skills, and abilities.

Difficulty building rapport and maintaining focus

In the absence of any tangible contact and face-to-face communication, conducting virtual interviews can, quite frankly, be hell on earth. It can be difficult to really express yourself, show engagement, and build up that kind of interviewer/interviewer connection that comes from entering a designated physical space.

A top tip to help overcome this and smash that digital interview process? Try to maintain eye contact as much as possible. It may sound simple, but it’s something that can be so easily forgotten when conducting online interviews.

And yep, we know that the urge to check in on that little box in the corner is seriously tempting – why go to all that trouble on your hair if you’re not going to be checking it out constantly – but trust us, less focus on yourself and more focus on the candidate will lead to better results.

Sensitivity to context

Whilst for some, conducting online interviews is a godsend, for others, the very opposite can be true. Not everyone has unlimited space, and there are various care and home-schooling responsibilities that have come with the change of landscape.

Picture this. You’re conducting a job interview on Zoom. The kids are running around instead of doing their times tables, and you’ve been relegated to the kitchen. Now what? While not always possible, if you have an effective support system. Use it. Bold. Underlined.

If you can spin all the plates and focus on a job interview with the kids, dog, and your housemate’s early morning smoothie activities in tow, fab. But if having the house to yourself and needing an hour or so of quiet is the only way to get through the interview, coordinate with your partner, family, housemates, and dog ahead of time (we recommend the biggest bone you can find) – trust us we know how to keep dogs busy in an office.

6 Tips on Preparing for the Digital Interview Process

Now that the benefits and difficulties have been established and you know exactly what to do to get you to the job interview on time, it’s at this point you should consider note-taking.

Yes, alongside the occasional WiFi outage, the exasperated outcries of “you’re on mute,” and the neighbours deciding that this is the optimum time for re-laying the upstairs floor, chances are you might be a little distracted during your virtual judgement.

According to Forbes (and us), acing a virtual interview takes preparation. So, here are our top tips.

1. Prepare Your Candidate

No, we don’t mean telling them exactly what questions you plan to ask them. But give them a bit of instruction on how to enter the virtual meeting, whether they will need to download anything in advance, and so on. You could also offer a loose structure on how the interview will be conducted, for example:

  • Introductions
  • Five-minute PowerPoint presentation on the business
  • Discussion of the role
  • What can you offer?
  • Competency questions
  • Questions from the candidate

Sending the invitation link out a few days in advance is a great shout – it allows the candidate (and you!) to check if it’s working in advance.

2. Dress appropriately

The way that you dress should reflect how you expect your employees to dress, so it’s important that you lead by example. Hint – it’s always best to wear trousers.

Setting out your expectations from the beginning is a good idea. If you want your candidate to be “suited and booted” for the interview, tell them. That way, there’s no confusion, and you’re not the only one feeling uncomfortable in your suit and tie.

3. Use visuals

Talking can be boring – no one wants to listen to someone drone on about company policies and culture. So, make it interesting! Use PowerPoints or other visual aids to entice your candidate.

4. Have the right equipment

When it comes to virtual interviews, having too much background noise is a nightmare. As well as being distracting, it can lead to important information being missed or misheard. If you’re planning to conduct virtual interviews, now’s the time to invest in some decent headphones and a microphone. (Just don’t gulp your drink or eat during the interview – trust us, your candidate does NOT want to hear that…)

5. Get your pen and paper ready

Before the big day, take a minute to think through the best way you want to take notes – hey, we’re all different humans with different minds. But the ultimate goal is the same, right? You want to focus on the discussion and present the very best version of yourself and your organisation.

Depending on what works for you, and if you can stand the old-school ways of jotting things down, it might be best to put literal pen to paper.

Why? You may have spotted this from the dreaded Wednesday team meeting where you’ve finally mustered up the courage to declare your Eureka solution for an age-old work problem; when, what’s this? Judith has decided to update her Word document by way of typing. NO. You wail. Where’s the eye contact? Where’s the head nod? Where’s the whooping and shouting and visual validation for your perfect solution?

When a person is typing while on a video call, they may very well be ‘looking’ at the person with whom they are having a discussion, but you can tell the attention just isn’t there. Cue feelings of invalidation and awkwardness.

Writing with an actual pen and actual paper provides a much more obvious social cue to the person you’re talking to. Need to look down to jot something down? No worries, the action makes it clear.

6. Write down some key points during the interview

Hey, we get it. Conducting online interviews can be stressful enough, so there’s no point trying to capture everything that was said. This isn’t a court of law.

But do make sure to jot down a few important keywords or any notes you think could benefit you afterwards. You’ll want to remember if your interviewee made a stand-out comment, but it’s less important if they ask you whether they can microwave fish in the communal kitchen…

So, there you have it. In a world where hybrid and remote working are rising in popularity, it’s important that you learn how to adapt. Conducting meetings and interviews face-to-face isn’t always an option, so being able to conduct an effective virtual interview is an essential skill for hiring managers.

And the most important takeaway from this article? Don’t just dress from the waist up. Remember that, and you can pretty much guarantee a smooth interview process!