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4 Tips for Conducting Remote Interviews

Gauging the talents of in-person candidates requires skill and experience, but qualifying that same talent remotely poses particular challenges of its own.

Telecommuting has been on the rise since the early 2000s with SHRM reporting that 68 percent of companies now offer remote work options, up from 54 percent in 2014.

So, what do we know about the remote worker? The New York Times (NYT) helps us answer this question (though they themselves acknowledge the definition is somewhat nebulous)…

The most complete definition is someone employed full time at a private, nonprofit or government organization, who works at least half the time at home.

“The typical telecommuter is a 49-year-old college graduate — man or woman — who earns about $58,000 a year and belongs to a company with more than 100 employees, according to numbers culled from the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey.

Remote work/ telecommuting options can save companies money (the same NYT article found that the US federal government saved an estimated $32 million by asking their employees to work from home on snow days). And, numerous studies have shown remote workers are more productive and work longer hours.

With more and more companies seeing telecommuting as a viable option for their employees, it follows that remote interviewing will increase in popularity as well – from initial phone screens to online technical skills tests.

For many, the idea of remote interviewing can be daunting, as it’s common to rely on in-person meetings to get ‘a sense’ of a candidate. To surmount these initial growing pains, the following provides top tips for recruiters and hiring managers looking to win at remote interviewing.

1. Find the best ways to connect.

Sign that reads 'good vibes only'.

During an interview, so much is determined by body language, which isn’t something that always translates over a screen. A survey from Twin found that 50 percent of interviewers eliminate candidates based on the way they dressed, behaved, or expressed their body language.

That’s why it’s important to try to find communication solutions that will best replicate the benefits of in-person interactions (while also remembering judgments based on appearance and clothing could be biased so it’s good to eliminate that criterion from the application process). To do this, try using different communication tools for the various stages of the interview process, such as an audio tool for the preliminary screening and a video conferencing option during later rounds.

While there are plenty of business tools that perform one of these tasks well, implementing a unified communications system will ensure an organized approach when communicating between multiple candidates.

2. Prep the tech.

Delays caused by technical difficulties can completely disrupt a scheduled day of remote interviews, at times with costly consequences. Within the span of a year, a single employee can spend 91 hours, or over two work weeks, of their time fixing computer issues.

Technology snafus can make a company appear unprofessional and will ultimately decrease the time recruiters and hiring managers have to evaluate each candidate. Prepare in advance for a day of remote interviews by asking the following questions:

  • Does this room have a strong internet connection/cellular reception?
  • Is all of the necessary equipment plugged in and turned on?
  • Does the candidate have the interview information, including time, date, and links?

3. Choose the team wisely.

A re:Work study found that having three interviewers in the room led to hiring the best talent 63 percent of the time, while a team of seven would increase hiring success to 72 percent.

Having multiple perspectives of a single candidate is typically a good thing, but when interviewing remote applicants, streamlining an interview team to a smaller group will help reduce interruptions and simplify communication.

Phone calls or video conferences should include only the core team necessary to make the decision.

If the team can’t be winnowed down, assign roles to each person, including which team members should be speaking and which are responsible for silently observing and notetaking.

Foosball table.

4. Become an effective listener.

In-person interviews offer plenty of opportunities to demonstrate active listening, from securing eye contact to head nods. Since 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal, these tiny cues are essential for establishing an understanding between interviewer and interviewee.

During a remote interview, it may be difficult, or in the case of a phone call impossible, to represent any of the visual cues that show listening. Fortunately, there are other ways to show active listening

  • Looking into the camera as a way to replicate eye contact.
  • Eliminating outside noises that may interfere with the interview.
  • Waiting a few additional seconds for a response before speaking accommodates the time the interviewee needs to think of a response and compensates for any lag time or delays in the signal.

Don’t forget to share with your own remote interview hacks! #HiringSuccess

Holly Becklund

As an online business writer, Holly Becklund enjoys sharing her expertise on various business tools, solutions, and technology for a rapidly evolving corporate landscape.