10 Tips for Conducting the Best Remote Interviews

10 Tips for Conducting the Best Remote Interviews

Remote hiring can be an attractive alternative to traditional hiring tactics. Many organizations embraced hybrid or fully remote working arrangements before 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic led many teams to reconstruct their hiring models to build more widely distributed teams.

Remote hiring strategies promise to revolutionize the pursuit of top talent, simultaneously reducing costs and broadening the pool of potential talent. However, as companies embrace new approaches to hiring, they must adjust their methods for screening prospective team members.

Whether you’re hiring remote independent talent or employees, you must optimize your remote interviewing approach. Thankfully, a few straightforward adaptations can make your interviews more comfortable and constructive for everyone involved.

We cover 10 ways to conduct the best possible remote interviews.

  1. Review the job description and company culture beforehand
  2. Clearly communicate instructions and expectations
  3. Use video whenever possible
  4. Check your internet connection upfront
  5. Take advantage of screen-sharing
  6. Discuss the potential challenges of working remotely
  7. Assess communication skills—directly and indirectly
  8. Give the interview your undivided attention
  9. Demonstrate excellent etiquette, but stay flexible
  10. Follow up after the interview


1. Review the job description and company culture beforehand

Tailor your job interview questions to the specific job description and your overall company culture. This approach can help you develop insightful interview questions that provide an opportunity to see how the candidate aligns with your company’s values.

Choosing employees who align with your company’s core values can enhance the quality of your company culture and ensure team members are excited to come to work and contribute to the group’s shared goals. Asking questions like, “How will you judge whether your first year was a success?” or “What project or accomplishment are you most proud of?” can also give you a chance to learn about who employees truly are and what they are most passionate about.

Thorough and accurate job descriptions give both the interviewee and your company a better picture of everyone’s expectations for the new employee. Remember to provide the interviewee with a job description before the initial interview.

2. Clearly communicate instructions and expectations

From the interviewee’s perspective, a remote interview can be intimidating, 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 many of the body language cues that might help them form rapport.

Considering these circumstances, provide 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 participants will use a telephone or video to interview
  • Whether the interview will take all of the scheduled time

Convey who will attend and what they’ll address specifically. Share which team members will be joining, their roles within the company, and what they’ll assess throughout the interview.

3. Use video whenever possible

Even if you’re accustomed to performing phone interviews, we recommend using video conferencing technology in remote job interviews. Platforms like Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams make virtual interviews easy and accessible for most people.

You can get important details by viewing your interviewee face-to-face rather than trying to learn about them from their voice alone. Most interpersonal communication is nonverbal: body language conveys more meaning than our words and tone combined.

Interviewing is 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 make a good first impression and convey the opportunity to potential hires. You must present the best case for your company when pursuing top talent.

4. Check your internet connection upfront

Ideally, your remote interviewing platform will perform flawlessly, with zero connection problems. But before beginning the interview in earnest, ensure everyone can see and hear others clearly. Initial troubleshooting can 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?” Or “The webcam in my home office has had issues lately. If these problems continue today, can we reconnect on a phone call?”

5. Take advantage of screen-sharing

Visual aids often enrich an interview and clarify goals, responsibilities, or company information. Your video conferencing platform’s screen-sharing function allows you and the interviewee to consider any visual content that might be helpful.

For example, you could show a chart featuring your organization’s structure or a graphic outlining strategic priorities. Screen-sharing can also enable a more practical, specific discussion of the work at hand. For example, someone hiring an independent mobile developer might show mockups of a planned app so they can assess the project better.

Of course, use screen-sharing wisely and stop 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.

6. Discuss the potential challenges of working remotely

Remote work has plenty of upsides, but being part of a distributed team also entails distinct difficulties. Working from home can be somewhat disorienting, especially for those with limited experience in remote work arrangements.

Remember to set aside time in the interview to ask about the interviewee’s attitude toward remote work and let them ask any questions that come to mind about your work environment. Ask them to identify solutions or forms of support that might help them succeed within your distributed team. Similarly, communicate how you work to create a sense of belonging for remote workers.

Some professionals feel isolated without physical proximity to other team members. 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.

7. 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, remote workers may need to adjust their approach and embrace new tools to communicate effectively. 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 your team uses. Inquire about what they see as the keys to effective remote communication to gauge 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 is just one dimension of professional communication, but it could indicate overall ability.

8. Give the interview your undivided attention‍

We’re accustomed to multitasking on our screens. From answering chat messages in meetings to jumping between email and other platforms, the modern professional may struggle to focus on a single activity.

This tendency poses problems in remote interviews. While you’d never dare check your inbox during an in-person conversation, you can be tempted to do exactly that when interviewing by video. ‍

When 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 interested in them or the opportunity you’re discussing.

9. 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. Consider 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 and 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.
  • Ensure your lighting is clear and consistent. Before the meeting starts, check that you aren’t backlit, washed out, or 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.

However, 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.

10. Follow up after the interview

Follow up after the interview regardless of whether you plan to move forward with a candidate. This demonstrates respect for the interviewee’s time and effort while also giving you a chance to gather feedback on your interview process that may help you improve your future methods and practices.

Follow up with a candidate even if you haven’t made a final decision about the position. In your message, tell the interviewee that you plan to continue conducting interviews until a specific date and that they can expect to hear from you within a certain time frame. The candidate will likely respect your transparency and can use the information to make plans and decisions during their job search.

If you decide not to offer the position to an interviewee, give them feedback that may help them with their future job search. Be honest, tactful, and constructive, and focus on the hard and soft skills that could help the candidate with their next interview. Avoid being personal or discriminatory. You can also tell them another candidate was a better fit for the role. Regardless, thank them for their time and interest in your company.

Many hiring managers create a structured feedback form to share with interviewees. This can give job seekers a chance to speak about your hiring process and share insight into how you can improve the candidate experience and remote interview process going forward.

Identifying interviewees: Engaging independent talent

Use the simple tips we’ve outlined to 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 they’ll thrive outside an office environment.

Of course, interviewing is just one dimension of a multifaceted hiring process. You must also 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 building interest in the opportunity you’re offering.

Let Upwork help accelerate every aspect of hiring remote professionals. We make it 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.

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10 Tips for Conducting the Best Remote Interviews
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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