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Virtual Interviewing: The New Way to Make a Better Informed Decision

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The way we work, live, and interact with others has been rocked by the COVID pandemic, and we may never fully return to what we previously viewed as “normal”. This unexpected global event is forcing us to creatively solve the interviewing, hiring, and onboarding processes to adapt to our current reality. For companies who need to hire and candidates looking for employment while respecting “social distancing” restrictions, this can seem daunting. 

  • How are hiring companies going to really feel confident in their decisions? 
  • How will candidates genuinely know what they’re signing up for if they can’t even visit the office or facility?
  • How do you achieve that necessary chemistry check?

By employing a few techniques and tools, hiring companies may actually find that they have a better feel for candidates and can make more thoughtful and informed hiring decisions as a result. This should also be viewed as an opportunity to test various techniques that may likely become your new talent selection SOPs moving forward.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

There are plenty of collaboration technology tools for video chatting, virtual conference rooms, online presentations (Zoom, UberConference, BlueJeans, Teams, Slack, etc.) and online video interviewing software with pre-employment assessment platforms using AI and validated IO psychology. Take advantage of these tools and use them to their maximum extent in your interviewing process. For instance, create a list of initial questions that you’d like all candidates to answer. Have the candidates record their responses in a video which they can then submit to the hiring authority or executive search firm by a specific date and time. Hiring authority and team members can watch these videos at a time that suits their schedule and get a feel for the candidate’s problem-solving techniques and ability to think on their feet. Candidates can use technology to demonstrate their hard and soft skills. Think of each call or meeting as a presentation where you can share decks, creative examples, roadmaps to success, or even selling and pitch style.

More Touch Points

Virtually interviewing will require a shift in your normal process. In the past, you may have conducted a screener call, then an in-person interview, and maybe finished with a series of interviews with various team members all jam-packed into a single day. By moving the process online, companies and candidates will need to invest more time (overtime) and participate in more touch points throughout the process. With everyone at home, you might need to schedule calls outside of regular business hours. Candidates and hiring authorities may be homeschooling their kids or sharing an office with their significant other. Remaining flexible and sympathetic to individual situations is a must as we aren’t under “normal” working conditions. 

Whether or not you choose to submit an initial list of questions for the candidate to answer on video, the first interview should be a more formal one-on-one interview with the candidate. We recommend video calls whenever possible, to gauge the chemistry. While not the same as in-person meetings, we’ve found that virtual face-to-face interaction makes a difference. At this point, you might want other colleagues to hold separate video calls as well with the candidate as you narrow the list to your top finalists.

You may need to remind colleagues that feedback forms are still essential for the evaluation. We’ve seen this process slip recently, and it makes a difference when there are multiple interviews. Based on the need to create more touchpoints, you could see if the candidate is open for a casual call over coffee (on a weekend morning), or just to socialize and get to know one another on a deeper level (during an evening or weekend video chat). Once you have your top contenders, finishing up with a casual group call to see the collective dynamic should give you enough data to make your final decision. 

Get Personal

More often than not, hiring authorities include lunch, coffee/tea, or even a cocktail as a part of the courting process. Just because you’re interviewing in the virtual world doesn’t mean that you still can’t share these casual moments. In fact, we recommend spending more time via phone and video chats than ever before to make up for missing that “in-person” check.

Schedule separate online meetings where you spend time to get to know one another in a more social or casual environment. If the candidate is open to it, why not offer to share a meal or grab a coffee together online. If your organization is very family-friendly, consider bringing your family on screen or asking the candidate if they would like their family to meet you as a way to build more trust. If the hiring company is deemed essential and is still working from the office, take the candidate on a virtual tour with your phone so that they can get a feeling for the office environment or facility. If you’re working from home, share your home office set up with your candidate and feel free to ask how they’re adapting to being at home and ask to see what they’ve set up for their command center. We’re all in this together, and sharing these personal and more informal experiences provides a wealth of opportunity to see how people interact in a social setting, how they carry a casual conversation, which will give you more insight as to what type of an employee the candidate would be.

Last, But Not Least – Simple Interview Tips and Tricks for All 

When preparing candidates and hiring authorities for interviews (in-person and online), we always provide pre-interview prep tips with some simple reminders of what to do and not to do during an interview. Most are common sense, but they are a helpful reminder for anyone feeling a bit anxious about the online interactions.

For Candidates and Hiring Managers

  • Select your location carefully. Make sure you’re not in an empty room that will create an echo or in a place with a lot of background noise. Create a neat and organized background that is not too distracting but more engaging than a blank white wall. Some tech tools provide the option of adding a background.
  • Prop up your laptop or video camera so that you’re at eye level with the camera and ideally about an arm’s distance away from the camera itself.
  • Test your lighting. The light source should be in front of you and facing you vs. overhead or under the light.
  • Look directly at the camera as much as possible (but not in a very uncomfortable creepy way!), so the other person feels like you’re looking them in the eyes. It’s natural to want to see people’s reactions, and you may find yourself drifting back to the other person’s picture, but try your best.
  • Don’t talk too much. You can say quite a bit in 30-60 seconds and usually lose people’s attention after that amount of time. Keep a silent timer handy if needed.
  • Turn off phones, other devices, videos, TV’s, etc. so that you can focus on the interview only.
  • Don’t be late! Not even by 1 minute! Given technology issues and wifi, we recommend you sign in at least 2 minutes before the start. In-person, you should show up ahead of time to an interview; this is no different. 
  • Be authentic – this means treat this meeting with professionalism, but also give them a taste of who you are and let your personality show.

For Candidates

  • Dress appropriately. Ask your recruiter and research the company culture to deem what is most appropriate. Do not wear a suit if that isn’t the corporate culture or wear a suit if you’re advised to do so. These days, everyone is a bit laxer about what they are wearing, but keep in mind, your attire should reflect the job you’re hoping to land. 
  • Do your research on the company, person, role, etc. and be an expert on your relevant experiences.
  • Show up with great questions to ask about your area of business and the entire company as a whole. Don’t necessarily expect to get them all answered in this first meeting (and don’t overly focus on getting an answer). You should never run out of good questions to ask during an interview, especially if this is an executive-level position. 
  • Make sure to make the discussion a conversation. If you are asking and answering questions back and forth, it gives you less time to engage and find out more about the company and the culture to see if it is a fit for you. People can often rush into their questions without taking a breath to understand the answer and follow a line of conversation. Let the conversation flow as well. #beorganic 😉
  • Wrap up strong. Be gracious for the time and consideration, and let them know your strong genuine interest. People like to be liked, and interviewing should not be a game of poker. A word of caution: don’t come on too strong as you are wrapping up. Don’t ask closing questions such as: “How do you rank me? I need immediate feedback please? What’s next? When will I hear back?” These are uncomfortable closing questions for the interviewer – let them offer those insights.

When working with Hunter + Esquire team, we create a process and a space that aims to deliver an authentic way to interview and genuinely get to know the other person involved. We look at this as an opportunity to form a relationship with someone in a new way and to create the most personal interview experiences possible. You might not be able to shake their hand or feel their hug, but if you create multiple encounters during this process, you’re going to have all the information you need to make a well-informed hire.

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