Hiring process

How to conduct a virtual interview in 2024 (like a pro)

Remote job interviews aren't going anywhere. Here's how to conduct a successful remote interview and improve the candidate experience.

How to conduct a virtual interview in 2024 (like a pro)
Listen to this article. Audio recording by
Alessia Musso

At the risk of sounding dramatic, the modern workplace as we know it has changed. Forever. With the pandemic and as a result the quick rise of remote and hybrid work, remote hiring and interviewing has replaced traditional face-to-face interviews in a variety of desk-based industries.

While job candidates have learned to perfect their Zoom backgrounds and their business casual attire from the waist up, businesses and their hiring managers have also evolved their ways.

But like any big change, conducting remote interviews hasn’t come without its challenges. Especially when you don’t have an in-house recruiter.

Gone is the handshake, small talk in the elevator, the office tour, an in-person introduction to other team members, body language signals, eye contact…the list goes on. 😖 When we meet someone in person we take in an endless amount of non-tangible information. How can virtual interviews replace all that?

If we’re being honest, they can’t. Not entirely, anyway. But not to fret — there’s a lot small businesses and their teams can do to make smart hires in an entirely online environment. (Take it from us, we’ve done it! 👋) Here are our top tips for employers and hiring managers for how to conduct successful virtual interviews that your team members and candidates will want to write home about.

What is a virtual interview?

Virtual interviews, also known as online interviews or remote interviews, are assessments that hiring managers and internal recruiters use to meet with candidates using online video platforms. You’ve probably already heard of the video conferencing apps and remote hiring tools commonly used for these interviews like Zoom, Google Meet, myInterview and Whereby just to name a few.

Online interviews are especially handy when the interviewer and the interviewee are in different places, whether they’re in different offices, cities or countries. A good virtual interview prioritizes the candidate experience throughout the remote hiring process.

📣 Giving the candidate a ring? Use this phone interview invitation email template to do it quickly and professionally

10 virtual interview tips for hiring managers ⭐️

1. Structure your online interview to focus on soft skills

According to freelance technology recruiter Jan Bernhart, hiring managers tend to accurately judge someone's skill level in video calls. In an in-person interview on the other hand, they prefer to judge someone's soft skills and value-fit based on the non-tangible information that's gathered.

"Conducting remote interviews actually forces you to do better interviews because you have to be more critical about soft skills,” says Jan. The trick is to structure your interview into sections: reserve one portion of the interview for soft skills questions (to assess their personality and value-fit), one portion for hard skills and another for behavioral questions.

Catherine Tsokur, Technical Lead at Instapro has hired multiple remote team members and learned to compensate for the loss of non-verbal information in video calls. "I spend the first interview on seeing if the candidate is a match on culture and way of working. I ask them about their journey: how did they get where they are now?,” says Catherine. She tries to judge value-fit by asking candidates things like: What would you want your day to look like at our company?

2. Overprepare for the virtual interview

When it comes to virtual interview best practices for hiring managers, there’s no such thing as being too prepared.

Remote interviews require a bit more preparation than you might be used to. Take time to gather all of the information about the company culture you'd like to share, schedule meet-and-greets with other team members and prepare your interview questions for remote workers.

These situational questions can include:

  • How would you react in this hypothetical situation?
  • Can you tell me about a time that you faced a challenge and how you solved it?

The right, remote-focused interview questions will help you assess the skills, abilities and experience of your remote candidates in a virtual setting. That way you can gather the information you need to make a decision without relying too heavily on your gut feelings (which can often lead to hiring bias).

📣 Check out these job interview question templates for all sorts of roles

3. Overprepare your candidates with clear and timely instructions

Make sure your candidates have everything they need for their interview with you. You can do this by sharing a document or email with them on what to expect from the interview well in advance of your actual interview. In this directions document, include information like:

  • The video tool you’ll use and how to set up an account, if necessary.
  • Your tips and best practices for a successful interview (this is especially helpful for candidates who are new to the workforce or new to remote work entirely).
  • How long the interview will be so they know how much time to take out of their day.
  • Who the candidate will be interviewing with along with their LinkedIn profiles.
  • Anything else you can think of that would help your candidates do their best.

<div class="inpage-callout-container"><p class="inpage-banner-text">💡 Pro Tip: We created a sample email you can use to inspire these instructions in our guide to remote hiring.</div></p>

Clear and timely instructions will help put remote candidates at ease. It can also really help to take away the friction and awkwardness that often comes with online interviews. Candidates can refer back to these instructions whenever they like, too.

Remember that when your candidate feels relaxed, comfortable and prepared, you’ll get a more authentic impression of who they are and if they would be a positive addition to your team.

4. Choose the right setting for your remote interview

Coffee shops can be great for productivity but not so great for an online interview. Not only is a noisy environment bad for your own interviewing process, it’ll distract your candidate too. Instead, choose a quiet and comfortable place to conduct your remote interview. 🧘

Opt for a setting where you can close a door to block out any background noise and distractions. This also shows that candidate you respect them and that they have your full attention in your scheduled time together.

5. Test your tools and technology ahead of time

Using a new set of headphones? Trying out an unfamiliar video tool or collaboration platform? Or working on a new laptop that doesn’t have microphone and camera permissions enabled yet? Be sure you conduct a pre-interview test first.

Tech failures happen to the best of us and candidates are understanding. But if it eats into your candidate’s interview time and creates awkwardness that impacts the natural flow of your conversation, it’ll have a negative effect on your candidate’s focus during the video interview.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again! Your candidate is interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing them. So you’ll want to make the best impression possible and make sure that you’re truly ready. A quick test will help with this — because nothing is worse than technical difficulties that could have easily been avoided.

<div class="inpage-callout-container"><p class="inpage-banner-text">💡 Pro Tip: Test your internet speed before by searching “internet speed test”. This will help you banish the lag and any embarrassment when conducting your virtual interview.</div></p>

6. Acknowledge any online interview awkwardness where you can

Awkwardness is bound to arise in an online interview environment. We hate to say it, but there’s almost no way to avoid it!

The best way to handle this inevitability is to accept it, acknowledge it and move on. You might have experienced the classic remote interview issue: accidentally talking over each other.

Accidental interruptions are expected in a remote work world.

When this happens (because we can promise it will!), lighten the mood by acknowledging the lag. It’ll put both the interviewer and interviewee at ease, and it points out that it’s nobody’s fault in case anyone is feeling bad. Ah, the joys of remote work life!

7. Put a spotlight on your company culture

Candidates want to be sure they’re joining a work environment that aligns with their values and what they see for themselves in the future. They too are missing the non-tangible information an on-location interview can give them about company culture (this also includes whether your team is remote, hybrid or in-office).

That’s why you should highlight and promote your company culture in the interview so you can give candidates a sense of what it’s like working on your team. If they don’t know what life is like at your company, why should they join the club?

Hilde Prinse, former Operations Manager at Scribbr devotes a significant portion of her video call interviews to telling the candidate about the company culture. She knows that candidates in a virtual setting are looking for concrete examples and proof of a thriving culture. So be sure to talk about the atmosphere in the office, what lunch is like, the office rituals, etc. Hilde also used their career page to showcase their company culture to keen candidates.

<div class="inpage-callout-container"><p class="inpage-banner-text">💡 Take it from me (Alessia 👋), in my last job search before I landed at Homerun, I exclusively did remote interviews. The companies I got to know best were the ones who opened up the interview process to other teammates. Each member of my potential immediate team introduced themselves to me, giving me a sense of their personality and the broader culture without having to go into the office.</div></p>

Perhaps you carve out time for a brief one-to-one conversation with each team member the candidate would be working with. Have the other team members exit the call so it feels more like an in-person, in-office interaction. The candidate will take in a lot from these mini conversations and you’ll be able to get input from other team members about whether they think the candidate is a value fit.

📣 12 amazing career page examples to show off your culture and inspire your own page

8. Space out your virtual interviews and give yourself a break

Just because you can do five back-to-back interviews in a day, it doesn’t mean you should. Take some time between each online interview to grab some water, maybe go for a brief walk and collect your thoughts. Write them down — or even better, save team notes using a hiring software like Homerun.

When you have so many interviews in a day and they’re all on video, it’s even more important to capture your initial impressions as you may find your interviews blending into one. Our best virtual hiring tip? ⭐ Schedule at least 15 minutes in between virtual interviews to make time for rest and reflection on the interview process thus far and don’t conduct more than three a day.

9. Share next steps in the hiring process

The end of an online interview can feel weirdly abrupt — especially for your remote candidate! You can’t show your candidate the way out of the office and there’s no final handshake. Awkward? A little bit. 😬

When it’s time to wrap up your virtual interview, combat the awkwardness by dedicating a few minutes of the interview to clearly explain the next steps of the hiring process. This is especially important if the candidate is required to take some sort of action themselves, post-interview. For example, they might need to follow up with examples of their work via email or they’re participating in a take home assignment to assess their skills.

Transparency at this stage of the interview process is huge. Candidates need to know what’s expected of them and how much time they’ll need to set aside to continue the process with your company. If you’re going to take three weeks to make a final decision, this may not work for every candidate. So aim to conclude your remote interview with transparency and clarity regarding the next steps.

📣 Remote onboarding tips and strategies to make your new hire feel at home

10. Schedule time to evaluate candidates post-interview to avoid bias

In an in-office environment, you might walk out of the interview with your team member and share your immediate thoughts on the candidate and how it went. But with virtual interviewing, you’re mostly alone (and alone with your thoughts) at the end of the video interview. This is actually a plus, because rather than sharing your opinions with team members right away and possibly participating in groupthink bias, you can reflect on your own and form your own opinions.

When it comes to evaluating a candidate after you conduct a remote interview, this will take the most preparation. Due to the nature of video calls, you’ll have to find a more structured way of evaluating your candidates post-job interview. This is where scorecards come in.

A look at the team review process with Homerun's candidate scorecards
In order to see all of your teammate's scores and final ratings, you each have to complete the hiring scorecard for the candidate.

Scorecards help organize all the thoughts in your head after an interview. You can score your candidates on skills, values, motivation and anything else that’s relevant to the job. Once you’ve done that, you can schedule an interview with your teammates to compare and discuss. Learn more about how you can use scorecards in Homerun's ATS.

📣 New to job interview evaluation scorecards? Read more in our guide on how to conduct a job interview

Lean into the many benefits of remote interviews

Optimizing your virtual interview skills will only allow for more flexibility in your current and future hiring. When you open up your candidate pool to talent in different locations, your talent pool (and team) has the chance to become much more diverse.

If you’re not limited by location, your company can grow and expand with candidates from different backgrounds, industries and even experience levels. The candidates you may have overlooked in an in-office setting could be huge add-ons to your team and culture in this remote work world. 🌍

So when the going gets tough, remember these perks and dive in!

Gif of a man jumping off high diving board into a pool.

We have to admit that remote interviews are different. But as the saying goes, doing things differently can lead to something exceptional. ✨ We believe online interviews are potentially just as effective as on-site interviews, plus they come chock full of benefits (hello, a lower carbon footprint!).

By making a few meaningful adjustments to your virtual interview process, the show can go on — despite any remote hiring hiccups.

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About the author
Alessia Musso
Alessia is Homerun's resident Canuck and Content Writer based in London. She's been writing B2B content for small and medium-sized businesses for eight years and is passionate about helping people feel more confident (and happy!) in their jobs. When she’s not researching the ways growing teams can improve their hiring, she’s probably thinking about pasta, books, craft beer, and the importance of the Oxford comma.
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