Remote Interviewing: Could You Be Doing It Better? (Yes).
Unprecedented. New normal. Disruption.
However you describe it, the COVID-19 pandemic is upending professional and personal life as nothing else in recent memory. Workers and companies watching the economy slide into a recession are united in justifiable concern. As professionals, we want to be productive in jobs that allow us to provide and maybe even fulfill our potential. As companies, we want to hire those workers and go full bore after our objectives. But as hiring freezes proliferate and layoffs pick up, it’s increasingly difficult to remember that not all hiring is grinding to a halt.
Let’s face it: there will always be backfills, critical positions, and core functions that have to be filled. There are also industries thriving right now - healthcare, delivery, eCommerce, social media. But in a world where remote work is new to many - including hiring managers - how can you nail remote hiring? We’ve culled the best practices from 2.5M+ interviews on the CoderPad platform - and, in the words of our favorite 90s song, this is how we do it.
Over-communicate with your candidates.
At the best of times, hiring is an anxiety-inducing process for candidates, who are typically beyond excited to join a particular company and team but nervous about what to expect. But now? An uncertain economic outlook, a pandemic, and fewer jobs will create the perfect storm for candidates. Help them out by communicating thoroughly at every stage of the process - from setting the stage to telling them what’s happening when they’re not in the office to see it.
Before you even formally kick off, tell them exactly what to expect:
- Length and number of interviews
- What technology will be used
- Who will participate in the interviews and their roles
- Timeline for making decisions
Proactively address the issues that are uncomfortable for candidates to address directly. Encourage them to ask questions and collaborate with their interviewers. Tell them you’ll be taking notes, which is why you’re not looking directly at them (not that you’re playing solitaire on your other screen). Do them a favor and schedule bathroom breaks.
Pick up the phone and put down your (unintentional) bias
If you’re hiring for an office job, your default mechanism for remote hiring might be Webex, Zoom, or Skype. Those are great tools but making them part of the first step biases your process toward candidates who have a personal computer or smartphone, reliable WiFi, and a quiet (and maybe beautifully decorated) space they feel comfortable showing to a prospective interviewer. Research shows that people of color, those who live in rural areas, and older individuals have less access to home-based broadband, for example.
Do you want the most talented candidates? Yes, of course you do. So start the process with a simple call. Use this time to dig deep on the critical stuff: salary expectations, ability to work remotely today, what they want with their next role, etc. You can also suss out the feasibility of doing the next phase on video in a way that works for the candidate. Maybe it’s reassuring them that, yes, calling from their bedroom isn’t a disqualifier. Do what you can to remove any barriers.
Deep dive and show your work
After the phone screen, we need to do a deeper dive with candidates who seem promising. But most of us are so reliant on in-person interaction to give us a gut feel. We need to retrain ourselves for a fully remote process, which requires creativity. If you’re used to seeing if a sales rep has presence via an in-person pitch, then give them the background to prepare and do one over video. Have them do a remote demo of something in their homes they’re trying to “sell” you. If your go-to is working side by side with a PM to wireframe a product, use collaborative tools to reach the same result.
Remember you always have options:
- Ask them to present work from a side gig or previous position to you
- Give a reasonable take-home project that has a business-relevant problem and have them share the solution
- Have them critique another person’s work and assess their ability to be empathetic while still making useful observations and suggestions
Set them up for success
Tools are now an important part of the remote interviewing process. We love this virtual collaborative whiteboard for systems design and diagramming. For documenting and organizing ideas, we like this and this. For developer interviews, we’re a little (ok, very) biased, but we like this.
Whatever you’re using, know it’s completely uncool to spring it on a candidate for the first time in an interview. Instead of throwing them in the deep end, send them a link to practice in a sandbox environment ahead of time. Let them do the installs and configuration on their own time so they’re comfortable with the tool. You want them to feel comfortable so they can show you what they can really do - versus trying to figure out the platform and address the problem you’ve asked them to solve in a 30-minute time slot.
Embrace new hiring models
Remote hiring means you won’t necessarily feel the level of confidence you’re used to following in-person assessments. At the final stage, you can always try alternatives. Here at CoderPad, for instance, we’re doing paid “trial employee” periods with our new technical hires because performance day to day is what matters most to us. You might do a three-month, contract-to-hire option - or, depending on the role, a final 30-minute call with a senior leader for sign-off might do the trick.
This is new for everyone, companies and candidates alike. For candidates, free kombucha, a fun office, and foosball are no longer selling points; they’re irrelevant, at least for now. Inasmuch as they’re putting their best foot forward, this is also time for you to do the same. Elevate the value of the work your company is doing, showcase the amazing team dream candidates would join, and the impact of the role itself. It’s the meaning behind what you do that will matter most to candidates.
Remember: good candidates want to know they will be valuable to and valued by the company they are joining, even if they will be delivering that value from a distance. Set the tone early with a killer remote interview process.