The challenges of virtual hiring

By November 16, 2020Newsletter

Hiring a new employee is always a big decision. The average interview process in the United States spans nearly 24 days and typically involves multiple rounds of in-person interviews and assessments.

The switch to virtual work ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the hiring landscape for the foreseeable future and introduced a slew of new challenges to the recruitment process. After all, how do you know if you want to hire someone if you can’t meet them in person?

“One of the obvious difficulties when you are hiring virtually is that you don’t have the opportunity to be with the person physically,” said Sonya Llewellyn, Director of Program Development at 501(c) Services.

Llewellyn notes that traditional in-person interviews have some obvious advantages: it’s easier to read body language, feel the energy a person brings to the room, and get a sense of how they will interact within the workplace.

However, because bringing swaths of interviewees into the office might not be the most appropriate option during a pandemic, employers need to prepare ahead of time to streamline the hiring process from home. Here’s how:

Use video conferencing software

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that video conferences are a powerful means of communication when in-person meetings are off the table. When it comes to the hiring process, video interviews offer a more personal experience than old-school conference calls and allow employers to watch how a job candidate interacts with various groups of people.

Video interviews are also advantageous when interviewing candidates in different time zones, and group video calls with busy executives and managers are often easier to schedule than the equivalent in-person meetings.

Don’t forget that video interviews can be recorded and rewatched by all involved in the hiring process, allowing employers to compare and contrast candidates and allow other employees to weigh in on the process.

If you’re going to conduct virtual video interviews, Llewellyn advises employers to ensure that candidates have access to the necessary interviewing tools before scheduling a time to talk.

“Does the person have a cell phone, a smartphone? Does the person have a computer and an internet connection? There’s so many things to think about that so many of us just take for granted,” Llewellyn said.

Involve staff in the hiring process

Just because interviews are taking place virtually instead of conference rooms doesn’t mean that employees around the office shouldn’t be involved in the process. In fact, group video calls and virtual forums can make it even easier for staff members to interact with potential hires.

“Getting multiple eyes on the candidate is always important, especially when you’re hiring virtually,” Llewellyn said.

Seeking input on interviewees from a diverse group of staff members and stakeholders can help ensure that the candidate is compatible with the company even if they can’t be interviewed in person.

Llewellyn advises that employers take advantage of group video call options in order to include multiple perspectives and allow the candidate to interact with different employees.

“Make sure that you have a team…whether it’s individual interviews where one person asks questions and the candidate answers, or maybe two or three people on the call via Zoom or FaceTime or Teams.”

Craft specific questions

Creating specific interview questions that get to the core of the employee’s work abilities can help make video interviews more potent. Virtual recruiting demands a more condensed interviewing process and planning specific interview questions based on everyday situations can help employers quickly determine if a candidate is a good fit for the position.

“I think it’s important for the manager and the staff to come up with questions that are based on real day-to-day situations, or issues or challenges that are very specific to the position,” Llewellyn said. “Do they meet their deadlines? How would they communicate if they need more time?”

Because COVID-19 has changed the way that many positions operate, Llewellyn suggests asking employees who will work closely with the new hire to contribute specific questions based on current work demands.

“Are your questions really going to get at the meat of what that person is going to do? Are you asking questions that are really relevant to the position and going to give you actionable information to make a good hire?” Llewellyn said.


About the Author

Lia Tabackman is a freelance journalist, copywriter, and social media strategist based in Richmond, Virginia. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, CBS 6 News, the Los Angeles Times, and Arlington Magazine, among others.

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