Anyone who has been hiring or job hunting during the pandemic knows that the virtual interview is the latest gatekeeper in the recruitment process.
While virtual interviewing offers many benefits to businesses and applicants alike, there can also be complications like technical difficulties, potential biases, and problems maintaining flow and structure in the conversation.
We’ll address some of the pros and cons of virtual engagement and discuss how you can overcome challenges to make the most of your virtual recruitment process.
Why conduct virtual interviews?
Even post-quarantine, working from home is still where it’s at. The majority of people worked remotely during the pandemic, and some even started side businesses or took freelance gigs to make the most of their time. In fact, three quarters of all online self-employed workers make just as much income freelancing as they did when employed full time.
Because of this, remote or hybrid work options are becoming the new normal. For hiring, this means you should set the tone for flexible positions by harnessing remote recruitment strategies as well. There are numerous benefits to virtual recruitment that will continue to improve how companies do their hiring, even when restrictions like social distancing are no longer an issue.
For one thing, virtual recruitment is more flexible and convenient for both interviewers and interviewees. Candidates don’t have to travel to get to the appointment, and it saves time for companies who can loop more people (including remote staff) into the meetings and fit in more interviews per day. This can accelerate the hiring process to the benefit for both parties.
Another convenience is that video interviews can be recorded, providing consent is obtained. This makes the review process easier because, since interviewers know they can rewatch the interaction later, they don’t have to take as many notes and can focus on engaging in the moment.
Increased inclusivity is another boon of virtual interviews. Biases like how a person looks and how they carry themselves can be limiting and harmful in the hiring process. For example, if someone doesn’t own a suit or if they are very nervous, it can unconsciously impact the interviewer’s opinion of their expertise – even though these things have nothing to do with job-specific know-how.
These factors disproportionately impact persons of color, women, and people with visible and non-visible disabilities. There are already numerous barriers minority groups face breaking into industries where they are under-represented, and bias in hiring is often the start of those problems. Though virtual recruiting can not solve these problems, there are ways to leverage technology to reduce bias, leading to a more inclusive recruitment experience and more diverse teams.
Challenges with virtual recruitment
While virtual interviews can be very convenient, no technology is without its inconveniences. Tech issues can certainly make virtual interviews nerve-wracking for candidates. What’s more, there can be video or audio quality issues and communication delays that make it difficult to maintain a comfortable flow of conversation or observe body language.
Because of this, although video interviews may be better than options like phone interviews, there is still nothing quite the same as in-person interaction for gauging the personality of candidates. It’s easier to develop a rapport in person, and video calls can add awkwardness that might not be there if everyone was sitting in the same room.
There is also a new potential for bias even as some biases within traditional recruitment are being overcome. One issue is so-called background bias – and we don’t mean your professional background. This refers to what’s going on behind you in your video calls. Not everyone has an at-home office, and some candidates might be forced to take calls in their bedrooms, cars, etc.
While most platforms have options to put up a virtual background to decrease distraction, this doesn’t account for what’s going on around you. People who live in multi-generational households – and particularly those with young children – might have to deal with background noise or interruptions as they try to take calls. At least one perk of in-person interviews was that no one could judge your home environment, and with virtual interviews, this may not be the case.
How to make the most of virtual recruitment
Now that we’re aware of some of the challenges of virtual recruitment, let’s explore some tips on how best to overcome these issues and make the most of your virtual recruitment process.
Build a website that supports virtual recruiting
Before you take the leap into virtual recruitment, you need to make sure your company’s tech infrastructure supports it. You may already be using Zoom or Slack internally for remote work without trouble, but to go fully virtual with your hiring, you will need an online platform with the bandwidth and capability to support video interviews, HR databases, technical and personality assessments, etc.
This means you need a website and a web host that can support multiple integrations while maintaining consistent up-time. According to industry expert Alex Williams of Hosting Data, a reliable web host is a must-have for any company bringing their operations online, independent of industry.
“You might be thinking ‘why do I need to bother with all these factors? I sell cupcakes for a living. I don’t need to meta-analyse server uptime scores’,” says Williams. But you do. Take it from the expert: “A fast, reliable web host with great customer service will save you money, time, and a whole lot of hassle.”
Without a stable web hosting platform, your business won’t be equipped to go virtual with the recruitment process.
Choose the right online platform
Related to the stability of your website is the quality of the interview platform itself. This is not simply true for virtual interviewing – all remote business activities need the right tools for success. Since both your current and prospective employees will be using it, you need to look for intuitive platforms that integrate with your existing business solutions.
You should look for video interview platforms with HD audio capabilities and noise cancellation to present a professional persona in interviews (and business meetings). Also, keep your WiFi bandwidth in mind – you don’t want to find that you have to turn off video during an interview to decrease connectivity issues.
Structure the interview
Once you have the infrastructure in place, you’re not done with your prep work. You should also prepare questions in advance and outline what you want to cover in each interview.
As we said, virtual interviews can be awkward, especially if the applicant isn’t used to them. The best way to eliminate this awkwardness is to provide just enough structure to keep things moving while still leaving some time for small talk and building a rapport. With the right tools, you can maintain control of your meeting schedule while still keeping the atmosphere comfortable.
You should also spend some time reflecting on what specific things you’re looking for in candidates. There may be traits or skill sets that are not negotiable in your company culture or for particular positions, but you can’t leave it to candidates to lead with those. To set yourself and your candidates up for success, ensure the questions you prepare assess the areas that are most important to you.
Give candidates clear instructions
Whether in-person or remote, clarity of communication is critical in setting up successful hiring processes, and it’s in both yours and your applicants’ best interests that everyone is prepared for the interview. There is nothing like realizing five minutes before it starts that you need to download a desktop app or make an account to use the platform. Prepare detailed user instructions and send them days in advance so your applicants can get ready.
If there are going to be technical assessments or writing samples as part of the process, give clear guidelines for these as well. Send any invitations, meeting passwords, or assessments via email, and request confirmation. Test your connection and audio/video equipment in advance, and encourage interviewees to do the same.
Shake things up
You’re already taking a step in the right direction by modernizing your recruitment, so why not take things a step further? You can widen your talent pipeline with creative virtual hiring activities and make use of your new online platform. Recruitment events are a good way to find talent and get your name out there in the industry, but the typical career fair booths and networking webinars may not cut it in 2021.
Consider diversifying your online recruitment in a way that highlights your company’s personality. Conduct AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) sessions or unscripted conversations with your staff or CEO to show the world what you’re all about. This honesty can build trust in your company and set the tone for a healthy work culture among current and future employees.
Virtual office tours are another good way to get people interested without scheduling in-person visits, especially if you have labs or other facilities that you’re especially proud of. Depending on your industry, a writing competition, Capture the Flag event, or hackathon can also offer interesting tactics for vetting prospective talent and stirring up interest, particularly if you’re recruiting recent grads.
As we emerge from the pandemic, our working world has changed – quite possibly for the better. To take advantage of the flexibility and productivity of remote and hybrid work, you must start by using those same solutions for your recruitment process.
Virtual interviewing is not without its challenges. But by following these tips, you can streamline your online recruitment with a dependable platform and strong interviewing strategies to benefit your company and your prospective candidates.
Read next: 8 Tips to Ace Your Video Conference Interview