The 8 Essentials of Virtual Hiring

Buying clothes off the web used to seem strange. Online dating was practically taboo. And hiring someone you hadn’t even met in person? Unheard of. But things change. Whether out of curiosity or necessity — and a global pandemic constitutes a significant necessity — we all began exploring new ways of doing old things.

While in-person interviews were certainly the norm prior to COVID-19, our team at Mix Talent jumped right into this new and very virtual normal to make sure our clients could move forward and feel good about all the hires they needed to make.

For some organizations, evaluating and hiring virtually may still feel a little more daunting than 1-click ordering a pack of undershirts, but companies and candidates have a lot to feel confident about. If they plan well.

 “If you’re not prepared, you’ll look like an unmade bed to the candidate,” warns Chad Thompson, Ph.D, a Principal here at Mix Talent. “It’s important to have a method, a plan, an intentionality, and a thoughtfulness — for the sake of companies and candidates.”

So how do you prepare? Our team at Mix Talent made a list: 

1. Define good.

Thompson recommends proactively deciding what good looks like in a candidate. Create behaviorally oriented descriptions so you can be more structured in your evaluation. “It’s very important in a conference room and even more so on a video call with kids and dogs around.” Know what you’re looking for so the distractions don’t get in the way.

2. Use your tools.

The disruption of the normal process may feel like a handicap to interviewers who in the past may have relied heavily on intangibles like the vibe of a room. In their place, Thompson says structured assessments and solid interviewing techniques become even more important.

3. Stay connected.

Large, in-person interviewing events make it easier to keep track of questions that are asked and even the order of the interviews. Thompson explains that it’s more important to be intentional and have solid coordination between the interviewers so, for example, five different people don’t unintentionally ask the same question. Brittany Bricker, a Client Solutions lead here at Mix Talent, underscores the importance of each interviewer knowing their order so they are prepared to do more of an introduction if they are first, or address next steps if they are last, for example.

“Be mindful of things beyond just your piece of the interview.” 

4. Be user-friendly.

For some candidates, technology may be one of the most profound challenges of the interview — based on their experience, the tools in their home, and even variables totally out of their control. Make it as easy as you can for them.

“You should have tested multiple technologies to make sure they’re reliable, can handle the bandwidth, and are easy for the candidate and the manager,” says our Talent Optimization Practice Leader Amy Akillian.

5. Embrace change.

Be open to evaluating your own process and seeing whether it still holds up when you move it online. Are there pieces to leave out? Is anything missing? The pandemic shutdown began one week before a major hiring event for one of Akillian’s clients.

“We had to keep the rigor of a real event, but made it all virtual. In doing so, we added an intermediary step in our recruitment process between the phone screens and the actual interview. We added a first-round video interview, which served as a dry-run for the candidate and the hiring manager. This bolstered the interview process, created an opportunity to test the technology, and inserted an additional touch point.”

On the flip side, by re-evaluating the onboarding process, now in a virtual format, Akillian found ways to streamline it, which not only optimized the experience for new hires, but saved lots of money.

6. Let your humanity shine through.

At its core, hiring is the business of people. Life in quarantine — with so many people working from home — has only made this more apparent. Whether it’s a candidate’s messy video backdrop, extraneous humans and pets entering the picture, or candidates’ new levels of uncertainty, real parts of their lives will be more on display than in a typical boardroom interview.

Akillian says, “This is an opportunity for companies to show the human side of their culture — beyond their company statements.”

7. Over-communicate.

Do you expect candidates to dress as they would for an in-person interview? Will you? Will you be judging candidates’ video backgrounds? Whatever your expectations, Bricker says it’s crucial to make sure the candidate knows them in advance. And, some details that might get covered in a tour of the office may need more than a few seconds in the video interview.

“Candidates are going to lose elements of their ability to get a good feel for the culture and who the company is because they will probably be more focused on what to do with their hands.”

Bricker said for some clients she’s created short videos with content like a tour of the company office, so candidates get everything they’re missing out on.

8. Expect the unexpected.

Things will go wrong. A communication gap. A technology glitch. It could be practically anything. The key is for interviewers to be flexible and adaptable. Bricker says it’s essential to be solutions-oriented, make suggestions where appropriate, and understand that things won’t be perfect and no one can help it. Do what you can to make the interviewee feel comfortable.

 So much is different in this new world of evaluating and hiring talent, but Bricker reminds us that in some ways, nothing has really changed.

“From both the candidates’ and the hiring managers’ sides, one of the most important pieces of advice I give is to treat the virtual experience like an in-person interview. Your body language matters. Your energy will be read. Don’t forget that those things still exist.”

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