Revamp Your Remote Interview Game with These Tips

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Video conferencing isn’t an entirely new medium to most of us. What is new, though, is conducting the entire interview and hiring process through a computer screen.

While many widely accepted interview tactics work just as well online as they do in person, there are specific ways to make remote interviews even better. Add some of these tips to your job prep checklist and get ready to take on the world of remote interviews.

What is a remote interview?

A remote interview is conducted with the hiring team and job candidate in separate locations. While phone screenings can technically be classified as remote interviews, we’ll be focusing on video interviews in this article.

Not all remote video interviews are alike. In a one-way remote interview, the job applicant records their responses to questions and prompts using some type of interview software, like Spark Hire. This asynchronous option usually allows the candidate to record multiple takes and select the best one to submit to the hiring team. This method also gives the interviewer time to review the candidate videos on their own schedule.

In a two-way remote interview, both parties meet “face to face” for a video conference. This option, a type of synchronous communication, comes closer to replicating the traditional interview. Depending on the position being filled, two-way interviews might also include whiteboarding sessions or presentations alongside the video call.

Why companies use remote interviews

Using video conferencing for job interviews Using video conferencing for job interviews

Companies are using remote interviews during the coronavirus pandemic as a way to safely find and hire talent while following health and safety guidelines. But aside from the practicality of this hiring method in recent times, there are many reasons to use remote interviews now and in the future.

You can work with talented candidates from anywhere in the world. If your company hires from a global applicant pool, remote interviews make it easier to reach the best candidates, regardless of location. And even if your company hires locally right now, getting your team accustomed to remote video interviews could open up the possibility of broadening the talent search to other locations going forward.

It saves time for everyone involved. Consider this: the time a job candidate spends interviewing isn’t limited to the time spent in conversation with you. They research the company, prepare answers (and possibly projects), schedule time off, and travel to and from the interview location, at minimum. Having them call in from their own space gives them more time to focus on the actual interview instead of all the extra logistics. Plus, the interviewer can hop on a call from their own office instead of reserving a conference room and rearranging dates and times if scheduling conflicts arise.

Creates an opportunity to assess communication skills. A remote interview might not have quite the same conversational feel as an in-person interview, but it can offer a glimpse into a job candidate’s other communication skills. Between email, video conferencing, online chats, and whiteboarding sessions, there are several opportunities for a job candidate to show their proficiency with different programs, which is especially important if they’re interviewing for a remote role.

Recording video interviews streamlines the hiring process. Chances are, there will be multiple people who need to make sure this candidate is the right fit, and it can be a hassle to get everyone in the room at the same time. Remote interviews allow you to record the meeting and share it with the hiring team so they can watch and review at a time that works for them.

Puts a new spin on conversations and presentations. There are a number of tech roles that involve fairly intense whiteboard projects during the interview process. Similarly, it’s becoming more common for employers to assign small projects as part of the vetting process. A remote interview gives prospective employees a chance to show their skills, creativity, and tech savvy in a more illustrative way.

How to prepare for remote interviews

Man preparing his remote interviewing technique Man preparing his remote interviewing technique

It’s time to get ready for the interview. Since this is a learning experience for both interviewers and interviewees right now, we’ll focus on preparing for two-way interviews.

First, you’ll need a working webcam and microphone. Many computers have these built-in, but if yours doesn’t, check that your equipment is in good shape and operational a few days before the interview. (This is especially important if you’re borrowing either item from a friend; make sure every piece is compatible with your computer.) You should also have headphones, even if you’re interviewing from a quiet space. They’ll make it easier to hear the other person and reduce the chances of misunderstanding.

The interview will likely take place via a video conferencing app, which should be installed and working before the day of the interview so you can practice using it. And, to further ensure that the app will work without glitches, check that you have a reliable Wi-Fi connection wherever you plan on conducting the interview. Tend to have spotty internet connection? Opt for an ethernet connection, if possible.

For the environment of the room, have a comfortable chair that you won’t fidget in. After all, the more comfortable you are, the more focused you’ll be during the interview.

There’s always the risk of other people talking loudly in nearby rooms or an errant phone call coming through. (Oh, that’s another thing: turn off your notifications!) So, to keep the conversation distraction-free, consider using a noise cancelling app during the call. This will mute any stray sounds that pop up.

Finally, consider the lighting in the room you’ll be interviewing in, particularly at the time of the meeting. Position your desk so that any windows are either facing you or are to your right or left. This will keep you from appearing like a dark shadow on screen.

The interviewer: you can never be too informative. Maybe you’re handling a dozen interviews for this open position and have your personal interview routine down cold. That’s great! But the job candidates will only be totally prepared if you take the guesswork out of how you’ll get in touch with them.

Let the people you’re interviewing know what video conferencing platform you’ll be using so they can download and practice with the program beforehand. If possible, send along a demo video or a how-to guide to help them prepare so there are no surprises on interview day. It also helps to provide a general outline of what you’ll cover during your conversation, as well as the anticipated timeline for the interview process.

If the interviewees are participating in a whiteboard session or presentation, give them access to the board prior to the interview so they can learn their way around the app. This will cut down on confusion and save time during the interview, leaving more opportunity to discuss their process instead of troubleshooting unexpected issues. It’s also helpful to tell them if they’ll need to have any other special equipment in order to complete the project.

And, just in case the technical difficulties get out of hand, provide a phone number and email address where the interviewees can reach you (and ask them for the same).

The interviewee: practice makes perfect. It’s normal to get a little nervous before an interview, but taking the time to prepare will set you up to do your best. You probably know to research the company beforehand and practice common interview questions. But for a remote interview, there are a few more tasks to attend to.

Check that your interview space is decluttered. It doesn’t have to feature the best curated bookshelf in the world; it just needs to be tidy. A messy space can be distracting, which is no good when your goal is to be the most interesting thing on screen. If for some reason it’s not possible to change the space, consider using a neutral background if the interview app has that feature. No exotic destinations or European cityscapes, though. Keep it simple.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, consider your wardrobe. You’re probably safe to wear whatever you would normally choose for an in-person interview, but if you’re not sure of the company’s dress code, business casual is a safe bet. Wear a full outfit so you’re less distracted by what the camera is or isn’t catching. And if you’re questioning how the neckline on a certain top will look on camera, opt for something with more of a crew neck or a classic button-down shirt.

You should also ask about any programs or software you’ll need to learn beforehand. Hopefully the interviewer will already have that info for you, but be prepared to inquire just in case. This also applies to exchanging contact information. Be ready to have and ask for phone numbers and email addresses as a backup plan for the video conference.

What to do during the interview

Setting up a microphone and headset for a remote videoconference interview Setting up a microphone and headset for a remote videoconference interview

On the day of the interview, you should have your documents, writing utensil, notebook, and glass of water nearby, just as you would for an in-person interview. Now, onto the remote-specific aspects.

Aim to look at the camera instead of at the person on screen. Looking into the camera establishes eye contact, whereas looking at the screen does not. This helps to form a connection similar to what you’d experience during an in-person interview.

Don’t hesitate to speak up. We get a lot of information through body language, but those kinds of cues might be harder to read over video. If you need further clarification on a question or think you’ve misheard the other person, don’t be afraid to say so. This applies to technical difficulties as well. We all know they’re a possibility, so go in accepting that they might crop up and you’ll be in a better frame of mind to handle them.

Ask about remote plans going forward. Will this role be remote temporarily, or is the plan for it to always be outside of company facilities? Is the job candidate comfortable working remotely in the long term, or are they looking for something else? Have they ever had a remote role? Both people in the meeting should be prepared to ask and answer questions about the extent of remote work involved with the position.

Record the conversation. If you’re the interviewer, record the meeting so that other members of the hiring team can assess the candidate without having too many people on the call. Let the job candidates know that you’ll be recording the conversation for others to evaluate, too. Transparency is important. It might also be helpful to keep a skills scorecard for each interview. This way, everyone on the hiring team can compare notes using the same criteria.

After the interview

Post-interview protocol isn’t too different between a video conference and an in-person meeting. If you’re the interviewer, provide clear instructions for next steps, including if you might follow-up with more questions after sharing the recording with the hiring team. It’s also a good idea to invite the interviewee to submit feedback for the remote interview process. Their feedback can help your team refine the new interview process with insights from real people.

Then, if you recorded the meeting, send the recording to the hiring team and schedule a time to confer. This is the time to review other notes and skill scorecards if you filled those out, too. If you were the person being interviewed, send a thank you message to the interviewer. With a remote interview, an email is sufficient. Then, look over your notes from the interview. Did you discuss any programs that you might need a refresher on? Was there a question you had trouble answering? Reflect on how you did so you can improve for the next round.

Remote video interviews: the first choice of the future?

As more companies expand their remote roles and consider how they’ll hire in the future, remote video interviews appear to be an option that will be around for a long time. Mastering these few simple guidelines now will help you take on any remote interview with confidence.


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