Best Practices for Conducting Virtual Interviews

Virtual interviews are commonplace now, across just about every industry. Partly because of the pandemic’s effects, but also partly because of advancements in technology, virtual interviews are likely here to stay. They offer various benefits that make them an ideal option for hiring managers and candidates alike.  

While their benefits arguably outnumber their drawbacks, virtual interviews do pose a few challenges for both interviewers and interviewees. Since much of our effective communication relies on body language and non-verbal cues, virtual interviews can make it challenging for two people to “read” each other. After all, it feels different when making eye contact through a screen versus in a real interview setting. Plus, there are the added challenges of ensuring that the technology you plan to use for the interview is up to par.

To that end, we’ve rounded up a few simple ways to ensure that your virtual interview is smooth, clear, and well worth your time. 

The Benefits of Virtual Interviews

Before we discuss the best virtual interview practices to follow, here are the reasons that you should consider a virtual interview in the first place. No matter your industry, there are multiple reasons why virtual interviews make sense. 

First, they’re simply more convenient. For employers, they offer few to no logistical challenges regarding travel for potential candidates and the cost that entails. In addition to saving money, employers can save time, as hiring managers can more quickly move candidates along the hiring process. There’s no more waiting on back-and-forth travel for second- and third-stage interviews. 

Virtual interviews are beneficial to potential candidates, too. According to an Indeed survey, over one in three job seekers prefer to partake in an interview either over the phone or over video chat. This comes as no surprise; people feel more “at home” when they’re literally at home—and not in an office environment during what can already feel like a tense situation.

While the convenience factor is a major benefit for virtual interviews, it’s still important (for both candidate and employer) to treat the virtual interview the way you’d treat an in-person interview. This means preparation ahead of time. The virtual interview will likely entail more use of technology than would an in-person interview, so it’s important to ensure that you have an effective setup.  

For both employers and candidates, there are some “rules” to follow when conducting a virtual interview. 

Best Practices for Conducting Virtual Interviews

1. Choose the right location and setup. 

We discussed this in detail here regarding virtual presentations, but choosing a quiet, distraction-free environment anytime you’re on camera for business is important. As an employer or hiring manager, it can feel unprofessional if family members or roommates are walking into and out of your shot, but worse, it can be distracting for your interviewee, which is an unfair disadvantage. We recommend choosing a quiet, neutral space in your home that isn’t likely to be distracting to anyone. It should feel “office-like” inasmuch as possible, but if backdrop is a problem a green screen can be a perfect option.

Almost as important is your interviewee’s ability to “engage” with you over video, which means they need to be able to clearly see you. Best practice is to be relatively close to your camera—but not too close. Shoulders-up is an ideal distance away, so that they can make eye contact but not feel like you’re taking up the entire screen. To that end, lighting is key here as well. We recommend not sitting with a window behind you, since this can create shadows across your face. We also recommend utilizing a lighting source like a ring light to ensure that you’re well-lit for your interviewee. After all, they’re watching and listening to you as you ask them important questions, so it’s only fair that you ensure they can see you clearly.

content creator home setup with microphone and ring light
Photo by CultiVitae

2. Prepare your technology.

Technology is where the main differences between virtual interviews and in-person interviews comes into play. If you’ve done a ton of interviews in person, you may have to learn how to conduct interviews virtually—and this means being familiar with the virtual interview technology you choose.

First, there are plenty of options for virtual interview software. Your company likely has one that they prefer you use like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Webex. Some companies also use Skype, while others simply utilize FaceTime calls via iPhones. Whatever you choose, our main advice is this: practice, practice, practice. Do a trial run beforehand. Conduct a mock virtual interview with a colleague. We all know that technology can be challenging if you’re unfamiliar with it, so we recommend being very familiar with it before the real interview.

  • Here’s a quick checklist for ensuring that your tech is all set for the virtual interview:
    • Check your microphone. If your phone or computer’s microphone options are not as clear or loud as you’d like, consider using an external microphone. 
    • Test the “share screen” feature in your virtual interview software if you plan to utilize it during the interview.
    • Run through a mock interview with a coworker. 

3. Prepare your content.

Once your technology is prepared, you’ll want to ensure that your content is also prepared. This may include some introductory information about you and the company as well as the questions you plan to ask the candidate. We think it’s good practice in a virtual interview to give the candidate a general timeline and idea of how the interview process will go. This could be explained at the beginning of the virtual meeting or through email or phone communications beforehand. 

Additionally, most resources we consulted recommended creating a standardized rating system and keeping that on hand during the interview. Taking detailed notes about the candidate’s answers is also helpful, especially if you’re conducting multiple virtual interviews. 

4. Mimic on-site interview energy.

Interviews can be challenging and uncomfortable for candidates, whether they’re in person or virtual—we’ve all been there. And with virtual interviews, it’s even more difficult to read body language, so go to lengths to ensure that the candidate can feel positive and welcoming energy from you, even when you’re not in the same location. In addition to preparing your environment and minimizing distractions, dress professionally, smile, speak clearly, make eye contact, and note your body language. These presentation tips also apply for virtual interviews. Showing visible tracking cues like nodding and taking notes can make an interviewee feel more comfortable, as if you’re interested in what they have to say. 

All of this, plus having the best virtual interview technology options available, should make your virtual interviews smooth and efficient—for both parties. If your hiring team could benefit from rental equipment for hosting virtual interviews or virtual hiring events, our team can help you determine the best tech for you

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