How to Interview Candidates Virtually

We at Topgrading have been interviewing virtually for years for clients outside of North America. During the past few years technology has become so reliable that clients and candidates have increasingly favored virtual interviews. The costs are lower and it’s a lot easier to reschedule if there is a problem.

Our experience has given us insight into how to get the best possible results from a virtual interview. From initial interviews that might last half an hour, to multi-hour Topgrading Interviews covering the candidate’s entire career, most of the same suggestions apply.

Technology

Get familiar with the technology (Zoom, GoToMeeting, etc.) because you may need to help the candidate turn on his/her camera, mute, unmute, etc. Though not absolutely necessary, suggest using the computer mic and speakers or earbuds (not large over-the-ear headphones) for better audio.

Be sure to have a meeting link and a dial-in number available. Quality can occasionally be spotty and using the link for video and dial-in number for audio can improve the quality of both. If you’re new to the technology, test it in one or two “dry runs.” Regarding timing, assume 10 minutes at the beginning of the interview will be dedicated to getting organized on the system.

Be sure you have the candidate’s cell number and ask them to have their phone handy in case the technology does not work so you can call or text them and they can do the same if they are having difficulties.

Prep for the Candidate

Send the candidate an email with instructions and advice about their physical background, lighting, attire (I usually tell the person how I’ll be dressed versus telling them what to wear), what they should do to prepare, suggest they have water and any other drinks they like.

Prepare by reviewing the candidate’s resume and job description. For Topgraders, review the candidate’s resume, Topgrading Career History Form and the Job Scorecard.

Appear Professional

Dress as if you were in the office. Many have adopted a casual dress code since we are all working from home.

Choose a quiet, private place to interview. People should not be wandering around in the background. Check your lighting, background, and camera angle. The background should be pleasant and professional. Lighting should be in front of you, behind the camera. The camera should be at eye level or slightly above, so you are not looking down on the candidate.

Look directly into the camera when you would normally make eye contact. Adjust your windows so that the screen the candidate is in is near your camera – this will enable you to look at the camera and candidate simultaneously.

Get Comfortable

Make some small talk before jumping into questions. Five minutes is enough to get the interviewee talking and relaxed. This is even more important when on video than when in person. Let the candidate know what they can expect for the next two or three hours – interview format, breaks every hour or so. Ask if they have water and give them a minute to get some if they don’t.

Take Breaks

About every hour suggest a short (5 – 6 minute) break.

Closing the Interview

When you are done, let the candidate know what comes next – the candidate can ask you questions, you’ll arrange a lunch, you’ll prepare a report to share with Human Resources, etc.

With Topgrading, we like to have the hiring manager on the call during the interview. At the end of the interview some clients want a 15-minute break to discuss the candidate, and after that reconvene for a few minutes to suggest to the candidate what you decided – whether it’s to invite the candidate back for additional interviews, say you’ll be in touch in the next day or so, or something else.

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