By: Debra Kabalkin on July 15th, 2021

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5 Most Common Problems When Assessing Candidates in Remote Interviews

Best Practices | Talent Acquisition | COVID-19

Over the past 18 months, the companies I work with have done a remarkably impressive job of adjusting to the so-called New Normal of remote work, hybrid teams, and Zoom meetings. But there’s one issue that seems to come up time and time again. Whenever I discuss recruitment, the first thing they say is often, “I can’t wait to go back to in-person interviews.”

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Meeting a candidate in person is undoubtedly a great way to get to know someone. Candidates also generally prefer a chance to come to the office and get a taste of the work atmosphere. But the simple fact is that remote interviews are, just like remote work, here to stay.

This shift is not purely pandemic-related either. Remote work has opened a new world of hiring opportunities. Many candidates apply from out of state, or even internationally. To thrive in this new paradigm, employers have to get to grips with the remote assessment.

5 common problems when conducting a remote interview

Everyone has their own pet peeve about remote interviewing. Here are a few of the most common complaints I hear.

1. “We get disrupted by technical glitches”

Remote interviewing does mean that you’re at the mercy of technology. Interviewer and interviewee both require fast, stable connections, or else you’re going to be undermined by glitches. Technical issues can throw the candidate off their rhythm – or even force you to abandon the interview.

Solution: Preparation is key when conducting a remote interview. Make sure that you’re on a stable connection before you get started, especially if you’re at home. A tool like the Ookla speed test will tell you if your connection is fast enough for video chat.

It’s also a good idea to help the candidate prepare. Send them an email 24 hours before the interview, asking them to check that they have the right software installed and a reliable internet connection.

Related reading: How to Run Successful Candidate Interviews in a Remote Environment

2. “Some candidates are really uncomfortable with remote interviews”

The remote interview format is a wholly different experience for the candidates, especially more experienced people who’ve perfected their approach to in-person interviews. This change could unsettle them during the interview, which may unduly affect the quality of their answers.

Solution: Again, preparation is key. Take a moment at the start of the conversation to talk about the structure of the interview. Ask the candidate if they have experience with this interview format. If not, offer some reassurance and give them a moment to find their feet.

Of course, you may not be comfortable with the format yourself. If you’re experiencing any kind of issues, such as a connection lag or poor audio quality, it’s a good idea to let the candidate know what’s happening on your end.

3. “I can’t get a read on the candidate’s body language”

A video interview means that you can’t observe subtle body language cues. You can’t watch the way someone walks, observe how they sit, or test the firmness of your handshake. Even eye contact is difficult to assess, as people rarely look straight at the camera during a video chat.

Solution: Some high-tech solutions use artificial intelligence to monitor body language during video interviews. Over time, these solutions might become commonplace. Many employers and recruiters are adopting dedicated remote recruitment platforms that will offer all kinds of tools to help conduct a video interview.

But for now, you probably don’t need fancy gadgets. The main thing is to forget about what you can’t see and focus on what you can. You can still observe things like smile, posture, and whether the candidate fidgets or slouches. You can also compensate by paying extra attention to the tone of voice. Do they sound confident? Authoritative? Friendly?

4. “Soft skills don’t come across in remote interviews”

Most interviewers use situational questions to get a feel for the candidate’s soft skills. While you can still use the same questions in a remote interview, it feels a little harder to get the information you need. How do you know that someone is a good communicator when you can’t speak to them face-to-face?

Solution: If you’re having issues here, you may need to rethink your approach to soft skills assessments. Well-structured questions will give the candidate a chance to answer using the STAR format, and that will give them a chance to illustrate their soft skills. Make sure you know which soft skill you’re targeting with each question.

Of course, remote working calls for a whole host of new soft skills. This new style of interview is a chance for candidates to show digital communication skills, adaptability, and critical thinking. If you run into technical issues, you might even get to see their approach to teamwork and problem-solving!

5. “The candidate doesn’t get to experience our culture”

This is perhaps the biggest drawback of remote interviews. Candidates don’t get to have the in-office experience, which means that they can’t meet people, sample the atmosphere, and get a feel for your organizational culture. If your culture is a major selling point, this could impact your chances of landing a top-tier candidate.

Solution: Your culture is more than just your office. Culture is about how you communicate and collaborate, how you treat each other, and what you expect from your colleagues. Every contact with a candidate is a chance to show off your culture, whether that contact is in-person or online.

Make your culture part of everything, from the initial job posting right up until the interview. During the interview itself, share your values, your goals, and tell stories about what makes you proud. Candidates want to find a workplace where they can thrive. Give concrete examples that show why they would fit your culture.

Related reading: 5 Ways HR Can Help Hybrid Teams Build a Strong Culture

Tips for conducting a great remote interview

Remote interviews can also be advantageous. You have a lot more flexibility when scheduling, plus you can record the interview and review it again whenever you need.

To get the most out of a video interview, follow these golden rules:

  • Be prepared – Make sure your computer and internet connection are both up and running.
  • Eliminate all potential distractions – Turn off all notifications on your device before your start the interview.
  • Have clear objectives – Be clear about what you need to cover in this interview and make sure that your questions align with your objectives.
  • Sell the role and the organization – Give the candidate some insight into the employee experience so they understand why you’re a great employer.
  • Set clear expectations – At the end, let the candidate know what happens next and how you will communicate with them.

Hiring a top-tier candidate? Download Recruiting The Best, the Helios HR guide to elite recruitment.

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