Our eight top tips for virtual interviews
Virtual interviews can be a great way to hire candidates. At the moment, many organisations may be forced to use them due to the COVID-19 lockdown, but they are also a great option if your panel is not based in the same office and you want to save time and money on travel.
While the main contents of the interview will probably be the same as in-person experiences, small changes will help you create the best online experience for the candidate and, importantly, find the right person for your role.
We spoke to recruitment specialists from across the sector – including in-house professionals, consultants and academics – to get their top tips on running interviews virtually. Here is their advice:
Been seen, not just heard.
Wherever possible, conduct your interview on video rather than just audio. Research suggests that being able to see a person’s face and hands, as well as hear their voice, is important. It puts people at ease, removes distractions and allows them to decipher tone and emotion more easily.
Choose your technology and tell candidates in advance.
Your organisation may have a preferred video-calling or interview platform – there are many available including Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and FaceTime. As well as specialist recruitment tools like HireVue, VidCruiter, and Spark Hire.
Let your candidate know in advance what platform you will use. This will give them time to set up an account, download software and test their set-up. It may be worth including a quick user guide if you are using a product that people are less familiar with, or pointing them to helpful links in case they need technical support.
As an interviewer, you must also test your set-up in advance, as should any colleagues joining the call.
Finally, have a plan B for if the technology goes down. It is worth letting the candidate know your telephone number (both before the interview and at the start) so they can call you if anything goes wrong.
This is a good opportunity to demonstrate what kind of organisation you are by being understanding with candidates about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Make it clear to them ahead of the interview – and again at the start – that you know the meeting might be interrupted by a child, a dog or the doorbell and that it does not matter. In fact, it might happen to you too – and that is ok.
Set the timeline and stick to it.
Be clear with candidates about how many interviews there will be, who will be on them and how they will be conducted, for example on video or phone. This creates a good candidate experience and shows that you are an organised, proactive employer who understands the needs of staff.
Set the tone.
Start the virtual interview by putting the candidate at ease. It is worth checking that they have some water with them at the start of the call, just as you would in a face-to-face interview.
Taking time for an informal chat at the beginning will relax both the interviewee and anyone participating. It also gives you a chance to learn more about their personality and life outside of work, which shows you care about them as an individual.
Are we recording?
Ahead of the call, you must tell the candidate whether you will be recording the interview for review with colleagues as you will need to get prior consent for GDPR reasons. It is also best practice to be clear with all participants when you are recording either audio or video.
With video interviews, it is especially important to plan who will ask the questions and when with your colleagues. Break the interview down into sections, including who is opening and closing the meeting, and agree who is going to tackle which areas.
You can still jump in with follow-up questions, but planning ahead will ensure you minimise talking over each other which can break up the flow of the conversation and make video calls difficult to follow.
Dress to impress.
The dress code will depend on your organisation. You may feel a more relaxed look is suitable for a virtual interview, or you may want candidates to dress smartly regardless. Whichever you choose, be clear ahead of time about your expectations with candidates.
Let any colleagues joining the interview know about the dress code too. It is polite for the panel to mirror the code where possible and, asking a candidate to wear a suit and tie while you look casual, or vice versa, can make them anxious and uncomfortable – neither of which will bring out their best.
Planning and executing successful video interviews is not that different from planning for a great face-to-face meeting. The most important tips are to allow a little more time for planning, testing and communicating clearly with your candidates.