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Virtual Interviews: The New Benchmark

INTERVIEW EDGE • MAY 2020

woman conducting virtual interview training

Today more than ever, we are facing sudden unexpected challenges that now proliferate on a global scale. Organizations must be ready to meet any contingency, and those that take the lead in ushering in a new era of virtual interaction will persist and flourish.

The option of hiring remotely, rather than through typical in-person interviews, has graduated overnight from a technological convenience to the new norm. Companies that hope to succeed in a virtual setting must rapidly adopt new best practices.

Understandably, candidates may feel less comfortable and more guarded during remote interviews. As an interviewer, it’s important for you to put candidates at ease by creating an environment where they can feel at their best and will open up to you with genuine responses.

An efficient way to create such an environment is by using a structured yet conversational approach as taught in our Effective Interviewing!® training. Our methods and techniques are designed to put the candidate at ease, and conform well to a completely remote interview process.

Preparing for the Remote Interview


Two brief checklists—one for your candidate and one for each member of the interview team—can help you prepare for a productive session.

1. Checklist of Information to Provide the Candidate

To reduce uncertainty the candidate has about remote interviews, share the information below prior to the interview to help set expectations:

  • Platform to be used (such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, etc.). The candidate will need to download, set up, and test the app before the interview.

  • Scheduled date and interview time (including time zone). Encourage the candidate to be ready a few minutes ahead of time.

  • Name and title of every interviewer. Prepare the candidate by letting them know who they will talk to which provides an opportunity to proactively learn about each interviewer in advance.

  • Format. Explain that the interviewer will ask questions first and answer any questions afterward. Outlining the sequence at this point helps both sides get through the process efficiently.

2. Checklist for Interviewers

Prepare your interview environment such that you can focus on the candidate—your being at ease helps put the candidate at ease. Be sure to attend to:

  • Equipment. Test your camera and microphone, and position the camera slightly above eye level.

  • Lighting. Place your lighting sources directly behind the camera. Try to avoid being backlit by windows or lamps as that can make it difficult for the candidate to see you.

  • Framing. Remove any visual distractions within the camera frame.

  • Noise. Mitigate any background sounds so the candidate can hear you clearly during your conversation.

Conducting a Successful Video Interview


A successful interview begins with a relaxed and comfortable candidate, so plan on taking three to five minutes to establish rapport. Naturally, it’s important to treat everyone you interview with dignity and respect—after all, someone you talk to today may turn out to be your future coworker, colleague, customer, or even competitor.

Be sure not to make the screen a barrier between you and the candidate. Look directly into the camera to make eye contact with the candidate and create a connection.

Open up with small talk—purposely not using the resume to lead the discussion—and ask open-ended general questions at first.

Build rapport with the candidate by clarifying your expectations for the session. This is especially important in a remote interview, more so if the candidate is unfamiliar with this type of format. Clarify that you will ask questions first and take questions afterward. Let the candidate know it is alright to interrupt if a technical difficulty arises or they cannot hear something clearly.

Although the candidate’s resume can be a useful conversational springboard, you will quickly need to move beyond the resume to determine and calibrate competencies—and learn about the how and why of what they have accomplished in their past jobs. Your goal is to drill down to specific examples to uncover patterns of behavior. Remember to delve into any technical questions early on to screen for technical proficiency and to confirm their ability to perform the essential functions of the job.

Get the Most Out of an Audio-Only Interview


Interviewers often feel that phone interviews limit their ability to assess a candidate’s abilities since the visual cues are missing. On the other hand, visual cues can be distracting—they can reinforce unconscious biases and prevent an interviewer from accurately assessing a candidate’s abilities and skills.

A competency-based behavioral interviewing approach eliminates an interviewer’s reliance on visual indicators. This frees the interviewer to gather evidence of competencies based on the candidate’s past and present performance. The focus on the candidate’s competencies—rather than on how they appear in the interview—effectively opens up the process to possibly overlooked candidates and reduces unconscious bias.

Applying the Interview Funnel™ Model


Both of the above interview formats, videoconferencing and audio-only sessions, work well with the Interview Funnel™ model as taught in Effective Interviewing!®. Its straightforward, conversational approach quickly puts candidates at ease, and its calculated balance of structure and flexibility provides natural segues whenever an interviewer needs to drill down further into a candidate’s answers.

Preparing for the Future


We teach managers to conduct successful virtual interviews using this proven conversational, structured process. This unique approach to virtual interviews is more relevant now than ever.

Many companies have recently expressed interest in our two-hour self-paced online interview training, which offers a short interactive follow-up webinar that is tailored specifically to their training needs. The use of webinars to demonstrate live virtual interviews and pair up individuals for real-time interview practice gives hiring managers more confidence to hire top talent.

The Interview Funnel™ model and other techniques learned in Effective Interviewing!® enable interview teams to establish a virtual environment that is just as personal and welcoming as an in-person setting. The right tools can help organizations get the most out of every remote interview, and to take the lead in an increasingly virtual workplace.