Remote interviewing is here to stay as the pandemic and its evolving offshoot, the Great Resignation, continue to transform the modern workplace. Today’s job seekers don’t just want to boost their salaries. They also seek flexibility, well-being, and a workplace culture that aligns with their own values and sensibilities. Interviews addressing these issues can provide valuable information to both parties about whether a prospective employee is likely to feel fulfilled and engaged in a particular organization. We can absolutely have these conversations “face to face” even if we are not in the same physical space. The author presents eight tips for employers wanting to master the medium to spot top talent remotely.
As companies scramble to fill a record number of job vacancies remotely, the internet is awash with tips for candidates who want to stand out from the crowd while being confined to a zoom box.
But what about the employers on the other end of the line? For them, “breaking the code” in long-distance interviews is just as important. Bad hiring decisions cost money and hurt morale. Without the multitude of data points only available in person — the feel of a handshake, the way the energy in a room changes when a candidate walks in — employers need to develop new strategies for assessing whether someone is a good fit .
Remote interviewing is here to stay as the pandemic and its evolving offshoot, the Great Resignation, continue to transform the modern workplace. Here are some tips for employers looking to master the medium to spot top talent remotely.
Focus on emotional intelligence.
We often base our hiring decisions on ability and intelligence—or our perception of a candidate’s IQ. But emotional intelligence, or EQ, is often more critical to success in the workplace. In a time of tremendous uncertainty, where workplaces announce major reopening plans one day and abruptly reverse them the next, EQ is arguably more important than ever. EQ determines a person’s ability to relate to others, roll the punches, handle difficult situations with grace, and “read the room” (which is especially difficult when it’s a zoom room).
When conducting a virtual interview, it can be tempting to ditch the EQ aspect as it seems to be a quality best judged in person. However, this can lead to poor decision-making. As you refine your interview questions, think about what each question might tell you about a person’s EQ. Here are some of my favorites:
- If you were to start a business tomorrow, what would its three most important values be?
- Tell me about a workplace conflict you were involved in, either with your co-workers or someone else at the company. How did you deal with this conflict and were you able to resolve it?
- If you previously reported to multiple managers at the same time, how did you learn each person’s preferences and reconcile conflicting priorities?
- Tell me about a time when you received feedback on your performance and disagreed with the feedback. How did you deal with the situation?
- What inspires you?
Lean into the intimacy of the screen.
There’s a lot of hand-wringing about all that gets lost when screens mediate our interactions. But there’s a certain intimacy that screens can actually enable. During a remote interview, the interviewer and the interviewee sit inches from each other’s faces. The screen creates a sense of psychological security that can allow people to open up more than they could in person. Employers can use this phenomenon to poach candidates faster. One client, the principal of a top independent school, told me that when I start a remote interview, I immediately go to the interviewee’s story – where he comes from, his family, what moves him.
Familiarize yourself with the challenges of the pandemic.
Classic interview question: “What’s your biggest mistake?” Classic answer: “I work too hard!” The current predicament offers an opportunity to leave that familiar demeanor behind. We have all faced tremendous challenges over the past year and a half, and it’s possible to learn a lot about someone by examining how they navigated the turmoil of the pandemic. Ask a question like, “What was the biggest challenge you faced during Covid and how did you overcome it?” Then look for signs that the answer you’re getting is authentic: Does the candidate pause, to ponder the question, does he take a moment to think? Does the facial expression match the tone of her voice?
Notice reactions to distractions.
It can happen to any of us: the doorbell rings, a dog barks, a child screams, or an emergency call comes in during a remote interview. When this happens, consider it an opportunity to see a different side of the candidate. Did they get nervous and lose focus? Did you handle the disruption as gracefully as you would wish in front of a customer or colleague? If no such distraction occurs during the interview, you should ask, “While working remotely, can you remember a time when something unexpected or distracting happened?” What was that and how did you react to it?” Or to put it more directly: “Tell me about your worst Zoom nightmare. What happened and how did you react to it?”
Ban back to back.
Technically, it’s possible to do back-to-back interviews without leaving your chair. A client of mine – a senior partner in an employment law firm who has conducted many interviews – advises against it. “Between interviews, you need about 10 minutes to get up, move around a little, and capture thoughts and impressions,” she says. “There are fewer differentiating factors that trigger your recall of a video format, so jot down your notes and impressions right away.”
Expand your pool (and add some outliers to the mix).
Remote interviews reduce the risks of a bad interview. Why not use the medium to throw some unconventional candidates into the mix? Perhaps it is an applicant with completely different roots, who lacks the classic requirements, but who has submitted a cover letter crackling with energy. Maybe it’s a high potential candidate living in another state or country. It might even be a candidate you identified via TikTok Resumes.
Put your candidates on the road to success.
A client recently completed a successful job search that resulted in multiple offers. The company she chose excelled in a number of ways, including the interview process. Every time she interviewed someone, she received a detailed schedule with links to their bio. “What was most impressive was that before the interview, they sent me a sheet with the question ‘Prepare for a virtual interview’,” she told me. “This included instructions on how to change your Zoom background and how to troubleshoot. It really made me feel like they wanted me to do well and rooted for me. Now that I’m in the company I understand they send this to every single candidate to create and give a fairer process Everyone one leg up.”
Don’t forget that you are also interviewing.
As the anecdote above shows, the most outstanding candidates today inevitably receive multiple offers. The way you present yourself as an interviewer – how you dress, what appears in your background, and your own rhythm, tone, and choice of interview questions – will determine how your potential employees view your company. While these tips for a successful online interview may target the record number of job seekers out there, they’re increasingly relevant to those expanding the offering.
Today’s job seekers don’t just want to boost their salaries. They also seek flexibility, well-being, and a workplace culture that aligns with their own values and sensibilities. Interviews addressing these issues can provide valuable information to both parties about whether a prospective employee is likely to feel fulfilled and engaged in a particular organization. We can absolutely have these conversations “face to face” even if we are not in the same physical space.