8 Ways To Conduct the Best Remote Interviews
As an ever-growing number of modern companies now recognize, remote hiring presents an attractive alternative to traditional hiring tactics. Remote hiring strategies promise to revolutionize the pursuit of all kinds of top talent, simultaneously reducing costs and broadening the pool of potential talent.
Especially in the wake of COVID-19, organizations are reconstructing their hiring models to build distributed teams. Many are also engaging independent talent more actively, developing “hybrid” teams flexible enough to tackle evolving challenges.
However, as companies embrace new approaches to hiring, they’ll need to adjust their methods for screening prospective members of their teams. This is especially true of the interview process, where in-person practices no longer apply. Forget shaking hands and sharing a conference room: There’s a new paradigm for interviewing prospective hires.
Whether you’re hiring remote independent talent or employees, you’ll need to optimize your remote interviewing approach. Thankfully, a few straightforward adaptations can make your interviews more comfortable and constructive for everyone involved.
Here are eight essential ways to conduct the best possible remote interviews:
1. Clearly communicate instructions and expectations
From the interviewee’s perspective, a remote interview can be an intimidating prospect—especially if they’re more familiar with in-person hiring processes. After all, the potential hire is undergoing the scrutiny of strangers, without the benefit of certain body language cues that might help them form rapport.
Considering these circumstances, it’s best to give them as much information as you can in advance to ease their anxiety and help them prepare appropriately. Your interviewee will appreciate the insight, and you’ll get a more prepared (and hopefully less nervous) conversation partner.
In particular, share practical details about how the interview will occur, relieving uncertainty about the process’s mechanics. Beyond basics such as time and date, this information could include:
- Technical meeting details (such as the video platform, meeting ID number, password, download instructions, etc.)
- Whether all participants will be using a telephone or video to interview
- Whether the interview will take all of the scheduled time
It will also be helpful to convey who will be attending and what they’ll be addressing specifically. Share which members of your team will be joining, what their roles are within the company, and what they’ll be interested in assessing throughout the interview.
2. Use video whenever possible
Even if you’re accustomed to performing interviews by phone, we recommend utilizing video conferencing technology in your remote interviews.
You can glean many more important details by viewing your interviewee directly, instead of trying to learn about them by listening alone. According to some experts, most interpersonal communication is nonverbal: Body language conveys more meaning than our words and tone combined.
Interviewing is ultimately a form of information interpretation, and you can’t ignore the data that visual perception provides. Video is particularly useful in assessing so-called “intangibles,” such as motivation and, interpersonal skills.
This dynamic is a two-way street: Video interviews also afford you a better opportunity to create rapport and convey the opportunity to potential hires. In the pursuit of top talent, you want to present the best case for your company.
3. Address technical challenges upfront
Ideally, your remote interviewing platform will perform flawlessly, without connection problems for any participants. But before beginning the interview in earnest, make sure everyone can see and hear others clearly. Initial troubleshooting will prevent subsequent interruptions.
Additionally, communicate a backup plan in case of technical difficulties, especially if you anticipate that possibility. That way, you won’t leave your interviewee hanging. For example, you could say, “I’m traveling currently, and my Wi-Fi connection hasn’t been great. If we lose connection, could I call you to finish our conversation?”
4. Take advantage of screen-sharing
Visual aids can often enrich an interview, clarifying goals, responsibilities, or information about the company. The screen-sharing function of your video conferencing platform will allow you and your interviewee to consider any visual content that might be helpful.
For example, you could show a chart featuring the structure of your organization or graphic outlining strategic priorities. Screen-sharing can also enable a more practical, specific discussion of the work at hand. If you’re hiring an independent mobile developer, you might show mockups of the app you have planned, allowing them to assess the project better.
Of course, you’ll need to use screen-sharing wisely and stop it when it’s no longer necessary. You don’t want sharing your screen to detract from the exchange of eye contact and body language that video conferencing makes possible.
5. Discuss the potential challenges of working remotely
Remote work has plenty of upsides, but being part of a distributed team also entails distinct difficulties. Especially for those with limited prior experience in remote work arrangements, working from home can be somewhat disorienting.
Without physical proximity to other team members, some professionals feel isolated. Others struggle with the digital tools required to collaborate effectively with distant colleagues. Resolving these issues is crucial to remote team leadership, but you can begin by addressing them in the interview process.
Directly discuss the interviewee’s experience and hesitations about remote work. Ask them to identify solutions or forms of support that might help them succeed within your distributed team. Similarly, communicate how you seek to create a sense of belonging for remote workers. It’s important to explore these subjects explicitly before you hire someone and they begin to struggle.
6. Assess communication skills—directly and indirectly
Strong communication is a critical aspect of remote team collaboration, enabling distributed teams to function just as efficiently as colleagues who share an office. However, to communicate effectively, remote workers may need to adjust their approach and embrace new tools conscientiously. The ideal remote professional is one who considers communication carefully and optimizes accordingly.
In your interview, ask the interviewee about their comfort with the platforms used by your team. Inquire about what they see as the keys to effective remote communication, gauging how much thought they’ve given this important subject.
Of course, the interview will reveal much more than their answers: You can observe their communication skills and style in real time. Speaking well in meetings is just one dimension of professional communication, but it could indicate overall ability.
7. Give the interview your undivided attention
We’re accustomed to multitasking on our screens: From answering chat messages while in meetings to jumping between email and other platforms, the modern professional can rarely focus on a single activity.
This tendency poses problems in remote interviews, however. While you’d never dare to check your inbox during a conversation in person, you can be tempted to do exactly that when interviewing via video.
When you’re interviewing someone, do your best to shut out potential distractions and focus exclusively on the conversation you’re conducting. That means closing your inbox, setting your chat status to “away,” and switching your phone to “do not disturb” mode.
You’ll certainly benefit from this focus, picking up on details you might have missed. But you’ll also make a significantly better impression on the interviewee, which is an important component of any successful interview, remote or otherwise. After all, you don’t want your prospective hire to conclude that you’re not particularly interested in them or the opportunity you’re discussing.
8. Demonstrate excellent etiquette, but stay flexible
On the subject of making a strong impression on your company’s behalf, take steps to present yourself as polite and professional on your video call. Even if you usually keep things pretty casual with colleagues, consider going the extra mile when conducting an interview. We’re not talking about an extreme makeover, just a few small adjustments such as the following:
- Show up to the meeting on time, rather than logging on even a little late.
- Dress in clothing that matches your company’s professional expectations but also that shows the interviewee you are taking the meeting seriously. No need to get particularly dressed up, but wearing a t-shirt may not send the right message either.
- Make sure the lighting on your side is clear and consistent. Before the meeting starts, ensure that you don’t look backlit or washed out, and that won’t you be cast in shadow if you move your head slightly.
- Try to pick a spot without background noise or visual distractions that might detract from the interview’s focus.
On the other hand, there’s no reason to get upset if the lighting isn’t ideal, or your kids make a bit of noise in the background. Extend the same wiggle room to your interviewee. Life happens in remote work, and you want to convey that your company understands this dynamic. If someone’s puppy strolls into the frame, pause to say hi and then keep the interview moving.
Identifying interviewees: Engaging independent talent
With the simple tips shared above, you can conduct remote interviews with greater confidence. Ultimately, these practices should facilitate more transparent and organic dialogue, allowing you and the interviewee to assess the fit more accurately.
From a managerial perspective, constructive remote interviews can also allay internal concerns about building a distributed team. If your organization is quickly transitioning to a remote model, establishing rapport and trust with prospective hires can assure you that they’ll thrive outside an office environment.
Of course, interviewing is just one dimension of a multifaceted hiring process. You’ll also need to assess other professional skill measures, such as resumes, portfolios, and references. Plus, there’s the challenge of finding top talent in the first place and interesting them in the opportunity you’re offering.
To accelerate every aspect of hiring remote independent professionals, let Upwork’s platform work for you. We make it unbelievably easy to find talent with the specific skill sets you need. From setting a price to sending payment, we can help you handle all the potential hurdles. That means you can focus your energy on evaluating top talent and building a better remote team.