How to Conduct an Epic Online Interview

by | Jul 23, 2020

With a growing number of companies moving their workforce to a remote model, many routine operations are all of a sudden in need of a makeover. And It doesn’t stop at having to make (or buy) your own coffee. Remote teams need to adjust their tactics to meet new demands and new logistical restraints. One such change that might seem daunting is remote hiring or conducting an interview online instead of on-site. 

As we have ranted about previously, one of the juicy benefits of moving a team to a remote model is that there is now a deep, wide talent pool ready to be explored. Remote teams are no longer restricted by geography and have access to highly skilled candidates sitting at desks all over the world. Well, we’re here to help your company land those trophy fish with some tactical online interviewing skills. 

Conducting a successful online interview is a vital step to ensure the applicant and the employer start their relationship with trust, professionalism, and transparency. 

Below is our strategic (and chronological) online interview model that your company can use as a guideline for constructing a successful online interview process. 

 💻  Pre-Interview Jitters

A little bit of nervousness is good. However, an online interview shouldn’t be the same as picking up a mystery novel. As a company you want to see the candidate put their best foot forward, and for them to do that they will need to know how to prepare. We suggest that companies provide their candidates with a “homework list” as well as a clear interview structure. Here are some suggestions of things to include:

  • What the candidate will need to have ready and available (portfolio, prior work examples, Rubik’s cube).
  • Who the candidate will be speaking to during the interview and their company role.
  • The necessary software program (Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts) and designated time slot of the interview. This allows the candidate to download and test the medium. 
  • A clear understanding of whether the interview will be audio-only, or using video as well. This is an important clarification that can save some awkward moments. 

We recommend having a pre-interview email mocked up and sent to the candidate outlining all necessary parameters. As an additional tip, schedule the interview with an online scheduling platform such as Google Calendar or Calendy. These platforms streamline the process, send reminders, and keep communication (and accountability) crystal clear. 

🎉 It’s Happening. The Interview has Started.

The candidate is live, and thanks to your great preparation the transition was smooth, everything is working well, and no one has been caught off guard on video in their gym clothes. It’s time to nail down the perfect code of conduct for extracting meaningful information and building a rapport. 

Introducing Yourself

Like a first date, first impressions are vital. And as we mentioned previously, a little bit of nervousness is good (and expected). As the interviewer, it is in your best interest to ensure your candidate feels comfortable from the beginning. After all, an uncomfortable candidate will skew his or her responses and give an unfair impression. Start off with a brief introduction, a mildly exaggerated smile (not too creepy), and a verbal layout of how the interview will proceed. Prepare this intro beforehand and practice it in the mirror. 

Look Professional. Act Professional. 

Be sure to dress to the company. Don’t worry about being “formal” if your company is not, but make an effort. As an interviewer, you probably would not appreciate it if the candidate came onscreen in their pajamas, nor would you want to give a similar impression yourself. 

Acting professional means trying to eliminate all distractions, and have the discipline to remain focused. Don’t attempt to multitask during an online interview, and give the candidate the respect of being fully invested in the conversation. Turn off phone notifications, desktop reminders, and try your best to ensure the environment is distraction-free.  

Avoid the Awkward Silences and Stop the Ramblings

For many people who are new to online interviewing, the idea of sitting in awkward silence is enough to make the hair on the back of their neck stand at attention. On the other hand, many people leave interviews thinking to themselves “did I talk too much?” after having rambled on with nervous discourse. The best way to avoid these situations is to have a plan and stick to it.

Prepare a list of questions beforehand and have them on hand to refer to throughout the interview. Keep the interview moving forward by controlling the topics, efficiently using the time, and correcting the candidate when they nervously stray from the pack. Don’t be afraid to interrupt your candidate (politely) in order to clarify their responses, or to get them back on track. Being a confident interviewer requires preparation, so do your homework and write it all down. 

Pretend You’re In a Musical

Maybe don’t break out into song, but be sure to exaggerate your facial expressions and your body language to ensure the candidate does not misinterpret any reaction. Conducting an onscreen interview leaves much to be desired when trying to read body language or understanding intonations. Video can be mildly pixellated, audio can skip at regrettable times, and sarcastic facial expressions can be terribly misread. Simple gestures such as giving a thumbs up or flashing a big approving smile can go a long way in ensuring you and your candidate are on the same wavelength. 

📧 Wrapping It Up. Following it Up. 

Once you’re through the meat of the interview, it’s time to have a practiced close. A digital handshake, so to speak. On-site interviews end normally end with the interviewer standing and extending their hand with a confident “thanks for your time”. Online interviews need a similar finale, so practice your close. Be sure to give your candidate a clear understanding of the next steps, and leave a little time for them to ask any further questions about the process. If you’re using a new platform, practice hanging up the call a few times beforehand to avoid a desperation move at the end of a successful interview. 

Once the online interview has been completed, be sure to follow up with the candidate via email with any additional steps and thank them again for their time. It’s professional, and it allows you to keep a digital paper trail for tracking purposes. 

🔧 The Woes of Bad Connection

What do I do when there is a bad connection? This is a common question for interviewers looking to avoid any possible online mishaps, and the answer is simple. First, don’t let it reflect on the candidate. A high-speed connection is a privilege much of the world does not have, and where your candidate is calling from should not be held against them. They may have taken all the necessary steps, yet the connection is not in their favor. Be patient and understanding as to avoid making the candidate flustered. 

If you’re on a video call, try switching to audio-only. An additional video call can always be scheduled, but giving the candidate a chance to save the interview and express themselves verbally can go a long way. 

If the connection is not salvageable, calmly attempt to communicate a rescheduling or send them an email with a new suggested interview time. This will give the candidate time to find a better connection and might save you as an employer the risk of losing a great candidate to connection issues. 

Conducting a perfect online interview takes practice and preparation. Some argue that online interviews can be even more exhausting then on-site interviews. For remote companies, that is the price you pay for having some of the world’s top talent within your reach, and well-rehearsed, well-planned interviews can result in effective hires and fantastic remote teams.

Written By Cam@MagicMondayz

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