Remote Work and Virtual Interviewing, The New Normal

Remote Work and Virtual Interviewing, The New Normal

By Jennifer Krinsky

1.How can you make the candidate experience as painless as possible when doing interviews virtually instead of being in the same room?

First of all when scheduling the candidates let them know that it will be like any other interview but also reinforce this is an interview.  Try and make it like a “normal” interview as much as possible which (I believe) makes it less “weird” (for a lack of better word).  Most importantly use a system that won’t give you too many technical issues. Nothing freaks out a candidate more than starting an interview off with one person not being able to hear the other one, or when the video keeps freezing up.  As the interviewer, make sure YOU are in a place with a strong signal and have no technical issues.  Ask the candidates to use whatever system they have used before (it’s great if you can give them some options- Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, Facetime etc.) so they are familiar with how it works etc.

2.Should you be asking the same old interview questions- or is this an opportunity to go in a different direction? I start every single interview with some warm up questions.  I might make a comment about I know this is so unusual, I ask them if they’ve done a lot of zoom calls with family in this situation etc.  just general ice breakers BUT then I go right to the real interview questions.  It is still an “interview” so that is appropriate.

3.How do you nail a video interview from a body language perspective? (Both interviewer and interviewee)- #1 is KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL AS  POSSIBLE AS THE INTERVIEWER- Do not think that just b/c it is via video you can be any more casual or can do it from your kitchen table.  You don’t need your dog barking in the background or kids walking in.  It can be tough under these circumstances but it’s REALLY IMPORTANT you act as though you are in a face-to-face interview.  As the hiring authority, you are a representative of your organization so it’s essential you are on top of your game.   The reason we meet people in person is so we can assess their presentation, their eye contact etc.  It speaks volumes.  If that wasn’t an important data point, we’d just do it via phone.  This means (on both ends) you want to maintain proper eye contact, and be dressed professionally.

Location, attire and even how they are sitting is essential. Sitting up in your chair, giving this your full attention, not slouched back and rocking in your chair as though you are chatting with a friend.

For the interviewee: Same goes for them. No organization wants to see you interviewing in a T-shirt with a load of laundry sitting behind you.  Sitting up straight, being dressed professionally and being in an appropriate environment are key.  I ALWAYS tell my candidates to have a fresh resume, something to take notes on and a cup of water next to them. The water is only in case they REALLY need it.  I’ve seen a number of candidates slurping a Starbucks drink during a video interview or a swig from a water bottle- BIG NO NO.  If you begin to cough or your mouth becomes very dry, by all means take a quick sip of water, but this isn’t a “casual conversation” and you’d never walk into a face-to-face interview holding a sports water bottle, would you?

4.Do people tend to be to formal or too relaxed when interviewing from a distance?  This has always been a problem. Unfortunately candidates do tend to be more relaxed and not take it as seriously as they would an in-person interview.  Sometimes they feel since “we are both at home” it’s just not as important.  How do you strike the right balance? I think it begins when the interviewer sets up the interview and says things like “This will be a first interview via (Zoom) and although it is a video interview and not in person, please ensure you are in an appropriate setting.   Part of the interview process is to evaluate how professionally you present yourself, so please dress in interview attire and have a fresh copy of your resume in front of you.”    To me, this sets the tone and if they are unsure of how “formal” it will be.   THIS BEING SAID- there are times (not now of course) when candidates must do the call from their car while in between appointments etc.  When scheduling a virtual interview, as long as it is established up front, be flexible if you want to make sure you don’t miss out on a great candidate.  I wouldn’t want to hold off on interviewing a top performer b/c they were booked with appointments and they couldn’t find time to do a more formal interview with me for over a week.

5.Do you think companies will go back to the old way of working, or is this ‘new normal’ here to stay? I can only speak for my industry and not for any others.  What I do know is that there was a time when companies had the majority of their employees working remotely.  We started seeing this more and more in the early 2000’s and by 2007/2008,  it was very common for people NOT to have to be at an office daily.  Employers found their staff to be more productive and with significantly better work life balance.  That changed in 2008 when the economy took a nose dive.  In an effort to try and gain more control of what was happening, they sort of “pulled in the reigns”. They needed to wrap their arms around every aspect of their business to ensure nothing slipped through the cracks, thus they needed people to be “right there”.  We saw a pretty dramatic change in the market and people began doing less telecommuting. My feeling is that if people are productive working from home and still accomplishing what they need to, some employers may consider allowing more work-from-home  It has a number of benefits, especially with Covid.

6.Which aspects are most likely to be here to stay?  Meetings that traditionally took place in the office (which is part of what required people to physically be there) recently have been done very easily via web.  I think many employers believed something would be lost in doing it virtually, but have seen otherwise.  However, the one aspect people are losing is the basic day-to-day interaction with their coworkers.  This is something people are missing and may steer companies to have employees come to the office more frequently.

7.This one  is especially for you… If companies decide that they get just as much out of people when they are working from home, does that open up a whole new world when it comes to recruiting and hiring??  Not really-  there is still a lot to be said for knowing the market, the culture and the geography.  If you are a Sales Rep based in South Carolina and are calling on customers in NYC, you may not have the same success rate as someone who lives in NY or NJ.  This is not to say people from the South cannot work with NYers, I just mean from a cultural perspective they are different.   I’ve dealt with some pretty curt clients up there and also some super friendly folks down in the Carolinas. Additionally, even remote workers should have the ability to come to the office on occasion.  This builds camaraderie and also ensures there is a cultural fit with the organization as a whole, which is a huge factor in keeping employees long term.

As for recruiting (remotely), one of the biggest struggles in-house recruiters have is that they are often trying to recruit nationwide and don’t know each market.  Each market is different in terms of salaries, talent availability and even traffic patterns.  For example:  if you have an in house recruiter working out of Chicago and s/he is trying to fill a sales position in Bethesda MD, s/he won’t realize a candidate who applied for the job residing in Hunt Valley will have a nightmare commute. A candidate may say they are “fine with a long commute”… until they’ve been doing it for 6 months in the rain and snow.  That recruiter (b/c they are not local) has no idea what the traffic patterns are like and how likely that candidate is to leave in less than a year (if even that long).  Remote work CAN be successful in some industries, but there are a LOT of factors that influence their success rate.

For my industry (sales) it is also key to know where the business is and learning the territory (from afar) can be challenging.  Additionally working EXCLUSIVELY from home can be tough for people doing it for the first time.  It tends be great for part timers or those who travel or attend meetings for their job. However, in my space, I’ve had many candidates say working inside sales and doing it from home 100% of the time makes them feel like they are on an island.   I think a lot of it depends on the nature of the industry. If you are an IT company and the work is very independent, it probably doesn’t matter where someone resides.  That has been the case for some time now already, so that really won’t be a “change”.

8.You don’t have to pay to move people. Could it open up a bigger talent pool for employers? Again this would really depend on the industry. For us, no but if another industry had not considered remote workers and now has kind of ‘seen the light’ than perhaps it could.