Due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19, companies have been forced to go remote. This has led to a whole new set of challenges for companies who are trying to go about business as usual in this extremely unusual time. One challenge being, how to go on with planned job interviews.
Scribbr, an Amsterdam based startup, had 15 on-site job interviews planned when deciding to go fully remote in response to the spread of COVID-19. We've spoken to them about how they didn't let this situation slow down their hiring process.
We also spoke to freelance technology recruiter Jan Bernhart who rightly pointed out that remote job interviewing is nothing new for those hiring for tech positions. From these conversations, we've collected the 3 most important tips on how to successfully bring job interviews online.
1. Don't rely on gut feeling alone
Face-to-face interviews are much more than just that. They are a handshake, small talk in the elevator, a tour of the office, introduction to other team members, body language, eye contact...the list goes on. When we meet someone physically, in person we are given an endless amount of non-tangible information.
According to Jan Bernhart, people will often successfully judge someone's skill level in video calls but will prefer to judge someone's soft skills and value-fit in an on-site interview based on this non-tangible information that's gathered. It allows people to form a gut feeling about a candidate which is an important factor for evaluation. You don't want to rely on it too much, however.
"Doing remote interviews actually forces you to do better interviews because you have to be more critical about soft skills."
"Doing remote interviews actually forces you to do better interviews because you have to be more critical about soft skills." The trick is to structure your interview and prepare concrete and situational questions: 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?
Catherine Tsokur, development lead at Scribbr, has also learned to compensate for the loss of non-verbal information when doing video calls, as she has hired multiple team members entirely remotely. "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?" She tries to judge value-fit by asking candidates things like: What would you want your day to look like at Scribbr?
2. Overshare about company culture
Gut feeling not only plays a role for the one in the hiring position, but the candidate is also missing the non-tangible information an on-location interview can give them about company culture.
Hilde Prinse, operations manager at Scribbr is now devoting a significant portion of her video call interviews on telling the candidate about the company culture at Scribbr. It's extremely important to give concrete examples here and provide proof. Prinse and Tsokur both use their Homerun career page to showcase their company culture to their candidates. Also, be sure to talk about the atmosphere in the office, what lunch is like, the office rituals, etc.
One of our own team members at Homerun exclusively did remote interviews when applying for his previous job. He found it to be extremely helpful to get to meet a large portion of the team in one of the video calls he had. "They were there at the start of the interview and introduced themselves but then left the call so I could talk one-on-one with the interviewer." This is a great way to replicate what it's like for a candidate to drop by the office and shake hands with a couple of people they will be working with.
3. Prepare more than you otherwise would
Both of the steps above 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, prepare how you'll evaluate soft skills and value-fit. Also prepare the candidate by introducing them to the video call tool in advance and letting them know who they will be talking to. This will put them at ease which leads to a more authentic impression of the candidate.
"Normally we'd walk out of an interview and immediately share our thoughts about how it went. It's hard not to when you're there together. Now a video call ends and you're on your own. That's why we started using scorecards that we fill in individually after the interview. We'll then schedule a meeting later to compare and discuss."
With regards to the evaluation, this will take the most preparation. Prinse pointed out that the way they evaluate interviews has become more structured due to the nature of video calls. "Normally my colleague and I would walk out of an interview and immediately share our thoughts about how it went. It's hard not to when you're there together. Now a video call ends and you're on your own. That's why we started using scorecards that we fill in individually after the interview. We'll then schedule a meeting later to compare and discuss."
When interviewing IRL it can be really hard not to share opinions about an interview with your co-interviewer immediately after, but in the name of avoiding groupthink bias, it's better to hold off on this. As Prinse describes, doing remote job interviews via video call forces you to reflect and evaluate on your own. Who knows, maybe going remote might lead us to good new habits we can keep up when we're back in the office. Read more about how to use scorecards for evaluation in our Guide to Job interviewing.
"I think in a couple of months from now, we'll see how the hires have panned out that have been made entirely over video calls. If they are successful, companies might reconsider whether it's necessary to fly people in for interviews when hiring expats, which will be great for our C02 footprint."
Remote interviewing is different, but potentially just as effective as on-site interviews. By making a few adjustments in your interviewing process the show can go on despite the remote challenges we're facing.
There might be a bright side to this need to readjust our hiring processes according to Bernhart. "I think in a couple of months from now, we'll see how the hires have panned out that have been made entirely over video calls. If they are successful, companies might reconsider whether it's necessary to fly people in for interviews when hiring expats, which will be great for our C02 footprint."
In general, the skills we gain in this time will surely serve us in the long run and might allow more flexibility in our future hiring processes.