There are a few aspects of the traditional interview process that executives and leaders have gotten used to. The simple things like being able to show up for an in-person interview and having the ability to shake the hand of the individuals interviewing them seemed commonplace. Looking someone in the eyes in person helps to establish a relationship and make a determination if these are the individuals you would want to work with for the next step in your career. Of course, you can still look an interviewer in the eye during a virtual interview but if you ask most it feels like something is missing in the process. Furthermore, executives often need to relocate themselves or their entire family when making a career move. In these instances it is nice to get an in-person real estate review of the city you will be moving to as well as the opportunity for an overnight stay. This allows for the potential hire to be able to explore the city for a few days while interviewing (alone, or with other decision-making members of your family).
While virtual interviews have shortened the interview process, GTS Scientific has been getting leaders through their interviews in 14 fewer days since we have been utilizing virtual interview platforms like Zoom, Webex and Google Hangouts. The other “nice to haves” of attracting leaders to a new opportunity and making them more likely to accept an offer are lacking during the pandemic. Many executives enjoy the opportunity to grab a coffee, lunch or dinner with decision makers from the company they are interviewing with to build trust and discuss less formal topics. Furthermore, hiring enterprises use these meals as an opportunity to “close the deal” and further gain the leaders interest in joining their cause.
At least for the time being, if not for the long haul, remote interviewing will be here to stay. In this post we’ll educate hiring managers and decision-makers on how to get the most out of remote interviews.
Conduct Effective Remote Interviews with These Expert Recommendations
Before the Interview
Test Your Remote Setup:
Since many of us will be running remote interviews for the first time, it’s important to develop an SOP (standard operating procedure) for these virtual interviews, just like you would have during an in-person interview.
Just like you would give a perspective hire a tour of your facility, operate under the impression that they are evaluating the environment that you are interviewing them from and your attention to detail throughout the process:
Set up and test your technology (headphones, wifi connection, microphone, webcam, Zoom/Google Hangouts/Skype/GoToMeeting)
• Check for background noise
• Check your room for visual distractions such as personal clutter
• Have the job description handy
• Have the candidate’s resume handy
• Dress for success. You will expect the candidate to do the same so lead by example.
• Consider utilizing breakout rooms for splitting up your zoom meeting into several smaller interview sessions.
• Set up a virtual tour of your corporate office or operations facility for the candidate to review before the interview.
Communicate with the Candidate:
Remove interviews are just as stressful for a candidate as interviewing in-person, maybe even more so since elements of virtual technology such as internet bandwidth are at play. Per the bullet points below, having the ability to text or call a candidate to confirm that everything is in line for the interview should minimize stress and provide a more genuine back and forth during the actual interview. Anticipate that either you or the candidate could lose connectivity and be ready (without making an immediate decision to pass on the candidate) if they lose the internet.
• Get the applicant’s phone number in case you get disconnected.
• Set the date, time and virtual meeting room. Be cognizant of differing time zones and make it clear what time zone the meeting time is based on.
• Communicate the detailed agenda and flow for the interview.
Communicate with Your Team:
The suggestions below should carry the same weight as if your hiring team is interviewing an executive in-person. Showing up late to the interview, and not having a plan in place for every member of your team, is just as unacceptable for a virtual interview as it is in person. All of your competitors within the industry are having to overcome the same obstacles. Showing the executive that your company culture is adaptable and able to overcome obstacles could be the difference in your offer being accepted or the candidate going forward with an offer from a better prepared competitor.
• Send the candidate’s email and phone number to each interviewer in case of disconnection.
• Communicate the date, time and virtual meeting room details.
• Share the detailed agenda and flow for the interview.
Prepare the Agenda:
In addition to having an SOP for the technical aspects of a virtual interview, ensure that members of the hiring team stick to an SOP as to how the interview will go and what questions will be asked, by when and by whom. Due to the remote nature of the interview the candidate you are interested in can just as easily be interviewing with a competitor the next day without needing to jump on a plane, do a site/city tour. If the interview is disorganized and lacks structure, is the operation the same way? Remember, this is a two-way interview. Due to unemployment rates being as low as they have ever been in industries such as biotechnology, the candidate is evaluating the company just as much as the company evaluating the candidate.
– Be well prepared with a list of interview questions
– Create the agenda, minute-by-minute:
• Interview questions
• Be prepared to discuss salary. There remains a stigma around talking money during an interview, however we’ve never had an offer accepted without addressing the total compensation. Having a member of the leadership team discuss money allows a second opinion in addition to the recruiter to refer back and make sure total compensation expectations and relocation costs are consistent with the candidates conversations with multiple members of the hiring team.
• Be prepared to discuss the status of the position and hiring time frame.
• Provide adequate time for candidate questions at the end of the interview.
• Define next steps, such as additional interviews.
During the Interview
The executive should already have an agenda for the interview, who he/she will be interviewing with, their title, and how long they will be interviewing for. All of these materials should be reiterated at the beginning of the interview. The hiring team should also have provided a “back-up” option in case the candidate or hiring team member loses connectivity.
Remember that just because you are not meeting the candidate virtually, doesn’t mean you can’t develop a rapport. Be sure to ask open-ended questions to encourage a dialogue between the hiring team and candidate.
During the interview:
• Start by mapping out how disruptions or disconnections will be handled (i.e. you will call the candidate back).
• Communicate the agenda.
• Introduce everyone on the call.
• Conduct the interview questions.
• Allow space for organic conversation and candidate questions.
Ask Executive-Level Questions:
Don’t forget about the geography and details involved in the executive agreeing to a relocation for this new opportunity. If the executive isn’t relocating, there will still be details about a career move that need to be addressed during a global pandemic that previous to 2020 wouldn’t have been addressed, such as:
• Questions designed to understand cultural fit
• Questions designed to understand how an executive makes decisions
• Questions about leadership style
• Questions designed to probe around the achievements of the candidate
• Questions about the candidate’s expectations regarding the position
• Questions that explore the candidate’s values
• Questions about the executive’s “why” and what they’re passionate about
After the Interview
Follow-up after the interview is key for both parties. A lack of follow-up from the hiring team shows the candidate a lack of interest. This is similar for the candidate if it’s hard to pin them down for feedback after the interview. (Of course they are busy since they just took time off for an interview, but if they were truly interested they would be making the time for a scheduled call during off hours if necessary.) Coordinate with your executive recruiter to allow the candidate to email you directly with a thank you letter and explanation on why they believe they are the right fit for the role after having interviewed. This is the same to say if they would like to bow out after the interview—that the recruiter should encourage the candidate to be honest about their interest level or other offers.
After the interview:
• Reconnect with your executive recruiter for a debrief
• Chart next steps with your recruiter and team
Work with an Executive Recruiter
Virtual technology and a need for remote interviews makes it easier to schedule an interview but even harder to execute on the logistics of the interview and to find candidates willing to make a career and/or geographic move. Looking for hiring support? Work with a scientific recruiter to bring top talent to you.