In a previous post, Visiple’s Founder and CEO Evan J. Andriopoulos discussed some of the qualities he looked for when hiring remote employees.  He also mentioned some of the benefits of having a fully remote team (many of which has been well-documented before, including greater productivity and lower churn).

What he didn’t touch on, and the topic of this post, is how to go about interviewing potential employees through a remote interview.  As you might have inferred, the process is a little different than doing it face to face, so we wanted to look at a few tips on how to get the most out of it.

When should you use remote interviews?

Obviously, fully remote teams like Visiple usually have no other option, but there are plenty of other situations where a remote interview makes sense, even for companies that work together in an office.

  • Beginning stages of the interview process - if you are still narrowing down the pool of applicants, using video on your first wave of interviews will save you time and effort.

  • Time or location differences - remote work has expanded the talent pool and companies are often interviewing people that are in different time zones or locations - the use of video saves both parties from unnecessary travel.

  • Tight schedule for one of the participants - if you have an incredibly tight schedule, don’t be afraid to suggest a remote interview to better fit into your day.

  • The position involves some remote work - even if you’re a company with a physical office, using a remote interview is a great way to add another layer of evaluation to a candidate applying for a remote or semi-remote position.

How does it differ from an in-person interview?

The great thing about remote interviews is that they’re not that different that from in-person ones, especially when compared to the limitations of using a phone.  The main differences interviewers must account for are technology, virtually reading a candidate’s behavior, and how to remove bias from the equation.  

Here’s what I mean:

  • Technology - not everyone is familiar with the technology needed to conduct a video interview.  If this includes you, it’s best to do a few test runs before your first meeting, and don’t worry, a good candidate is doing the same thing.

  • Reading Behavior - some people say it’s easier to read body language in person but I personally think there are more opportunities to notice things in a virtual environment.  For example, in addition to the main body cues, you can also see if they are reading their screen, scrolling through a document, or focused elsewhere.  Interpreting these, however, is a different beast entirely and could mean they are prepared and reading their notes, or simply distracted and unfocused on the interview.

  • Removing Bias - when you interview someone in your office, the situation is familiar and you are judging candidates solely based on their responses, appearance, and behavior.  When you introduce a remote element into the process, it’s easy to unfairly judge that same candidate by the environment from which they are interviewing or their ability to use a piece of technology.  Neither of these should factor into your decision but it is hard to remain truly objective when exposed to things you wouldn’t normally see, like a messy home office or a person who can’t figure out why their video camera won’t turn on

How to Make Remote Interviews Go Smoothly

1.  Always Have a Backup Plan - this is number one for a reason - I have been in more than one remote interview (on both sides of the table) where something didn’t work right and nobody knew what to do next.

Don’t let that happen to you.

Before you send an interview invitation, make sure it includes a number to call if the connection is bad or one party isn’t able to connect.  It’s not ideal, but it will prevent you from having to reschedule while helping everyone save face.

2.  Test and Reserve Equipment - this one might be a bit dated due to the ability to hold a video call on almost any device, but many companies still use dedicated equipment and rooms for remote interviews.  If this is you, make sure to reserve the necessary gear and space well in advance.  And regardless of whether you’re using your own computer or not, make sure to test the connection (pro tip - use an ethernet cable instead of relying on Wifi).

3.  Send a Thorough Invite with Detailed Instructions - the key to this is to not assume the candidate has done this before.  Therefore, your interview invite should include not only the link to the meeting, but also how to use it, what to do if it doesn’t work, and what to expect from the interview.  Being thorough now will prevent any last-minute emails trying to figure out how to connect with each other.

4.  Make Sure Your Environment Is Professional - remember what I said above about not judging a candidate based on their environment?  That doesn’t apply to you because not only are you representing your company, but you also should have done this before.  It doesn’t matter if you work from home or an office, make sure your background is representative of your company’s culture.

5.  Ask the Right Questions - while the remote interview process might not differ too much from an in-person one, the questions you ask definitely should.  Assuming this candidate will be doing some remote work, it’s imperative you get a feel for how they will handle it.  Not only should you ask them about their previous remote experience, but also which tools they prefer to use and how they would handle certain situations when working remotely.  With this in mind, make sure to also evaluate how they communicate in emails and messages since that is likely how they will be handling most of the correspondence.  Not responding promptly or sending incomplete answers could be a clue as to how they will behave later on.

6.  Incorporate Screen Sharing - The ability to share screens might be one of the best things about video conferences and I am a huge proponent of using it to your advantage whenever possible.  In the context of an interview, this could mean using it to go through a resume, portfolio, or even having the candidate walk you through a simulated task.  Doing this is not usually an option in most in-person interviews and has the added benefit of being directly related to remote work so I suggest trying it whenever possible.

Wrapping Up

Video interviews are not just for remote companies and nobody should be intimidated by their use.  While they might be the future, they will never be the only option as long as the phone exists.  Still, when you see the benefits of incorporating them into your recruitment process, it makes sense to give them a try and even offering them as an option to candidates is a good way to set yourself apart from competitors.