How to Interview Remote Team Members

How to Interview Remote Candidates

Remember when you had your first job interview? You had to get all dressed up, practice in front of the mirror, and hope for the best when shaking hands with your interviewer. Now, things have changed. Instead of shaking hands, the first thing you hear is a ‘’Can you hear me’’ on a Zoom call. And both interviewers and interviewees had to adapt to a completely different environment to the one they were used to.  Especially during the pandemic, HR teams and leaders had to learn how to interview remote candidates from scratch.

As the name suggests, remote interviews happen without the candidate and interviewer meeting in the same physical place. The interview then takes place via a voice or video call. Before the pandemic, remote interviews were conducted mostly by companies looking to hire better talent in different areas of the world. However, now that social distancing is encouraged, and businesses are implementing hybrid, or fully remote models, interviewing candidates remotely is the best (and in some cases only) option.

Hiring someone to work from home is more about the person than the role. You’re not just looking for a great professional. You’re also looking for someone who can work without supervision. Someone who can manage their own workload and who can contribute to the team while still working remotely.

But how to identify those talented candidates remotely? How to make sure you’re hiring the right candidate? By conducting efficient remote interviews. Here’s how: 

1. Understand Your Company’s Culture

Before you go into the interview stage, it’s helpful to know what you want from your remote employees. What are your remote working policies? How will you measure performance? What communication channels do you expect your staff to use, and when?

The more you know about the sort of remote manager you’re going to be, the easier it will be to see if the person you’re talking to has a place on your team.

2. Review Your Current Interview Process

Onsite interviews work in a completely different way than remote interviews. The fact that you’re not in the same place as the person you’re interviewing makes you feel disconnected from them. The idea of replicating the same onsite process to the virtual process isn’t effective simply because it’s not the same experience.

Before starting to evaluate remote candidates, review and streamline the process you already have. How can you make it better? How can you improve the candidate’s experience?  

For most companies, hiring isn’t a dedicated process. It’s all about interviewing candidates until teams find someone decent capable of doing an okayish job. However, when you interview remote candidates, you’re not just meeting another person; you’re evaluating a potential employee that will be performing an important role in your company. Your time, money, and even energy, are at stake. 

3. Always Go For Video Interviews

At this stage, you’re probably still wondering what the best way to conduct a virtual interview is. Are you going to interview the candidate via a phone call? Or will you rather have a video interview? 

While interviewing a candidate by phone can be the easiest solution, it doesn’t mean it’s the most effective one. Being in a remote environment means you cannot read body language as you would in an onsite interview. However, when you’re in a video conference, you can see the other person’s face and establish a deeper connection. The person behind the screen is no longer a stranger; it could potentially become part of your team.

According to Software Advice, 60% of hiring managers and recruiters prefer to do remote interviews by video. And Jobvite revealed that during the pandemic, 80% of recruiters have been using video during remote interviews. 

4. Make Sure You Have the Right Tools

Have you ever been on a video call where you can’t understand what another person is saying? Their microphone makes them sound as if Dark Vader was the pilot of a commercial flight. 

Besides making you feel annoyed, things like these automatically make you lose interest in what the other person is saying. Hence, if you’re going to start interviewing and recruiting remote team members, you need to make sure you’re equipped with the necessary tools for it.

The basics are:

  • A high-quality microphones
  • A pair of good headphones (noise-canceling are the best ones)
  • A good camera 

Besides having a good internet connection, which is the fundamental principle to work remotely, you also need to figure out which will be the right application/platform to conduct the virtual interview. If you have no experience in this, you might make the mistake of thinking all apps are the same, but no. Some applications are excellent for smooth remote communication and have many different features. Others are too basic or have lower camera definition. 

These are some great video call applications: 

  • Zoom
  • Google Meet
  • Skype for Business
  • GoToMeeting
  • Webex by Cisco
Hire Great Tech Candidates

5. Share the Interview Details with Anticipation

Once you have a few candidates you think might be suitable for a position, schedule the interviews. Make sure to do this in advance, don’t expect that a candidate will be available if you informed them the previous day. Additionally, over-communicate. You might be used to doing remote interviews all the time, but perhaps a candidate has no clue what tool to download or use during an interview. 

The more information you give to candidates, the better they’ll know how to prepare. It’s better to set up expectations and provide them with the necessary information. Share with the candidate all the necessary details before the interview day comes: 

Time

If a candidate lives in the same country as you, this is not a problem. You clear a space in your schedule, see if they are available, and that’s it. Yet, if they live in another country with a different time zone, you might need to do the interview during hours you usually wouldn’t, for example, in the afternoon.

Place

Where is the interview taking place? Is it going to be by video call, a phone call, or instant messages? What platform will you be using (Zoom, Skype, Meet)? There are thousands of different apps and platforms where remote interviews take place, so candidates need to know all this with anticipation.  

Interviewer

It’s always good for candidates to know who is making the interview. Whether it’s the HR team or the owner of the company. 

6. Be Aware of the Remote Interviewing Etiquette

When you’re conducting an interview, you’re representing your company. While being in a remote setting might make you feel more relaxed because you might be interviewing someone from your living room, it still requires the same level of professionalism as if you were in the office. 

Additionally, keep in mind that candidates might be nervous and that not everyone loves the cameras. Instead of making it a cold and awkward questionnaire, try smoothening the environment to help the candidates feel comfortable to answer your questions the best way they can. 

Location is also something to have in mind. Quiet spaces do make a difference in remote interviews. Seek a quiet spot in your house, far away from the playroom (if you have little kids). Or go to a nearby coffee shop with a good internet connection and few people.

Here are some additional tips that can help you when interviewing remote team members: 

  • Turn off notifications when the interview begins (or at least silence them)
  • Dress professionally
  • Keep your background neutral otherwise, it could distract the candidate
  • Seek a luminous space where the candidate will be able to see your face and not your silhouette. 
  • Before the interview, make sure you have a stable internet connection and all your tools are working fine. 

7. Prepare Your Method of Evaluation

When you meet a candidate in person, you will quickly make a judgment about them. The rest of the interview is really about them confirming or altering that first impression. The one quality that is most likely to sway an interviewer? Likeability. That impression is formed by the way the candidate dresses and makes small talk on the way to the interview itself.

When you’re interviewing via video conference, the candidate has much more control over what they show of themselves. If they’ve read any one of the many guides out there to ‘ace a Zoom interview’, you’ll see only their head and shoulders, set against a neutral background.

That’s why it’s important to ask slightly different questions. Not just because you want to make sure that the candidate will be successful working in a remote role, but because you need to know if this person will be a good fit for your company culture.

The trend for remote interview questions is to ask things about the applicant’s time and work management approach. Questions like: “How do you schedule your day? What does a day working from home look like for you? Describe your physical workspace?” are among those often posed in interviews for remote roles. You’re looking to identify someone who will fit your organization and cope with remote work challenges. Take some time to come up with your own twist on those questions to find that out. Additionally, identify which of those questions will better allow you to evaluate determined skills and traits in candidates. 

8. Listen!

A remote interview isn’t a monologue of you talking about the company and the position you’re looking to hire. It should be a two-way conversation, where you ask questions and enable the candidate to expand and share their answers in the most detailed way.

When you’re holding a conversation via video call it is harder to be fully focused. Experts say that being on a video call makes us work harder on processing non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone of voice, and body language making us consume a lot of our energy. 

After an hour in a video conference, our mind starts to wonder about what we’re going to have for dinner. However, fighting these distractions is possible when you have your mindset with a clear objective and a distraction-free zone. As you won’t be interacting with the candidate physically, make sure you pay close attention to their behavior and facial expressions. Look at the way they talk and how they express themselves. Instead of trying to take over the call most of the time, listen. Encourage them to ask questions and to share in-depth answers. 

9. Introduce Your Company Culture

We tend to think that interviews are about someone having the privilege to work for your company. But they are also the other way around: you have the privilege to work with someone talented. 

You want candidates that engage with your company and move along your values and beliefs. But how will you know for sure they are suitable for a role if you don’t share with them what your company stands for? 

Give them a panorama of your company culture sharing stories, examples, references that characterize your culture. Don’t recite the basic mission/vision statements but make them aware that each employee that works in the team shares those values and moves towards the same direction. 

10. Invite Other Team Members to the Remote Interview

When you’re hiring, you’re looking for someone who is a team player and gets along well with the team. Therefore, the hiring process is something you should also share with the rest of the team. Invite other team members to the interview and evaluate how a candidate interacts with them. 

Also, listen to what these team members have to say. Maybe someone thinks the candidate lacks x skill; others might think the candidate isn’t honest, and so on. It’s important to build a hiring decision that’s the most objective way possible, considering other observations and opinions besides your own. 

11. Take Time to Decide

Whether it’s urgent or not, it’s important to take time to make the right choice. Otherwise, it could cost you a lot of money. For instance, according to CareerBuilder, 74% of companies who made a poor hire lost approximately $14,9000 per poor hire.

When we say ‘take time,’ we don’t mean an entire month. But maybe take an afternoon to make a thoughtful evaluation of a candidate. Analyze their CV, the notes you took during the meeting, what other candidates say about them. After you finish analyzing this, let the candidate be aware of your decision, whether it’s good news and they are hired, or whether it’s bad news and they need to continue doing their job search. 

12. Have a Plan B 

The day of the interview arrived. You have it in the afternoon, so meanwhile, you do other important tasks. Suddenly, your internet connection starts failing, and you realize that your internet service provider is experiencing outages in your area. There’s nothing you can do but wait! 

When this type of situation happens, having a plan B comes in handy. Your plan B could be having the interview via your phone or simply rescheduling the appointment. 

If the candidate is the one with internet problems for different reasons, give them a chance to reconnect. If it’s impossible, try to figure out the best solution to move forward with the interview. 

Last Tip: Hire Great Candidates with DistantJob 

One way in which you can make the remote interview process simpler is to make sure you’ve got the very best candidates. Here at DistantJob, we spend our days headhunting and pre-vetting remote developers. So, if we send you a CV, you can rest assured the hard work is already done.

If you’re looking for remote IT talent, get in touch with us, and we will start working right away on finding your perfect match.

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Ihor

Ihor

Ihor leads the team at the core of what makes DistantJob successful – our incredible recruitment team! With over 8 years of experience as an IT recruitment professional, Ihor’s experience covers the whole breadth of the staffing and recruitment lifecycle – from sourcing and recruiting top-notch developers himself, to leading teams of recruiters.