How to Conduct Remote Interviews: 10 Tips from A Remote Hiring Manager

Waikit Lau Waikit Lau
How to Conduct Remote Interviews: 10 Tips from A Remote Hiring Manager

Updated on December 30, 2021

As the world takes shelter from COVID-19, remote work continues to gain traction. Now is the time to think about how you recruit your talent.

10 Pro Tips on Remote Interviews

Here are 10 best practices for conducting a successful remote interview:

1. Adopt a digital mindset

2. Show and tell

3. Clear your desk

4. Be prepared

5. Create an engaging interview experience

6. Get the right tools

7.  Encourage candidates to think out loud

8.  Be attentive

9.  Capture interview artifacts

10. Be consistent

1. Adopt a digital mindset

To successfully conduct a virtual interview, hiring managers need to think outside of the conference room. What works for on-site, in-person interviews may not always translate to a virtual setting.

While the natural inclination might be to simply take what you already know about conducting an interview and apply it to a remote interview process, adjusting to the new remote paradigm will actually require some degree of unlearning analog habits.

Here are a few ways to get into a digital frame of mind:

2. Show and Tell

To be sure, these sessions are always done as a video interview. We use RemoteHQ for the interview, but Zoom or Google Meet are other popular options.

During the interview, the interviewer opens up and shows the candidate "a day in the life" of their expected role. It helps the candidate to get a better idea about the position.

Plus, it also helps us that the candidates understands and, more importantly, can handle, the roles and responsibilities of the position.

We like to do the following:

  • Share pictures from team-building events to give the candidate an idea of the company culture,
  • Play a video from a sprint review, or even demo a company product, which is non-proprietary information
  • Utilize visual aids, such as organizational charts, timelines, or a rundown of the team members when you talk about the company

The goal here is to make sure you and the candidate are on the same page.

While an in person interview may be easier to show the candidate the office, interviewing from your laptop has perks, too, so use them. It often doesn't take to more than a few seconds to pull up a task to demonstrate a daily task for example.

3. Clear your desk

Keep distractions to a minimum. Shut off your second monitor and your Slack notifications.

We also encourage putting away all sticky notes and notebooks. Handwritten feedback is time consuming and difficult to share. Plus, taking notes can interrupt the cadence of the conversion.

Instead, we use tools readily available on your laptop or browser, like digital note taking. We just leave open a text editor or the notepad within the RemoteHQ shared browser.

For quick notes about interviewees, you can create a feedback template, questions list, survey, or checklist to reuse for each interview.

Keep the checklist off to the side, and tick off boxes for qualities or qualifications that you're looking for, or quickly grade the candidate on how they were able to answer the interview questions, etc.

4. Be prepared

Unfortunately, technology snafus are not as innocuous as a double-booked conference room. Like it or not, a disruption with your equipment draws attention away can leave a negative impression. That's especially true for remote-first organization who depend on the high quality audio visual and high speed internet connections to deliver your work.

Some recommendations to discuss at the start of the call or via email before the call:

  • Tell candidates what to do in the event of a technology snag during the interview, and how you'll keep in touch, whether by chat, another application, or an old fashion phone call.
  • Supply a phone number to text or other backup methods of communication.
  • Ensure you are in sync regarding time zones, in case you have to reschedule.

Sometimes, with an online interview, since a candidates pour in from far and wide, missing the meeting isn't about being late but about a simple timezone mishap. On your end, creating workarounds is often as simple as installing the Teams app on your phone to use in case your computer dies, or your internet connection/wi-fi signal is lost, or someone spills coffee on your laptop (it happens!).

Get in the habit of testing your A/V, recruiting platform, and related tools before each interview.  

Develop troubleshooting steps to keep in your back pocket. And once you have all of your tools and backups established, don't forget to learn the programs. While these programs are very intuitive these days, it doesn't mean they're perfect. Don't be afraid to look up some tutorials, or do a test run with the programs.

5. Creating a collaborative experience

To keep candidates engaged, give them an experience that feels conversational. A genuine, human connection goes a long way when conducting a remote interview. It's not only a good way to ensure you're putting your best foot forward, but it will also help you to gain a better understanding of the candidate in the end.

Check out our step by step tutorial on how to conduct an engaging technical candidate interview using RemoteHQ.

Here are a few ways to stay engaged:

6. Get the right tools

High-quality audio and video is your top priority. Without it, you run the risk of leaving a poor impression, or worse, passing up a qualified candidate.

For video call or video conferencing, use what works for you but here's are a few best in class options:

RemoteHQ: for remote interviewing that want a collaborative video conferencing experience with built-in co-browsing tools, access to Google Workspace, Microsoft apps, an online notepad.

Zoom: for those in need of conveniences that the only most popular video conferencing platform in the world offers

Google Meet: for those heavy Gmail and Google Calendar user who want the built in ease of use that comes from the integration.

Pro Tip: Look for the product with a co-browsing feature to boost engagement during the interview or keep a link to the presentation readily available.

For presentations, here are a few best in class options:

Google Slides: for a free, cloud-based presentation to easily retrieve during the interview. It's great for collaborating with your team in preparation for the interview for human resources and hiring managers who want the professional look, but don't have the design chops.

Prezi: for breaking the linear presentation format.

Pro Tip: Have your slides opened ahead of the scheduled interview or keep a link to the presentation readily available.

Next, find the tools that support your assessment strategy.

For example, you can use an IDE for code exercises, and a virtual whiteboard for designs or diagrams.

For a roundup of developer assessment tools, checkout SelectSoftware Reviews.

Pro Tip: Don't forget about licensing, configuration, and download requirements when deciding which tools to purchase.

7. Encourage candidates to think out loud

Don't just roll through your remote interview questions. Instead, look for ways to foster an interactive discussion. Encourage candidates to think out loud as they work through a complex question or technical exercise.

Be prepared to give hints and ask probing questions to keep the conversation going. Structure your interview to include natural breaks, making sure there are ample opportunities to dive deeper into topics of extreme expertise or interest to your candidates.

Utilize screen-sharing or co-browsing tools to visually walk the candidate through certain processes or to allow them to take you through their portfolio.

8. Be attentive

Minimize distractions by silencing notifications or temporarily disabling your taskbar. If you have more than one monitor, make sure you're looking at the screen closest to your webcam. This will help to maintain the feeling of eye contact. Your candidate will feel listened to and thereby more eager to talk.

To preempt personal interruptions, schedule deliveries, check on pets, and notify family members ahead of time. The last thing you want during your interview is for Alexa to tell you you have a delivery waiting at your front door.

Body language is still as important for video calls as it was for traditional job interviews.

Unlike a phone interview, a video interview still relies on visual and instinctive cues. Yes, this means you still have to smile, pay attention to how you dress, and, in general, act like you are still interacting face-to-face. But it also means you have to have the ability to properly capture all of that. If your lighting is so bad that you can't really be seen, none of the other stuff will matter.

9. Capture remote interview artifacts

To thoroughly review candidates with your colleagues, capture complete and consistent documents or artifacts from each interview.

Record what you can.

Diligent note-taking is distracting and rarely helpful, but video recording is a great way to ensure you are remembering the key takeaways of your video chat.

Use Loom or a virtual meeting platform with a video recording feature, like RemoteHQ.

Just make sure your remote job interview candidate is okay with being recorded.

Use a checklist

Collect responses more quickly, by using a checklist format for questions that have a standard set of answers. Simply check off the items that the candidate knows. You'll add more structure to the interview, and spend less time writing down information you already know.

Then, when you have finished with the interview, you can expand upon the items in the checklist while they are still fresh in your mind.

Here's an example format for questions about RESTful web services.

Looking for something more robust? Try creating an online survey that prompts the interviewer to ask different questions, based on the depth of the candidate’s answers.

10. Be consistent

Use the same application, file format, and file system for all candidate evaluations.

Check your notes for discrepancies before sharing your feedback, and set up an archive system, whether email or shared drive, that you and your HR team can both access in the future.

The Future is Remote

With the rapid growth of video conferencing apps and prevalence of remote job listings, expect to see more companies pivot to remote interviewing and recruiting. Just remember to: adopt a digital mindset, collaborate with candidates, and capture the artifacts you need.