Virtual Interviews - Tips for Managers and Candidates

by Peg Bogema

Virtual Interviews—Tips for Managers and Candidates

A variety of circumstances drive managers in the direction of the virtual interview:

  • When the team members that will be involved in the hiring decision are distributed across the country (or the world),
  • When one of the team members is taking a vacation (well…a working vacation),
  • When the cost of flying a candidate in for an on-site interview is prohibitive,
  • When a pandemic forces everyone to work from home. (Who would have thought?)

Many companies have a strong preference for face-to-face interviews. The factors drive that vary—from the way in which the technical portion of the interview is conducted to wanting to make a favorable impression on candidates by showing off an attractive workplace or cool technology.

Some companies can afford to delay hiring until all interested parties can be co-located. When that is the case, there isn’t really any compelling need to grapple with virtual interviewing.

But for companies that cannot postpone hiring, mastering the virtual interview is critical.

Tips for Hiring Managers

(1) Finding a technology platform that facilitates the virtual interview is key.

Consider what your team will need.

  • Will the team want to have all participants on camera during the interview?
  • Will the team want to share someone’s desktop?
  • Will the team want to view the candidate’s desktop?

If your team is going to administer a written test, they may want to look at the candidate’s desktop so that they can observe what the candidate looks up on Google versus what the candidate answers from memory.

If a pair programming exercise is going to be done, being prepared to share the code and then watching the candidate as he or she writes the code are key.

There are a variety of platforms that will facilitate some or all of these scenarios.

(2) Creating a virtual tour of the workspace may be a necessity.

If the workspace is a key selling point about the job, then taking time to create a video, even if somewhat amateurish, is worth the trouble. It doesn’t have to have an audio track. It can be shown to the candidate and narrated by members of the team.

(3) Practicing a virtual interview is very helpful.

Rather than testing out the virtual interview on an actual candidate, it is smart to have one staff member play the part of the candidate while the team does a test run on all steps of the interview. That way all of the kinks can be worked out in advance.

(4) Ensure that you have an encrypted way to transport hiring paperwork.

Don’t expect candidates to provide their social security number and other personal identifying information in an email. Create a safe, encrypted data transfer mechanism.

Even the Department of Homeland Security has created a workaround for the I-9 form in recognition of the fact that hiring must be handled virtually.

Tips for Candidates

Prepare for a virtual interview in the same way as you would for a face-to-face interview.

  • Research the company. Have a list of questions to ask as a way to signal your interest and engagement.
  • Brush up on the technology, methodology and other aspects of the job description. You want to have terminology and concepts right at your fingertips.
  • Dress professionally. Maybe you can keep your comfy shoes on, but the rest of your attire should be professional. You can find myriad videos of people who dressed great from the waist up and then stood up during the interview, only to reveal their boxer shorts or pajama bottoms.

Along with all of the advice you would normally follow for a face-to-face interview, here are a few tips that are specific to the virtual interview.

(1) Ensure your technology is working properly. Have a good microphone and a good Web camera. Test them in advance to make sure that they are working well. Plug your laptop in so that you don’t run out of battery. Turn down the ringer on your mobile phone.

(2) Tidy up the area behind you. It will be visible during the interview. Strive to make it look as professional as possible.

(3) If you can, download the interview platform in advance and give it a test run. It saves time. It helps you relax during the interview. There is nothing worse than floundering to find the volume control, etc. Even so, make sure that you have the HR Manager’s phone number so that if you lose power or the Internet crashes, you can make a phone call to explain your situation.

(4) If you have kids or pets, figure out how to securely close the door to your interview space. If possible, arrange to have the kids and pets attended to during the interview.

(5) Have Kleenex, water, cough drops, and anything else that you might need right there in the room—out of sight from the camera, but where you can reach them. For a long interview, you should be offered a bio break. And if not, you should feel comfortable asking for one. But having the necessities in the room will prevent unnecessary interruptions.

Things are going to go wrong. Kids or pets will wander into an interview. The doorbell will ring. Your spouse will open the door and start talking. Relax. Deal with the interruption and get back to it. Take it in stride. If you manage that smoothly, that’s seen positively by the interviewing team.

Summary

When done well, virtual interviews can be almost as effective as face-to-face interviews. The advance planning steps taken on the HR Manager side and on the candidate side can make the experience a positive one.

Stout Systems is the software consulting and staffing company Fueled by the Most Powerful Technology Available: Human Intelligence®. Stout was founded in 1993 and is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Stout has clients across the U.S. in domains including engineering, scientific, manufacturing, education, marketing, entertainment, small business and, yes, robotics. Stout provides expert level software, Web and embedded systems development consulting and staffing services along with direct-hire technical recruiting and placements. If you're looking for a job in the tech industry, visit our job board to see if you qualify for some of our positions. Best of luck to you! If you're looking to hire technical talent for your company, please contact us. This is a technical article catered to developers, technical project managers, and other technical staff looking to improve their skills. Sign up to receive our technical articles in your email inbox.

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