The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much about our everyday lives, including how we conduct interviews. While many have switched to virtual interviews, there are several things about this process to consider in order to make sure you are still properly screening candidates.

Ensure A Face-to-Face Element

Take every step you can to create some form of face-to-face contact. As the pandemic continues, many people are out of work and searching for a position that will provide steady employment, despite the highs and lows of COVID. They may be quick to look into long-term care, and even quicker to apply without understanding the responsibilities of the job. Amidst staffing concerns, and with many companies completing an abbreviated interview process, it may seem like the most convenient way to hire someone quickly would be to complete a phone interview only. But, are we missing out on important elements by eliminating face-to-face contact? Are we getting the best possible “picture” of the applicant? When they arrive for their first day, are they what you expected? Is the job what they expected?

Taking the time to host a video interview adds a level of connection that can’t be matched over the phone. In its simplest form, it gives the applicant a face to put with your name, a warm greeting, and a peek into your building. Your applicant may also get a small taste of your culture this way, as well as a better understanding of the role and what you’re looking for in a candidate. The same is true for your hiring manager, as they too will get a face to put with a name, and hopefully a warm greeting. They may also get a glimpse into personality traits or demeanor that might signal the candidate is truly a good fit for the position and the community. It may also be easier to spot red flags that could lead you to pursue another applicant.

Expectation = Dress For the Real Thing

It’s 9:30am. You log in to Zoom to host your first virtual interview, and there is your applicant sitting in her pajamas, featuring pillow-tossed-hair and clearly taking this call from bed.

A video interview can come with all sorts of surprises, but hopefully the scenario above isn’t one you’ll experience. One way to help avoid these kinds of situations is to create an F.A.Q. sheet for applicants that helps to set your expectations. The F.A.Q.s could be posted on the application page, or e-mailed once an applicant has submitted their application. We’re all navigating new territory when it comes to hiring during a pandemic, so provide as much detail as possible. An applicant may not see a video interview as being as formal an interview as in an office setting. They may see no harm in showing up in their pajamas or sweats. Setting expectations will help you both be on the same page. You can answer questions in advance, like, “Will I need to have my camera on?,” “What should I wear to my video interview?,” or “Should I be early for a virtual interview?” You could also provide a brief summary that covers what to expect from a virtual interview to help reiterate your expectations.

What’s the Easiest Way to Connect?

Finding the best program to connect virtually may be the trickiest part of getting started. With so many options available, it is absolutely necessary to take the time to explore what option will be the best fit for your community. Zoom and FaceTime certainly find themselves at the top of the list when it comes to name recognition, but everyone may not have access to these programs. Finding a program that can be accessed by all smartphones may make the process easier on you and the candidate. You might also want to consider using multiple programs to make it easier for you, the candidate, and any manager that may be conducting interviews. Some options to consider other than Zoom and FaceTime include, Skype, Google Meet or Duo, Cisco Webex, and Microsoft Teams. If none of these seem like a great option, a simple Google search will provide you with even more choices to look into.

Once you’ve discovered the best program for your needs, it’s time for a test run. Everyone involved in the virtual interview process should be part of this. You should pay attention to signal strength, whether or not there is an audio delay, or if there are any hiccups with logging in. Make any necessary adjustments based on your findings in advance. Another thing to consider is whether or not you will need to share documents and/or your screen throughout the process. If so, you will want to ensure that the program you’re using allows for this. If it doesn’t, or if you would prefer, you can use another program for this altogether. Just make sure your candidate and interviewing team are aware.

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

What will the applicant take away from what they’re seeing on their screen? Are you sitting in a busy, noisy area? Are you being interrupted or constantly distracted? Is where you’re sitting messy or distracting? Virtual interviews should be treated the same as an in-office interview. Do your best to keep your virtual environment as professional as possible. Find a place to sit that has a neutral background and is quiet and clean. Let your team know that you will be on a virtual interview and limit all interruptions until the call has ended.

While it’s important on your end, you should expect the same environment on the other side of the screen. Inform applicants that to have the most successful virtual experience, they should sit in a quiet space, avoid distractions, and hold any other calls or interruptions until the interview has concluded. While this is the ideal scenario and these things can contribute to your impression of a person, keep in mind that many people are not experiencing life as an ideal scenario right now. Many people are not used to – or set up to – interview/work from home, and they may be watching their kids and/or assisting with virtual learning at the same time. While it’s important to watch for red flags and clues as to how they may treat their job and working environment, these things should also be kept in the back of your mind.

Compel Applicants with Your Culture

It’s easy to showcase your building and community culture when applicants are actually getting to walk through your building and see it for themselves. Creating the same experience virtually can be challenging. Come together as a team to create a culture pitch that will help applicants understand your company’s mission and vision. It’s important to try to get this across in a virtual interview, but you may need other materials to help. Consider creating visual materials that showcase your culture and that can be shared with the applicant before the interview.

Use Your Normal Interview Guide

Even though your interview format may have changed, you should have your questions prepared as though it has not. Using your normal interview guide or having questions prepared ahead of time will help you maintain a standard interview format that is both effective and efficient. Using the same script for each applicant will allow you to look at each candidate objectively and eliminate any unnecessary points that may lead to bias.

What Happens Once You Hang Up

Just as you would in an in-person interview, you should also have a closing routine to end your virtual interview. Ensure that the candidate knows what to expect once your on-screen time has come to an end. Encourage applicants to ask any questions that they may have about moving forward and plan to cover whether or not there are any additional steps in the interview process. You should also make them aware of when you expect to choose a candidate for the position, how the applicants will be informed on whether or not they got the job, and whether or not they will need to provide additional information (references, background checks, drug screens, etc.).

Another smart thing to cover that may help you stand out among other employers is to share how your company has been addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Make candidates aware of any new policies and procedure that you have in place, and let them know what to expect as they navigate their new role in your community.

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