How to Conduct a Remote Interview: 12 Proven Strategies

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, many global businesses have replaced traditional hiring methods in favor of remote hiring. Due to social distancing rules and enforced lockdowns, employers around the world are turning to remote hiring as a means of expanding their workforce

Key Takeaways

1. When hiring remote employees, it is vital that business owners, hiring managers, and recruiters optimize their remote interviewing approach. 

2. Video platforms including Skype, Meet (formerly known as Hangouts), and Zoom are proven to be excellent platforms to conduct a remote interview. 

3. Prior to a remote interview, hiring managers should inform candidates of every person who will be attending the interview, their roles within the team, and the specifics of what they’ll be addressing.

4. When compiling a list of interview questions, make sure that you include questions around key concepts like teamwork, technical knowledge, and communication skills. 

5. If technology fails, always have a backup plan. At the very least, you should have the candidate’s phone number and email address readily available.

 

By adopting remote hiring strategies, businesses can reduce costs, whilst streamlining their recruitment and accessing a wider pool of talent. As remote work becomes the new ‘norm’, more businesses are acknowledging the advantages it presents – to both their employees and their bottom line. Companies gain more than $270 million each year as a result of employees being more satisfied in their work due to flexible work options.

In an Owl Labs survey, 55% of remote workers stated they would be more likely to look for another job if they were no longer allowed to work remotely. This indicates the extent to which remote workers value their remote work setting. Furthermore, research conducted by IWG shows that among performance-based remote work, 85% of businesses highlighted that productivity increased because of greater flexibility.

As more employers realize the benefits of hiring a remote workforce, remote interviews have become increasingly prevalent. Consequently, when hiring remote employees, business owners, hiring managers, and recruiters are faced with the challenge of optimizing their remote interviewing approach. Although nearly all managers have participated in online meetings of some sort, not all managers know how to conduct a remote interview.

If you’re new to remote interviewing or simply want to improve your hiring process, read on.

To read more tips about hiring remote workers in general, check out Hiring Remote Workers: Tips To Connect With The Best Talent

Start by reviewing your current interview process 

If you’re new to the practice of remote interviewing, it’s a good idea to start by reviewing your existing interview structures. Ask yourself: Have your previous interviews been effective in securing the right talent for your organization? Could your recruitment and interviewing procedures have been streamlined better? 

For many companies, hiring isn’t a formulated process. Rather, it’s a poorly organized ‘meet and greet’ with potential candidates. This approach is fraught with danger. You’re not just meeting another person, you’re analyzing whether that person has the necessary education, training, and skills to adequately represent your brand. Furthermore, you’re gathering evidence to determine if that person possesses the values that align with your company. 

To attract the best talent, hiring managers need to implement a structured recruitment and interview process. Only then can they consistently build their talent pipeline and attract the most exceptional talent to their organization. 

In the present business climate, online assessments are more important than ever. When conducted correctly, online assessments enable businesses to quickly narrow down their candidate pool. If you’re unable to formally meet candidates in person, it’s pivotal to assess potential hires for the skills and competencies they need in a remote setting.

Choosing the best platform for a remote interview 

This is one of the most vital aspects involved in the remote interview process. When interviewing remotely, selecting the right web-conferencing software is paramount. Start by asking yourself the basics: Are you planning to conduct the interview via a video call? Or will a simple phone conversation suffice?

If the candidate is presenting their portfolio or a detailed proposal, your video conferencing platform ideally needs to support screen sharing. Consider the structure of your remote interview and select the optimal platform to run a remote interview based on that.

Video platforms including Skype, Meet (formerly known as Hangouts), and Zoom are excellent choices to conduct a remote interview. Based on your company’s budget, this will help you to decide which is the best software to utilize. Also, remember to always test the software before commencing a remote interview. This will assist you to better understand the technology and choose a platform that matches your needs. 

Even if you’re company is accustomed to performing interviews by phone, hiring managers are advised to adopt video conferencing technology when performing remote interviews. Video interviews afford you the perfect opportunity to establish rapport and accurately convey your company’s mission and values to potential hires. And when you’re competing for elite global talent, you must present the best case for your company.

Video conferencing technology enables hiring managers to ascertain more important details by viewing their interviews directly, as opposed to traditional phone interviews. It has also been proven that most interpersonal communication is nonverbal. Consequently, the body language of a candidate can reveal whether they are confident, goal-oriented, and focused – or indeed, whether the candidate might actually be bored, insecure, or nervous.

Familiarize yourself with remote interviewing etiquette 

Just because an interview is being conducted remotely, it should still maintain the same professionalism as an in-office interview. Regardless of the position that you’re hiring for, you must dress professionally, even if the interview is being conducted from your home.

Ensure that the background the candidate will see during the remote interview is free of any noticeable distractions. To combat this, many video conferencing applications provide you with the option of setting a blank background. Also, be mindful to remain engaged in the conversation with the interviewee; so remove yourself from potential distractions and find a quiet space to conduct the interview.

Here are some further strategies to assist you during a remote interview:

 

  • Turn your notifications off on both your phone and your computer
  • Remove any noticeable clutter from your desk
  • ALWAYS dress and act professionally
  • Position yourself so that you have natural light in front of you
  • Try to minimize talking over your interviewee
  • Ensure that you have a ‘test run’ to confirm that your software (microphone, camera, etc.) is working accordingly. 

Have a backup plan ready

Despite all the planning in the world, technology occasionally fails. And in the case of a remote interview – where you’re reliant on technical platforms – you need to have a backup plan if something goes wrong. If the connection fails, it’s vital that you have the candidate’s email address and phone number. This will enable you to either reschedule an interview time or switch to a phone call instead of a remote interview. 

One of the reasons that a connection may be lost could be as simple as a battery dying on a smartphone or computer. Therefore, allow the candidate time to switch devices or recharge their existing device before you attempt to reconnect. And try not to hold any technical issues against the candidate; simply because they may not have a fast internet connection or access to the latest technology.  

If you or the candidate are working from home, a common issue that can arise is bandwidth. If multiple people are online in a house at the same time, this can occasionally cause delays with video conferencing tools. To address such issues, you can opt to disable the video function on the application you’re using during the interview. This way you’ll still be able to maintain a conversation with the candidate, albeit without the visuals. Alternatively, you can reschedule the remote interview at a time when fewer people are online. 

Clearly communicate instructions and expectations 

For any job seekers that are new to remote interviews, the process can be quite intimidating. This is understandable, as they’re faced with the scrutiny of strangers in an unnatural environment. Remote interviews also make it challenging for hiring managers and interviewees to assess certain body language cues that would normally help them establish a rapport. ‍

When considering these factors, it’s best practice to offer candidates as much prior information as you can. This will go a long way towards easing their anxiety and allowing them to prepare adequately. As a result, your interviewee will appreciate the additional insight, and you’ll enjoy a more balanced, two-way conversation.  

Hiring managers should be mindful to share practical details about how the remote interview will be conducted, which relieves any uncertainty around the interview process. In addition to basic information like the interview’s time and date, ensure that you communicate to the interviewee the technical meeting details – such as the video platform, meeting ID, password, and download instructions. 

Prior to the interview, you should also inform the candidate who will be attending the interview and the specifics of what they’ll be addressing. Share which members of your company will be joining, their roles within your team, and what they’re likely to assess during the interview. 

Here are some further points to assist hiring managers when conducting a remote interview:

 

  • Ask your interviewee all the questions that you believe matter, even if they seem trivial. Remember, don’t hold back the urge to openly speak your mind
  • As opposed to a traditional, in-person interview, it’s normal for certain things to become lost in translation during a remote interview. To counter this, it’s best to simply talk naturally. Some of the things you could mention are work hours, company benefits, policies around leave, etc. 

What interview questions should you ask? 

When conducting a remote interview, hiring managers should ideally ask candidates the same questions they would during a face-to-face interview. However, since most hires will be for remote work positions, a further set of ‘remote specific’ questions should be added.

Because there may be demographic and cultural differences associated with remote hiring, it’s important to understand the interviewee’s context. This means that as an interviewer, you need to switch between being a talker and a listener. 

As an active listener, you’re fully engaged. Not only are you asking more insightful questions, but you’re also digging deeper to gain insight into the candidate. Ultimately, you’re ensuring that you finalize the conversation with an in-depth understanding of the candidate and their fit for the role.

With an increasing number of people having to adapt to the rigors of working from home, this has proven to be a challenge for employees across the world. This underscores the importance that your new employees are self-motivated; with the ability to adjust to newfound conditions and work well under pressure. 

Based on the remote position that you’re hiring for, you can start by compiling a list of skills and traits that a new employee should possess. When compiling this list, don’t neglect the fundamental traits that are required of a remote worker – such as teamwork, technical knowledge, and of course, communication skills. 

It’s also important to maintain a clear interview structure, rather than becoming sidetracked with unrelated conversations (simply because they seem interesting). When this occurs, it interferes with the goal of the interview and diminishes your ability to accurately assess the candidate. 

When conducting a remote interview, ensure that you ask behavioral questions to learn more about your candidates and how they work. Such questions could include:

 

  • In light of the current circumstances we are facing, can you tell me what motivates you to be productive?
  • Can you describe to me your typical day and how you go about organizing yourself?
  • In terms of your day-to-day work activities, how do you achieve your best performance?

 

Questions such as these will allow you to learn a great deal about a candidate. Even though you can’t meet your potential hires in person, utilizing platforms like Skype and Zoom are just as effective in determining a person’s strengths and suitability for the job on offer. 

Discuss the challenges of working remotely

Despite its many advantages, remote work presents unique challenges. For those people with limited experience in a remote work environment, working from home can be especially disorienting. In most cases, remote workers have to manage their own schedule and time, which can lead to procrastination and a lack of formal structure. Additionally, remote workers generally receive less supervision and direction. Whilst it can be comforting to not have a boss breathing down your neck, many professionals work better when they have ‘in-person’ guidance from their supervisors and co-workers. 

Working from home also means limited proximity to other team members. Whilst video conferencing can help, it will never replicate being in a working environment with colleagues (who often become our friends). This can lead to some remote workers feeling particularly isolated. Other remote workers may struggle with the digital platforms that are necessary to collaborate with their distant team members. For team leaders, they must address these issues; which should be discussed during the remote interview process. 

When conducting a remote interview, it’s important to ascertain an interviewee’s experience and hesitations about remote work. Those leading the interview should encourage candidates to identify solutions or support mechanisms that may help them succeed within your remote team. 

Assess communication skills – directly and indirectly 

Strong communication is one of the most critical aspects of successful remote team collaboration. This is because it enables distributed teams to function just as cohesively as colleagues who share an office. To communicate effectively, remote workers may need to adjust their approach and learn to embrace new technical platforms conscientiously. The most successful remote workers will carefully assess their communication strengths and weaknesses, and optimize these traits accordingly.‍

Read more about what works best in a remote work environment at Managing Remote Teams: Tips On Running A Virtual Office Efficiently.

During your remote interview, ask the candidate about their experience with the platforms used by your team. You should also enquire about their views on effective remote communication; as this will highlight how much thought they’ve given to such a relevant subject.

As any hiring manager knows, an interview (whether remote or in-person) will reveal much more than an interviewee’s answers. It will ultimately showcase a person’s communication skills and ability to think on the spot. Whilst effective speaking is only one form of professional communication, it also allows new hires to develop strong relationships with their co-workers and establish themselves as valued members of your team. 

Focus and listen actively 

When you’re conducting remote interviews over platforms like Zoom, it’s more challenging to hold your focus than a normal face-to-face conversation. This means that it’s essential you maintain your concentration and listen actively to your interviewee.

When we communicate with another person, whether it be a friend, colleague, or a stranger, only a small percentage of what we communicate is verbal. The majority of what we convey is through non-verbal communication. In fact, there have been a number of studies on the complex topic of nonverbal communication with most experts agreeing that 70 to 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal.

Things such as eye contact, body movements, body posture, facial expressions, and the tone of your voice all contribute to how we communicate and understand each other. Unfortunately, during a remote interview, many of these non-verbal cues are not easily observable. This makes it more difficult to communicate and as such, it’s important that you listen actively to what the interviewee is saying.

When you’re conducting a remote interview, treat the interviewee as if you were having a conversation with them in person. Sit up straight, maintain eye contact, smile when appropriate, and above all – demonstrate that you’re engaged in the conversation.

 

Make it a two-way conversation 

Just like a traditional job interview, a remote interview should be a two-way conversation. Your candidates should be encouraged to ask as many questions as they deem necessary – after all, they’re interviewing you as well. Whilst it can be challenging to adequately assess a candidate’s suitability for a remote position, it’s often just as difficult for the candidate to envision themselves working for your company. This is further exacerbated if they haven’t had the chance to meet you and your team in person.

When interviewing remotely, it’s important that you provide multiple opportunities for the interviewee to ask questions about your company and the role on offer. And always be prepared to give in-depth answers to possible questions.

As a way to keep the interview flowing, try to maintain a structured conversation with the candidate, just as you would with a standard interview. Make sure that you not only have the candidate’s resume in front of you but that you also have a list of pre-determined questions ready to ask.  

 
 

Introduce and share your company culture 

In many situations, remote workers will not have the opportunity to see your office and meet the members of your team. Alternatively, you may not even have an office. This makes it important for candidates to learn more about your business and company culture. 
 
Start by explaining your company’s core values and how this informs your workplace culture. Demonstrate the behaviors that you expect your employees to possess for each value, and provide best practice examples to help them to understand what you mean.
 
Be open in sharing stories and examples of what you mean by your culture – don’t just state the values that you expect your team members to hold. This will help candidates to internalize your words into tangible actions. For example, if one of your company’s values is ‘constant improvement’, show real examples of how that is demonstrated in your culture. To showcase that specific value, you could highlight an employee who has grown with your company – both professionally and personally. Likewise, you could share an example of a team-building event that facilitates both shared learning and camaraderie. 
 

Have a strong close and give feedback quickly 

After the conclusion of your remote interview, ensure that you explain to candidates the next step in the process. Ask the candidate if they have any final questions and thank them for their time. When it comes to providing feedback, never leave candidates waiting for weeks – or indefinitely – with no answer. All this does is provide candidates with a false sense of hope. 
 
Keep in mind that feedback offers closure and improves the candidate experience. This is a crucial factor as it establishes professionalism on your part and helps to build your brand.

Summary 

Remote interviews are a proven means of saving time and resources while ensuring you recruit the best talent for your organization. However, before you conduct any remote interview, there are a number of aspects to consider. These include selecting the right interview platform, familiarizing yourself with the questions that need to be asked, and ensuring that you have a backup plan if technology fails. 

Ultimately, you are representing your company during an online interview. As you become more experienced conducting remote interviews, you’re likely to discover a remote hiring process that enables you to acquire the best talent for your company. 

How New Horizons can help 

New Horizons’ global PEO and custom employment solutions enable businesses to expand their operations into more than 150 locations throughout the world. As the only global PEO with a dedicated, in-house recruitment team, New Horizons sources, hires, and onboards your global workforce. And as specialists in remote work, we accelerate your ability to hire remote professionals across all industries. 
 
When you partner with New Horizons, we accelerate the hiring process by identifying and matching your organization to the world’s most talented remote professionals. Additionally, our comprehensive post-recruitment services include all elements of HR, local payroll sponsorship, labor contracts, and employment and tax compliance. 
 

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