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Conducting Virtual Interviews That Work

There’s no doubt virtual interviews conducted through Zoom or similar platforms are hidden somewhere in your interview process. Most of us learned their value during the pandemic (if not before) and have kept them as part of the hiring process. But did you know that how you conduct virtual interviews can make or break your chances with top talent? First impressions go both ways, after all. 

So, just as we often help our job candidates ace virtual interviews, we wanted to put together a little cheat sheet for employers and hiring managers. Many of these points can seem obvious, but time after time, our recruiters have witnessed their clients and competitors miss the boat with job candidates because their video interviewing skills fell flat. Take a moment to walk through the following steps and consider whether your approach to virtual interviews could be refined.

Set expectations. Tell the candidates what they need to know to be successful. This allows them to remove the technical and other barriers that virtual interviews can create and, instead, focus on putting their best foot forward, just as they would in person.

  • Clearly communicate to candidates which platform you’ll be using (Zoom, for instance).
  • Provide information about the interview format, duration, and participants. You might even want to give them a heads-up about the office dress code so they can dress accordingly.
  • Share technical requirements and best practices for joining the meeting.
  • As the interview begins, introduce everyone participating and take a moment to walk through the agenda so the candidate knows what to expect.

Be prepared. Just as you expect job candidates to be prepared, you should also do whatever you can to be able to conduct the interview glitch-free. We recently published this guide to Video Interviewing 101 for job candidates. Many of the same tips apply to those conducting the virtual interviews. Your level of professionalism and command of the technology you’re using is a reflection of your brand and culture. The camera angle, lighting and other small details can make a big difference.

Reduce distractions. In that same vein, focus entirely on your virtual interviews without distraction and without creating a distraction for the job candidates you’re interviewing.

  • Try to always conduct your interviews in a familiar, quiet, well-lit location.
  • Close your web browser/email, silence your phone, and perhaps even minimize your own video window—whatever might distract you during the interview.
  • Reduce the number of people involved. The more people participating, the bigger the chances of distraction and technical glitches.
  • Actively listen, maintain eye contact, and show genuine interest in the candidate while they are talking.

Use the Waiting Room and locking features. This is particularly important if you share the video platform account or have scheduled back-to-back interviews. These feature names are specific to Zoom, but most platforms have similar features. The idea is that when a job candidate calls in early (as you might expect they would), they can be placed in the Waiting Room so that they aren’t “barging into” a meeting or interview that hasn’t yet wrapped up. Likewise, you might consider “locking the room” once everyone has joined so that no one else mistakenly enters the call while in progress. Zoom explains these and other tips here.

Up your game. If you’re well-versed in conducting virtual interviews, you can take your approach to the next level and really engage the candidate. Utilize screen sharing, annotation tools, and other features to enhance the interview and make it more interactive. You could dive deeper into core values or organizational structure, job duties, or whiteboarding a challenge you’d like the candidate to discuss with you. The earlier you can bring the candidate into this type of dynamic interaction, the better.  

Be quick to pivot. Sometimes, technology just isn’t going to cooperate, even with all the preparation in the world. Instead of limping through an interview plagued with glitches or writing off a candidate who couldn’t connect, be quick to go to Plan B, C and D. You could recommend the candidate call in instead (if a phone interview is better than no interview at all). Or you can interrupt the candidate if the connection is poor and recommend you reschedule after they’ve (or you’ve) had a chance to address the problem.

Follow up and even ask for feedback. This part is vital, particularly with virtual interviews. For one reason, the technology may have been a more significant issue than you assumed. We know of candidates who’ve been asked for feedback and admitted having trouble understanding the interviewer’s questions due to a delay or glitches. Not wanting to admit it repeatedly during the call, they struggled to answer what they could. Another reason follow-up is essential is that it can give candidates who are introverted, neurodivergent, or simply distracted by technology a chance to reflect and refine their key points. Built In’s Kate Heinz even recommends sending out a simple feedback survey to address any problems or concerns with the software or process.

With careful planning, preparation, and utilization of your platform’s features, you can conduct seamless virtual interviews that impress candidates and help you secure the best talent for your team.

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