Coronavirus has forced companies to take their hiring processes online and conduct virtual interviews. Technology has provided many of the answers, allowing millions of employees to work remotely and allowing new employees to be recruited virtually. Online recruiting has been growing steadily in popularity over the past few years, but hiring in a totally virtual way is a new experience for many.

This step by step guide will take anyone involved in hiring through everything they need to consider to create an effective virtual hiring process. It will cover:

  • What to consider before building a virtual recruitment process
  • Deciding who to involve
  • Creating a positive candidate experience
  • Choosing the right technology 
  • Conducting successful virtual interviews
  • Nailing your candidate follow up
  • Reviewing, evaluating and improving the process

What is a virtual interview?

Virtual hiring is what it sounds like – recruiting a new employee remotely, conducting everything online or over the phone without meeting them in person. Given the rise in remote working over the last few years and the ability for some employees to work anywhere, it is not a new concept. Since 2011, the number of online interviews has increased by 49%. Not only has it been a popular way to reach remote candidates, it has also been used as a convenient way to screen candidates

However, what is much newer is conducting the whole process without meeting the candidate face-to-face at some point. With the current social distancing restrictions in place, this is something that is likely to happen more and more. Any organisation looking to grow in the short-term needs to learn quickly how to do this effectively.

How to conduct a virtual interview

What to consider before building a virtual recruitment process

A virtual recruiting process should be based on the same sound principles as your usual hiring process. When looking for a new employee, a hiring manager needs to find out from any candidate:

  • Do they have the skills and experience to do the job?
  • Do they want to do the job?
  • Will they fit in with your team and the organisation?

The process should be built to be as fair and transparent as possible, ensuring candidates are equally judged on these three things. The hiring manager should know what the key responsibilities and priorities are for the role and these should be clearly communicated in the job description. 

Deciding who to involve

Virtual recruitment requires careful planning and communication. Everyone in the organisation who is connected to the hiring of a particular employee should be clear about what the process involves and know exactly the sequence of events before the hiring process begins. The hiring manager needs to work closely with HR and anyone else they would like to include in the process, such as team members or those in other departments the new recruit will be working with closely, to provide a timetable of activity. Everyone who is part of the process should know what is required of them and when each stage is taking place.

As virtual recruiting will rely heavily on technology, it is also a good idea to involve a contact in the IT department who can be on hand to troubleshoot any problems if something is not working correctly or running smoothly.

Creating a positive candidate experience

The interview process is not a one-way street. Just as employers are looking for the best candidates, job seekers are looking for the best employers. How candidates are treated during the interview process is vital for creating the right impression. It is the best chance a company has to sell themselves and show how much they value and appreciate their employees. 68% of candidates believe how they are treated in the hiring process reflects how an organisation treats its employees. 

In a virtual hiring process creating that positive impression can be more difficult, but it is a crucial area to concentrate on. The key is clear and regular communication. Candidates must know exactly what the process is, what is expected of them, how long it will take and who will be involved. 

As this will be a new experience for many, it is likely to feel a bit strange and daunting. Think about how you can put candidates at their ease. For example, send them details of everyone involved in the process so they can put faces to names. Give them plenty of opportunities to ask questions if they are not sure of anything. Reassure them that nothing is too simple to explain.

Also, think about how you can present your organisation in the best possible light without the candidate stepping foot in your premises. This can be done in a variety of ways from creating video tours or including testimonies from current employees on their experiences on the culture and environment of the company.

Choosing the right technology

Many recruiters have embraced the merits of technology in the hiring process already, 75% use recruiting software such as application tracking software. With the average corporate job role attracting 250 applications, technology can be a very effective way of saving time and selecting the most suitable candidates.

In a virtual hiring process, it’s important to think about not just finding the candidate with the most relevant skills, who want to do the role and would fit in with how the corporation operates, it’s also crucial to create a vivid picture of the organisation as they can’t see it in person. Bespoke pre-hire assessments that take a candidate through elements of what they would be doing in their role and can show numerous aspects of the working environment can be a very effective way to do this. They also help to ensure that the process is fair, as can be completed anonymously, ensuring candidates are judged on their ability and not any other irrelevant factors.

For any follow up face-to-face interviews, select the video conferencing tool that you are most familiar with. The more comfortable and confident you are with the technology, the more you can focus on the actual interview. Before any interview, ensure all candidates can access the system and provide clear details of how to use it if it is new to them.

Conducting successful virtual interviews

Any interview should be about learning as much as you can about a candidate. Your process should help them show their best selves, so give them as much detail as possible so they can prepare. Ensure they know who will be on the interview call, what they are expected to wear, what the interview will cover and how long it will last. Provide some tips on how to set themselves up on video so they can present themselves in the best light and hopefully avoid any technical snags which will eat into your precious time. Ensure IT support is on hand prior to the interview so any problems can be resolved quickly and efficiently.

At the moment, many people may be working remotely under difficult circumstances, with children at home or other relatives working in the same space. Be mindful that this may cause interpretations or distractions and be understanding of these. Showing compassion and empathy with a candidate demonstrates that your organisation understands the challenges faced by many and treats employees as people.

Nailing your candidate follow up

Once the interview process is complete, it is vital that candidates are kept fully up to date with what happens next and know when they are likely to hear about a decision. If this is delayed for any reason, tell them. Ensure all candidates who applied get an answer. 

Aftercare is vital for completing the candidate experience and all previous hard work can be undone by not getting this stage right. So many organisations get this part wrong. 75% of people say that they have not heard back from a company after an interview. This leaves a very negative lasting impression.

Many organisations fear telling candidates that they didn’t get the role. This may be for legal reasons, or they want to keep the door open or they are just too busy to respond. If a pre-hire assessment is used as part of the process it helps to make everything more transparent. The results can be shared with candidates and demonstrate why a decision was made based on objective data. This will help job seekers to understand the process and consider for future applications.

Reviewing, evaluating and improving the process

No matter how much time you spend on planning your virtual hiring process, there will always be elements you can improve. After each position is filled take the time to go over how everything went with your key stakeholders to see what worked well and what could be improved. 

Also, take the time to reach out to candidates and find out what their virtual interview experience was like. What you may have thought was clear and smooth may not have been for them. It will also show even to candidates that weren’t successful that you value their input and leave a positive impression of your brand.

Final thoughts

Whatever happens with the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual interviews are here to stay. Getting your virtual hiring strategy right is going to be essential to attract the best talent and be competitive, not just now but in the long-term. Taking the time to build a robust and effective process that is well communicated internally and to candidates, will save time and money, as well as demonstrating that your organisation is an employer of choice.