It’s virtually an interview…

The list of impacts the coronavirus pandemic has had on businesses is long. Somewhere on that list – maybe not as high up as working from home but still, potentially applicable across all industry sectors and sizes of organisation – is recruitment. And the most obviously affected part of the hiring process is the job interview.

Just as with many other previously face-to-face activities (team meetings being one of the most obvious) job interviews in 2020 are increasingly conducted using video-conferencing technology. In fact, a Gartner survey has found that, “86% of organizations are incorporating new virtual technology to interview candidates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” What’s more, a majority of HR professionals believe that this change is here to stay.

So, what’s different about interviewing a hopeful candidate on a screen?

The usual virtual ‘rules’ apply

First, all the regular tips for setting up a virtual meeting apply: source the right tech, test the tech, use a private room or space, minimise distractions, ensure all participants are clear on the structure and purpose of the interview experience…

Preparation and pre-testing

Consider your recruitment process and look for ways to reduce the number and length of interviews. There are two main ways to do this: 1) a robust application sifting process that filters out all but the best candidates, and 2) pre-interview skills tests to reduce the amount of factors to test and explore during the interview itself.

Rapport and connection at a distance

Be aware that building rapport is more difficult if you’re not face to face. You may need to spend more time just putting the candidate at their ease so they can best show you what they’ve got to offer.


As always, it’s best practice to prepare and refine your standard questions beforehand. However, it’s arguably more so in a virtual environment, if only due to the heightened need for clarity and understanding. When writing your questions, focus closely on what information you’re hoping to get in return – phrase your questions so as to encourage candidates to focus on so-called STAR answers; giving you examples of specific experiences and events that include Situation (the specifics, including relevant context), Task (what had to be done to handle the situation successfully), Action (what did the candidate do, and why), and Results (specific outcomes, business benefits, impact on people, etc.)

Allow extra time

In virtual meetings, communication often suffers in some way; plus, there’s always the possibility of a technical glitch, interruption (at either end) or temporary loss of signal. Build in extra time to your interview structure to allow for delays and stoppages. It may take a little longer but the effectiveness of a recruitment campaign rarely depends on speed. Usually it’s about the quality of the successful candidate – and to ensure that, it’s worth factoring a little more time for each interview.

Naturally, these are just the main points, and the same technology can be used elsewhere in the recruitment process, effectively normalising it and also giving you more practice at getting the best from the situation. If your recruitment needs are sufficient, consider virtual open houses or job fairs as part of the hiring process. As well as the benefit to you, your candidates will be more comfortable (and able to give a better account of themselves) during the interview is they’ve already engaged with you virtually.

Ultimately, the basic goal remains the same: be clear with everyone about what you’re looking for, and give all candidates the best opportunity to show you how they match your criteria.

Still, all that can sound like a lot to think about so here’s one very specific advantage of virtual interviews: they can be recorded. Yes, as an interviewer you’ll still take notes, no doubt, but those notes are now backed up by an objective recording. A recording which is also very useful if there’s any disagreement between different interviewers.


For more on interviewing job candidates at a distance, check out our 90-minute webinar, Virtual interviews. Or just give us a call on 01582 463462. We’re here to help.

Categories: HR

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