In March, when employees began working remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown, many companies assumed this was a short-term shift. Months later, while some businesses are eyeing September as a target return date, others don’t plan to be back in the office until the end of the year, if even then.
But companies can’t wait until their teams are back in the office to move forward on critical business decisions. This is especially true when it comes to filling open positions. Companies need to make hiring decisions from afar. That can be challenging, especially when you have to conduct a remote technical interview.
However, with planning, you can design a remote technical interview that gives you and your candidate the information you both need to be confident in extending and accepting an offer.
Challenges of Remote Interviews
In a typical on-site interview, a candidate will get a good sense of a work environment just by passing through the building. Do people work in groups or alone at their desks? Are the employees diverse? Does the office feel relaxed, energetic, or tense? In a remote interview, the candidate will have more difficulty picking up on these cues.
As the in-person interviewer, you can pick up on the candidate’s body language and behaviors that you may not be able to recognize when conducting an interview using video, text, or phone. Because of this physical and emotional distance, it can be harder to establish a connection with candidates and feel good about making a hiring decision.
Keys to Conducting Remote Technical Interviews
Remote interviews for technical positions can be especially tricky. Not only is it more difficult to get to know a candidate’s personality and experience, but you also have to find ways to critically evaluate their skills against the demands of the position.
During an in-person interview, you might ask the candidate to map out a solution on a whiteboard or have a laptop handy for the candidate to write code. But in a virtual interview, you’ll need to get more creative with your practical assessments. With a little flexibility, you can get similar information and a clear picture of the candidate’s total personality and capabilities virtually.
Here are five best practices for conducting remote interviews with technical candidates:
Plan deep-dive screening. Even before an interview takes place, set the stage for success by getting a clear idea of the responsibilities, expectations, and skills needed for the role from the hiring department, and sharing that information with the candidates.
Beyond those initial questions, review the candidate’s portfolio, resume, and available social media posts to pose more personalized questions that explore in greater depth the traits that might make them a great fit for the role or deficiencies that indicate it’s time to move on.
To screen for technical abilities, you can assign an online skills test that asks candidates to solve a problem similar to one they would find in the job. Make sure that the test is not too time-consuming or cumbersome, or even your best candidates may drop out of the process.
Use video for a more personalized, intimate experience. To most closely replicate an in-person interview, use video, whether through Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, or other video chats, to best connect with a candidate. Most candidates, especially those interviewing for a technical position, should be familiar with these technologies, so this type of interview should not cause undue anxiety and will allow for a free-flowing, lively interaction just as you’d have in the office.
Some companies interview by text. Those companies suggest that since so much of internal communication is done by text that this is a good barometer of a candidate’s comfort with this type of communication. But this overlooks the wealth of information you get through the visual interaction.
Also, without being familiar with each other and the emotions conveyed, text messages can be misinterpreted, posing too much risk of miscommunication for use during an interview.
Ask technical and non-technical questions. It may not be logistically possible to have a candidate draw out a solution on a whiteboard during a remote interview. But you can ask them to walk you through how they would attack a specific problem, such as writing a small piece of code, similar to one they would encounter on the job. Listen to their description of how they would approach the problem and what technical details they would consider. Determine in advance what makes a “good” answer.
Even for technical jobs, ask about the candidate’s “soft skills.” These are also critical to success.
Learn more about about the candidate’s:
Ability to communicate
Assess their cultural fit by asking about their preferred work and management styles and core personal values. Describe the company culture in detail to paint a picture of what the job will be like beyond the daily tech-specific tasks and give them a chance to elaborate on how they might fit in with your culture.
Give hiring managers visibility and the opportunity to join. Better hires are made when hiring managers and other critical members of the team are part of the interviewing process and can provide diverse perspectives. However, it can be difficult to encourage that interaction when the candidate is remote. Using a talent management system that allows hiring managers to view, correspond with, and act on candidates improves the hiring process so that you can make a more informed and faster decision.
Communicate consistently. Whether the interview is conducted in-person or remotely, it is vital to keep candidates updated at each stage of the evaluation process. This is particularly important in engaging candidates with hard-to-find technical skills throughout the recruiting process. This communication helps candidates feel valued and creates a positive impression of the employer brand.
Remote interviews may require slightly different planning than in-person interviews, but with some forethought and additional planning, you can still get the critical information needed to make an informed hiring decision.
Contact us for a free personalized demo or to learn more about how SyncHR Recruit and the SyncHR HCM platform can streamline and improve your recruiting process.
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