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How to Master the Remote Interview: Nine Tips to Find the Right Talent

The remote video interview is here to stay — learn how to master this important first impression and ensure you are engaging the right talent.

COVID-19 has required more people to work from home than ever before — including people-first roles like hiring managers. Even as individuals adjust to the “new normal,” the way we work is likely to be forever changed. In-person interviews will return — in time. Going forward, however, the remote interview will be a large part of how hiring managers screen candidates. Most managers have participated in online meetings, but conducting a great interview requires a level of nuance that can be lost over online platforms. Perfecting some best practices can help take your video interviewing skills to the next level.

Here are nine steps to make the most of a remote interview.

1. Communication is Key

Most candidates are familiar with the process of an on-site interview, but a remote interview is a different experience. Your candidate may not know what to expect — and there’s a chance that they have never participated in a video interview before. Set them at ease by clearly communicating expectations and preparing them for each step; it will help make the entire process run more smoothly.

 2. Prepare Your Questions Ahead of Time

While you may be tempted to improvise, having questions prepared ahead of time will help the interview run more effectively. Print out your questions so you have them available for reference, and include some specific questions to help you understand if the candidate will be a good remote employee. Certain traits are associated with successful remote workers — identify individuals with the following attributes:

  • Self-motivated
  • Disciplined
  • Tech-savvy
  • Responsive
  • A strong communicator
  • Experienced in working remotely

Typing can also be quite distracting during the interview, so be sure to have a clean pad of paper or notebook ready to use for your notes. Put the interviewee’s name on it; you’ll have a convenient place to take notes and jot down questions that might come during the interview.

 3. Check the Tech

While this advice is often given to candidates, it is equally as important for the interviewer. Remote interviews require technology — it’s critical to ensure it’s operating as expected. Check the basics first. Make sure that your:

  • Computer camera and microphone are working.
  • Login information is correct — particularly if you have not used the video conferencing app in a while.
  • Wi-Fi or internet connection is working well.
  • Laptop or tablet is charged.

Once you have performed your initial checks, execute a technical trial run of your video conferencing platform with enough time to communicate changes if need be. Most programs have a testing feature that will allow you to mimic a live call and make sure everything is working as expected. You may also want to log in a few minutes early so that you’re not rushing — and so that you can make sure your technology is on point.

4. Make a Backup Plan

Although you may have a plan in place, you should be ready for the unexpected. Despite all your preparation, you may have to pivot to plan B if the platform you plan to use does not work. Bandwidth is a common issue during this time — if more than one person is WFH, there can be delays or other issues with video conferencing apps. While not ideal, one way to handle this issue is to turn off the video function on the platform. You will still be able to talk to each other — just sans visuals. One way to mitigate the bandwidth challenge is to try scheduling the interview at a time when fewer people in your home are online.

Have the candidate’s email and phone number handy, so you can easily reach out. If tech malfunctions on either end, you may end up having an “old-fashioned” phone call instead of a video interview.

5. Set the Scene

When you’re conducting a video interview from your company office, there is little to think about in terms of maintaining a professional atmosphere — but in this era of WFH, you’ll need to make sure that your WFH environment is a professional one. Consider what the interviewee may see in the background. Aim to keep it simple, clean, neutral — and as businesslike as possible. If your desk is visible, organize the top and banish any clutter. Virtual backgrounds may be useful if you can’t curate a corner of your actual space. Bonus: if your company offers branded backgrounds, be sure to use one.

6. Minimize Distractions

It’s a good idea to turn off any chat or email notifications, and turn your cell phone to silent, during the interview. If possible, avoid having video interviews in high-traffic areas of your home. Tape a note to your door (or the back of your laptop) so that you are not disturbed. Additionally, try to stay still — if you’re shifting or walking around, it can make it more difficult for the other person to focus. Your goal is to foster the most productive interview; and minimizing distractions is an integral part of that.

7. Dress the Part

Dress as though you are going to the office — even if you are working from home. Try to avoid wearing white or busy patterns on camera. Instead, opt for more neutral colors like blue.

8. Smile and Make Eye Contact

A video interview is not the same as an in-person interview for various reasons. One of the differentiators is that it can be tricky to remember how to actually “make” eye contact. While you may be tempted to look at the candidate’s image, remember that you have to look at the camera to truly make eye contact. Here’s a quick and easy reminder: draw a pair of eyes on a sticky note and place it just underneath your webcam. Facial expressions add variety and inflection to your voice, making you sound more personable — and smiling uses muscles that warm the tone of your voice. Because there can be a slight lag with video conferencing technology, try to leave a few seconds at the end of your sentences or after a question to minimize speaking over one another.

9. Close Strong

After the interview, ask if there are any additional questions and let the candidate know what will happen next in the process. Much like an in-person interview, thank them for their time and let them know that you are available via email should any questions arise.

As a key member of your organization, you are the leader of the hiring process in these unprecedented and challenging times. The good news is that learning how to conduct a great remote interview will help your company stand out, and will provide candidates with the best view of your organization.

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