February 13, 2024

Thanks to a *certain* pandemic, virtual interviews are now a regular part of the hiring process for many businesses. You may have decided to remain remote, go hybrid, or simply build a remote team from the start. Maybe you’ve even conducted numerous remote interviews and hired talent around the country or the world. 

But when was the last time you revisited your virtual interviewing process? What kind of experience are you creating for candidates? Are you maximizing that valuable, limited time? Remember, you’re selling your company to interviewees as much as they are selling their skills and experience to you!

Remote interviewing isn’t going anywhere. And since it’s a candidate’s job market, sprucing up your practices to make the best impression and ensure you’re hiring the best fit is vital! Follow these tips to strengthen your virtual interviews.

1. Prepare for the Interview

Ensure you have a tidy, quiet space to conduct the virtual interview where you won’t be disturbed. Show the candidate that you take the occasion seriously by dressing professionally (or according to your business’s style/dress code). 

If you’re one of the countless organizations that have been managing a remote workforce for a few years now, you know better than ever how technical difficulties can occur without warning! Test your technology and ensure you have their phone number as a backup form of communication in case something goes awry, like an internet outage or glitch in your platform.

Do you plan to include several interviewers, such as those from other departments, additional leadership, or potential peers? Prepare them for the interview by:

  • Telling them what skills and qualities to look for
  • Sharing potential questions to ask
  • Explaining how the interview process will work—will this be a group interview or individual meetings?

We recommend avoiding scheduling interviews one right after the other. Give yourself time to reflect and take notes on the last candidate so you retain more about them and your initial thoughts and reactions. Plus, you need a break to conduct optimal interviews.

2. Prepare the Candidate

Set your remote interview candidates up for success by giving them enough notice and time to prepare. This includes sharing all the essential details, such as:

  • Where and how it will be conducted
  • Meeting link and instructions
  • Names and roles of all interviewers (add a link to their LinkedIn profiles or another site with their bios)
  • If they need to prepare something prior
  • Any other helpful interview tips

Also, give them a heads-up on the length of the interview. Will it be one hour long or a series of shorter one-on-one meetings? For longer interviews, allow the candidate to take a break every hour or between each meeting.

Consider the length of the interview and avoid going too long to ensure it’s not a draining experience. Video calls require more conscious attention than in-person to catch those nonverbal cues (more on this below), which can be tiring. 

3. Choose Your Questions Carefully

When planning your virtual interview questions, consider not only the candidate’s experience and qualifications but also their soft skills and emotional intelligence (EQ). Use intentional questions and a rating system to track the interviewee’s performance throughout the interview. This will ensure fairness and equity in your remote hiring process.

As for EQ-related questions, focus on how the candidate:

  • Engages with and relates to others
  • Handles and adapts to change
  • Navigates conflict and challenges
  • Reads and responds to the reactions and feelings of others
  • Motivates and inspires coworkers/direct reports

Don’t forget the follow-up questions! They nudge candidates to dig a bit deeper into specific scenarios and topics. Common follow-up questions include “How did you adapt to [scenario]?” and “Can you walk me through your decision-making process when faced with [scenario]?”

4. Create a Comfortable Environment

Make the candidate feel welcome and ease some of their nerves by introducing yourself, your role, and what you’ll cover. You can also make remote candidates comfortable by:

  • Mitigating distractions by turning off notifications and other devices
  • Staying focused and giving them your undivided attention
  • Telling them if you’ll be taking notes or using an AI assistant to take notes during the interview
  • Accounting for lags and audio glitches by waiting a few seconds after their responses to avoid speaking over each other

Remember to maintain a friendly, calm disposition and smile at the right moments. Basically, treat remote interviews the same way you would in-person interviews!

5. Keep it Conversational

The virtual interview should be a two-way conversation, not simply an hour of you asking them questions and talking to them. Give the candidate a chance to ask questions, or if they don’t, share pertinent information that people commonly ask about the role and your company.

You can also encourage natural, comfortable conversation by asking them about their story and what drives them. Tell them about the company’s culture, mission, and values—since they can’t see or experience the environment firsthand, painting a picture for them is critical! 

Share stories of how your virtual team lives this out so the candidate can fully understand and envision him or herself there. For example, tell them about your initiatives around promoting work-life balance for remote employees. Guage their response and reaction to determine if they’re a good fit.

6. Tune Into Nonverbal Cues & Reactions

Acclaimed behavioral psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian established the 7-38-55 rule through his research. This states that only 7% of our communication is verbal, while our body language makes up 55%, and our tone of voice makes up 38%. Hence, the importance of nonverbal communication!

Throughout the remote interview, pay attention to the interviewee’s nonverbal cues. Again, this takes extra effort via video, so watch and listen closely to their body language, facial expressions, eye contact, and tone of voice. All of these give context and meaning to the individual’s words.

Then, there are the remote work disruptions. From the kids crying to an unexpected delivery to mischievous pets, many of us are used to work-from-home distractions at this point. So, how does the candidate react to and handle the disruption? Do they get discombobulated or remain cool as a cucumber and calmly take care of the situation? 

Of course, allow for some flexibility—things pop up, and we should generally be forgiving. It’s all in how the candidate handles it, which indicates how they would behave in front of a client or coworker.

And if no interruptions occur, ask them how they respond to unexpected events with questions like: 

  • How do you handle unexpected interruptions or distractions while working remotely? Can you provide an example of a situation where you successfully managed such a disruption?
  • Can you share a time when you encountered technical difficulties or connectivity issues while working remotely? How did you troubleshoot the problem and minimize its impact on your work?

7. End on a Memorable Note

As you wrap up the virtual interview, it’s your chance to knock your sales pitch out of the park. This is a good time to share anecdotes about what you love about the company. Tell them what excites you to show up to work every day!

Ask them if they have any more questions, and remind them you’re available to answer any later. This is also the time to revisit any thoughts, questions, or comments from earlier in the conversation. Add a nice final touch by asking the candidate if there is anything else they’d like to share.

End by thanking them for their time and letting them know the next steps and when to expect a decision. Follow up with every candidate, and don’t ghost them!

Is it time to refresh your virtual interview approach? Or do you need help managing your hiring process? Contact BlueLion today at 603-818-4131 or info@bluelionllc.com to learn how we can help you build a stellar remote team!

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.