The Remote Interview - 15 Tips to make it effective

The Remote Interview - 15 Tips to make it effective

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.

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 focus on how someone will help you solve the problems. Another way to look at this is to ask “what does success look like for this candidate?”

If you aren’t clear about what problem(s) you’re trying to solve, then there is clearly 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 interview 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. (just be sure you’ve done suitable interview training though!)
  • 30 minutes – HR and Hiring Manager – opportunity to cover any legal questions, career planning, management approach and to close out the remote 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 remote 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 candidate’s phone number and other contact details in case 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 interview, so send them details of the people they will be speaking to along with the relevant phone numbers, video call links etc.

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 the remote interview. You want to see them at their best – so give them the best chance to prep. If they chose not to prepare – well – that becomes an easy decision for yourself.

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 session 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 well versed in effective communication.

7. Make notes during the remote interview

Take copious notes.

You are unlikely to remember everything you have spoken about, so make lots of notes. I like to use the Cornell Note Taking Method, but find the one that works for you.

These notes should capture what was said and the observations you make around answers, behaviours and also a record of the questions the candidate asks.

These notes are essential for when it comes time to make a decision. Do not make decisions about hiring based on gut feeling alone. The most effective thing you can do as a manager or leader, is build a strong team. Make it hard to get a job and keep the bar high – and that starts with good, strong, effective, due dilligence in an interview.

It’s also essential to keep these interview notes should anything become “legal” after the interview. Let’s say you reject a candidate for sound reasons but they file a legal complaint against you and your team……you’re going to be glad you kept those notes, and stored them in your HR system alongside the candidate’s details. You’ll also be glad you had multiple people interviewing – and of course, you’ll also be glad you trained people on the legalities of interviewing… did didn’t you?

8. Compensate for a lack of visuals

If you’re doing a remote interview via a video call, then you should ensure cameras are enabled (make this a pre-wire and expectation of the interview). You need to see the candidate so you can make eye contact, build a stronger relationship and look for non-verbal tells. It will be limited here though as you won’t see the whole of them but there will still be plenty of information to take in.

You’ll still need to compensate for lack in-person chemistry, mimicking and natural processing of body language. Yes, you do it naturally as I explain the Super Power Workshop – we just teach you how to make it more conscious.

You may be surprised by how much of the meaning in communication 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 (carefully) with 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 remote interview.

9. Don’t eat or drink during the remote 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. If you need to have a drink, turn your microphone of at least. Nobody needs to hear that.

10. Give plenty of time for questions

A good candidate, in my experience, will ask lots of questions, especially so in a remote interview, as they too are not seeing everything around them (the office, other people working etc). 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. Don’t hire. Asking questions is a sign of curiosity, information gathers, studying and is at the heart of solving problems

11. Ask behavioural based questions

The questions you ask should be behavioural based.

Think about questions like:

  1. “Tell me about a time when you did X – what happened and how was it received?”
  2. “Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with someone else. What happened and how did you resolve it?”
  3. “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, not what they “think” about a certain topic.

Try not to ask questions about what they think. It’s easy to read a few books and repeat back someone else’s ideas – trust me, plenty of consultants are exceptionally good at this.

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 or 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 25 people, what was the hardest part and please give me some examples of when it was overwhelming, or challenging?”

Or ask paraphrase questions to their answers:

  • “You just mentioned that you like to provide active coaching to your direct reports. Can you share some examples of the techniques and approaches you used, and explain, with examples, how you know your coaching has been successful”

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.

For example:

“By Monday we will have contacted the recruitment agent with the outcome of this interview”.

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 in the HR system.

This is a good way to ensure you have captured the relevant and timely information about the candidate. Then pull everyone together and discuss the candidate.

Yes, or No is the essence of this meeting (finally, a meeting with a clear purpose), with evidence of behaviours and answers etc to support the decision.

The sooner you can do this after the interview, 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. That is one of the hallmarks of an effective recruitment process – ensuring timely communication to candidates who are talented. You can read about this in my book “Join our company”.

If your decision is to hire the candidate, then you want to get that offer to them before they choose someone else. If you will not be hiring them, then it’s just common decency to let them know in a timely fashion.

15. Improve the remote interview process

Study the entire end to end process of the remote interview (and the pre-steps and post-steps to the interview). Staple yourself to the candidate and follow their journey through the process. Was it positive, negative or meh?

Reflect, ask for feedback from attendees and candidates, study which bits went well, and which bits didn’t. Learn and improve and keep getting better.

And in no time at all, you will become an expert at the remote interview process.