Eight Ways Recruiters Can Improve Their Virtual Interviewing Skills
The “new normal” we’re living through, marked by the likes of remote work, global travel restrictions and company cost-cutting, has more and more organizations turning to cyberspace for the process of interviewing job candidates.
While conducting virtual interviews via the likes of Skype or Zoom is new to some companies, others are old hands at the process, having experienced earlier surges in the technology’s popularity and interviewing for geographically diverse hiring needs.
“It’s very unlikely now for a candidate to be invited out for an in-person interview,” says Jerod White, a graduate research assistant earning a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology at George Washington University and an expert on how recruiters utilize videoconferencing. Not only is virtual interviewing convenient, he adds, but it’s “an opportunity for organizations to save money on travel and lodging expenses.”
Many organizations have paused hiring due to the impact of COVID-19. But others, like big grocery and drug chains, online retailers and healthcare, transportation and tech companies, are continuing to add employees. And many of them, including Amazon, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, are using videoconferencing to recruit en masse. In March, it was reported that global downloads of business apps like WeChat Work, Zoom and Slack had increased five-fold since early January.
Probing Deeper for the Candidate’s Abilities
“It’s not necessary to use videoconferencing for initial screening interviews for job candidates,” says White. Virtual interviews via Skype or Zoom are best suited for probing deeper into the candidate’s knowledge, skills and abilities.
However, he cautions, “some skills are difficult to assess virtually.” So questions like, “What would you do in this situation?” or “What have you done about this in the past?” can be deployed during the videoconference to elicit more insight.
What other tips does White have for organizations looking to improve their virtual interviewing? Here are his top eight:
- Understand the job and your organization. Is now the time to be hiring? What are the skills the job requires? Organizations need to think carefully about these questions. Skills related to safety and compliance may be especially important for organizations doing a lot of hiring now.
- Choose an appropriately rich media. Simple screening interviews can be handled via emails and by phone. Complex questions are better suited for videoconference because you’re able to see how people react to questions in real-time and ask for clarifications. If an organization had planned on using in-person interviews, but it can no longer do so, Skype is the next richest option.
- Be transparent and reassuring. Let applicants know why you’re using the tools you’re using. Transparency can help reduce the applicant’s anxiety about the interview experience. Other ways to put the applicant at ease include emphasizing that the applicant is a serious candidate for the position and trying to make the interview feel like a real conversation.
- Be consistent as much as possible. Use the same technology to interview applicants for the same job because applicant reactions can differ depending on the type of technology used. For example, recent research suggests that applicants react more positively to synchronous video interviews (e.g., two-way conversations via Skype) versus asynchronous video interviews (where candidates are shown questions over the internet and record their answers via webcam for later review by the recruiter).
- Be structured. Assess a small number of skills per interview, with a few questions to measure each skill. This helps overcome some of the human biases that are common in in-person interviews. Research shows that humans have many of these biases — such as liking people similar to us or attractive people — in online settings as well.
- Be cautious of new and flashy selection tools. A lot of companies are saying that algorithm-based tools can overcome human biases during selection. This might be true, but algorithms are not magic — they are created by humans, and humans have biases. AI introduces new biases. White would encourage organizations to do their own research and be wary of these AI biases before implementing them in a selection procedure.
- Be prepared. This goes for both parties – the organization, as well as the applicant. Test your equipment, and choose a professional background with good lighting. You’re representing your organization; represent it well.
- Be understanding. A lot of job seekers are sharing their home offices with spouses and kids. Some families have a limited number of computers, and those that have plenty of computers might not have the network speeds to support them all at once. Be flexible with scheduling and understanding of distractions that do occur.
There are drawbacks to virtual interviews, to be sure. There’s obviously less of a personal connection between recruiter and potential employee, and the technology can make some candidates feel awkward and therefore less apt to make the best live impression.
It’s a safe bet, however, that videoconference interviews are here to stay. In addition to saving time as well as money, the technology allows organizations to tap a wider pool of candidates well outside their physical locations. And that will be true long after COVID-19 has been vanquished.