In this post I’m going to share 15 tips for conducting an amazing remote interview.
The following tips are for managers who want to conduct an amazing remote interview, keep the bar high and put the candidate at the heart of the process.
Read on or watch the video. Or both
1. What problem are you trying to solve?
Hiring is about solving problems or opening up opportunities.
- So what problem are you trying to solve?
- What will this person add and bring to the business?
- What capabilities, skills or experience are missing from your team?
Get clear. And hire to solve the problem. Therefore, the questions you choose and the approach you take, should all be geared around solving your problems.
Keep it at the forefront of your mind. Structure the remote interview around this problem and how someone will help you solve it.
Aren’t clear what problem you’re trying to solve? Then no need to hire somebody…right?
2. Be flexible
Many candidates will already be employed and cannot easily take time out of their current working day to speak to you. So be flexible and offer times that are suitable for the candidate. Maybe they have kids at home, are working strange shift patterns or simply cannot take time away from their current role.
Hiring is a two-way process and it’s as much about selling you, the job and the company, as it is about assessing the candidate’s suitability. Good candidates often have multiple options to choose from, so be flexible right from the start and make it easy for them to speak to you. Reduce friction.
Expect to hold the remote interview early mornings, over lunch and maybe even early evening. Stay flexible. Make it easy for the candidate – they likely have other options open to them.
3. Structure the interview well
Keep your remote interviews to a set schedule. Create an agenda for the interview and stick to it. Communicate it clearly to the candidate also.
If it’s a filter interview before a face to face, then keep it to 30 minutes.
If it’s a replacement for a face to face interview, then keep it the same length as you would for a face to face interview. In my opinion that should be no less than 2 hours.
Here’s an agenda I always use:
- 30 minutes – Hiring Manager + Senior / Team Lead – discuss person, behaviours and career aspirations.
- 1 hour – Team members / Team leads – those who will be working with the person should be interviewing for skills, experience, relevance to problems to be solved and team fit.
- 30 minutes – HR and Hiring Manager – opportunity to cover any legal questions, career planning, management approach and to close out the interview like a pro (see later).
Stick to the allocated time with military precision.
It helps to ensure a smooth process, time to cover everything and an opportunity for as many people to meet the candidate as is possible.
Make sure there is time for questions and a break too.
4. Plan accordingly
Prepare in advance for the interview.
Plan your location, connection and quiet space.
Find somewhere decluttered and somewhat professional. If you’re in the office, book a decent room with good lighting, equipment and internet connection.
If you’re home, make sure you’ve got a decent place to sit that is quiet, well connected and somewhat professional looking.
Turn up early and check the audio and connectivity. Also make sure you have a consistently good mobile signal if you’re using a mobile phone.
Make sure you have the candidate’s CV or social profile and any other information you need. Ensure you have the candidates phone number and other contact details incase you get disconnected.
Make sure you have notebooks, pens or other note taking tools.
Most of all – make sure you’ve prepared your questions in advance.
5. Send them full details about the remote interview
It’s really important that you make it easy for the candidate to prepare for the remote interview, so send them details of the people they will be speaking to along with the relevant phone numbers.
Share the agenda. Let them know what’s expected of them – and how the interview will be structured.
Give them the best chance of preparing for an interview. You want to see them at their best – so give them the best chance to prep. If they chose not to prepare – well – easy decision.
6. Pair up
Pair up for each section of the interview so that you get a balanced view of the candidate.
Biases creep in all over, so ensure as many people meet the candidate as possible – and always ensure there are two people in each section representing the company.
It’s also good for the candidate to meet as many people as possible so they can ask questions, meet those they will work with and get a feel for what it’s like to work in your company.
Don’t forget to include this information in the pre-wire communications to them and the agenda.
Of course, it goes without saying, but make sure everyone on your interview team is trained in good behavioural questioning, the legalities of interviews and are pretty good at reading people and their non-verbal tells.
7. Make notes during the interview
You are unlikely to remember everything you have spoken about, so make lots of notes.
These notes should capture what was said and the observations of behaviours. They are crucial for when you come to make a decision. The last thing you need is to make a decision based on gut feel or beliefs – make the decision based on sound observations and evidence – notes help you to record those observations. Notes can also be stored in the approved HR system alongside the candidate’s details.
8. Compensate for a lack of visuals
If you’re doing a video call, then you’ll still lose a lot of non-verbal communication and body language cues. As such it’s important to be clear when you’re communicating and compensate for lack of visuals.
You may be surprised by how much of the conversations meaning is conveyed by non-verbals such as gesture, posture and facial expressions.
You must compensate for this lack of visual clues by actively listening to what is being said and appreciating that sometimes the words won’t always convey the true message.
In instances where you have some doubts or niggles about what has been said then dig deeper. Ask qualifying and clarifying questions to find out more. You may need to do this more on a remote call than in-person.
When you are listening use the occasional verbal feedback so that they know you are paying attention. A simple “yep” or “uhum” is enough to give them some feedback.
Use simple words and be sure to be as clear as possible on the call.
9. Don’t eat or drink during the interview
It’s really obvious when someone is eating, drinking or smoking when on a call.
It’s really off-putting and somewhat rude, so be cautious about eating, drinking or smoking when you are interviewing.
10. Give plenty of time for questions
A good candidate, in my experience, will ask lots of questions. They will be keen to find out more about you, the company and the role.
Ensure plenty of time for questions.
What? They have zero questions to ask about you, the role, the team, the business, the market, the future, their role, their career support, the product? Easy decision.
11. Ask behavioural based questions
The questions you ask should be behavioural based.
Think about questions like:
- “Tell me about a time when you did X – what happened and how was it received?”
- “Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with someone else. What happened and how did you resolve it?”
- “Tell me about a time when you didn’t communicate as well as you should have?”
You’re looking for what they did, what they said, how they responded.
Try not to ask questions about what they think. It’s easy to read a few books and repeat back someone else’s ideas. Instead, try to dig for their behaviours and experience – not just their thoughts.
My go to list for behavioural questions is here on The Balance Careers.
12. Ask open ended questions
There are many different types of questions.
- The binary / yes/no question – somewhat pointless
- “Did you work at X company for 10 years?”
- The hypothetical question – a good communicator will have no problem spinning an answer you want to hear.
- “How would you cope with 14 direct reports?”
- The probing or controversial question, designed to get a reaction. Don’t use it – why would you want to talk about something controversial in a fake setting on a call?
- “All degree students are useless – what do you think?
Instead, ask open ended questions
- “Tell me about the time you managed 10 people, what was the hardest part and please give me some examples of when it was overwhelming?”
Or ask paraphrase questions to their answers:
- “You just mentioned you like to provide active coaching. What is active coaching and share with me an example of it in action?”
13. End the remote interview like a pro
At the end of the remote interview be sure to state what the next steps are. Clarity is crucial.
You may not want to tell the candidate what your decision is (in fact I would recommend you don’t) but do state what will happen next.
Are you going to let the recruiter know?
Are you going to be back in touch tomorrow or next week?
What happens next?
Use “Time Speak” to give clear dates / times / durations on when they can expect to hear from you. Measure this in hours and days – not weeks – remember, talented people have options.
14. Make a decision
It’s good to write up your notes as near to the end of the interview as possible and file these against the candidate’s application if you can.
This gives lots of cross reference and is a good way of ensuring you capture relevant and timely information about the candidate.
Then pull everyone together and discuss the candidate.
Yes, or No?
The quicker you can do this, the fresher the candidate is in people’s memories. Give people time to reflect but aim to have the discussion within half a day of the interview.
You’ll also need to get back to the candidate as soon as possible, either way.
If yes, you want to offer them before they go elsewhere. If no, it’s just common decency to let them know.
15. Improve the remote interview process
Work out whether the interview went well. Reflect, ask attendees, ask candidates, study which bits went well, and which bits didn’t. Learn and improve and keep getting better.
If you enjoyed this post then why not check out my book Join Our Company where I share a lot more advice on interviews, onboarding and attracting talent.