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Interviewing during Covid? Our top tips for providing the best virtual candidate experience

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Beth Allsopp

Candidate experience is important. The perception a prospective employee can change throughout the recruitment process. This includes the search and application process, the interview procedure, and the onboarding programme. The candidate experience that you provide is integral to your company’s hiring efforts. The way you conduct yourself to external professionals within your industry will be taken as a strong indication of what it’s like to work for your organisation and will determine whether the best candidates accept your job offer. Building a superior employer brand will assist in securing the best talent and receiving high-quality applications. It’s important to get this right.

Whilst organisations work hard to support their employees as they work remotely, hiring and onboarding is also still taking place. If your company and colleagues are not already well versed in hosting virtual interviews, follow these guidelines to ensure that the interview process you provide is still well organised and effective.


When the interview is confirmed

When working with a recruitment company many of the below tasks will be completed for you, saving valuable time. Read more about how recruiters can assist throughout the interview process here.

Send the candidate an itinerary

With a structure in place, you can then send the candidate a clearly outlined structure for the call. Let them know what to expect, roughly how long it will take and who they will be speaking with. Also, attach the profiles of the interviewer/s and all of their contact details, so that the applicant can contact them easily if they have any technical issues. Your recruiter will be in touch with the candidate in preparation for the interview, so ensure that they have wished the candidate luck and communicated that your team is enthusiastic about speaking with them.

Provide detailed instructions

Send the applicant straightforward and in-depth instructions on how to access the call and provide everything they might need. Email a link to the software that you will be using to conduct the interview. Make sure that they have it downloaded and have created an account if they don’t already have one. Outline exactly who will be calling who and put an invite in the candidate’s diary, attaching the relevant link that they will need to dial into the call. This will reassure the job applicant and reduce the likelihood of any unexpected complications they might encounter. The fear of being late for a scheduled interview is enough to get anybody flustered before even sitting down to answer your questions.

Have a structured interviewing process in place

Create a plan so that each interview has a specific purpose with the same set of questions that must be asked of all prospects. Each candidate should go through the same set of interviews, to ensure the process is to the point and you can make decisions quickly and avoid leaving candidates hanging.

Set up a process and train your team - Make sure that all team members responsible for organising and holding interviews are conducting themselves professionally and each individual’s style and process aligns consistently with the standards that you expect to see from your organisation. Hold a web seminar to set the rules and outline the steps that everyone should follow for each stage of the process. Make sure that your team has all the information that they need to answer any new questions that candidates may ask of them – especially update them on the changes that you have made to the structure of your onboarding procedure in response to the implications of COVID-19.

Check your surroundings

You may be living with others who are working from home, so carefully choose the most appropriate place to carry out the call. Pick somewhere quiet, where you won’t get distracted or interrupted. Before interviews, run a test call and check:

  • That the lighting is good

  • That the background is not cluttered or disruptive

  • The line is clear, and the internet connection is strong enough. Is your microphone at the correct level? Can you hear, and be heard clearly?

Break the ice

 For most, interviews are nerve-wracking and uneasy experiences and the candidate may feel a little more uncomfortable speaking to a screen rather than in person. Start your conversation with some small talk as a way of warming up to the more serious conversation. Something as simple as asking how their day has been so far will ease the tension. Create a welcoming tone so that the person you are interviewing is more comfortable to fully express what their experience and personal qualities are.

Gaining more openness from your candidate will help you make a decision quicker. It’s also important to display a pleasant and friendly feel, so that the person that you decide you want for the role, wants to work for you too.

During the Interview

Know your intentions

The interviewer should know the experience and qualities that they are looking for inside out. Fully comprehend all of the requirements and responsibilities of the role so that you can ask purposeful questions that allow you to directly examine whether the candidate is going to be able to deliver on these. However, it is also important to still ask some more open-ended questions so that the interviewee has the opportunity to pitch for themselves and display how they see themselves fulfilling these duties.

Execute the same level of professionalism

 A virtual interview may seem more relaxed than a face-to-face interview but remain formal and focused. Give the candidate your full undivided attention when they are speaking, even if you have determined that they are not going to be the right fit for the role. Don’t draw the interview to a premature end, try to let it run for the scheduled amount of time. Like you usually would, be certain to keep positive body language throughout. Maintain good posture and eye contact so that the candidate knows you are engaged.

Familiarise the candidate with your company culture

Since the candidate won’t be visiting your workplace for their interview, they will miss out on getting a first feel of what your company culture and work environment is like. To make up for this, you could assign some extra time to talk about your organisations story and its values, share more about your company’s missions and plans for the future. You could even introduce your candidates to some of the team which they will be joining if they’re successful.

Give them a chance to make a closing statement

Interviewing from home could lead to more interruptions or distractions happening throughout the call. Before ending the interview, ask the candidate if there is anything else that they feel you should know and give them the opportunity to speak. This prevents the prospect from ending the interview disappointedly or with any negative feeling that they may not have had the chance to say something they wanted to.

After the Interview

Follow up promptly

Regularly communicate with the candidate at every stage of the hiring process and don’t leave them in the dark. After the interview, send a follow-up email or text thanking them for their time and outlining the next steps, let them know when they can expect to hear a result.

Don’t withhold bad news

Rejecting candidates is difficult but don’t avoid this part of the process. Once you have taken a candidate out of the running, do them the courtesy of letting them know that they are no longer being considered for the role and even offer feedback.

Ask for feedback  

Send surveys and pay attention to the responses you get, especially if this process is new for your company. You’ll gain invaluable insight on your hiring process, through the eyes of an outsider. Continually evaluate your webcam interview process and work to make progress by improving on any constructive criticism you receive. Wait until the hiring process is over before asking for feedback, a candidate who is in the process of applying for a role might not be completely open and honest with their opinion.  

For you, the interview is likely just one appointment in your diary and part of an already busy day as you adjust to working remotely. For the candidate, it will be a significant event not only during their day but their week. They will have been preparing for this and have probably been researching your organisation in anticipation, so make sure you have made all of the necessary preparations on your side.

The perceptions that people will form around what it’s like to be your employee, will be heavily contributed to through the hiring process they experience. Provide a well thought out and structured process so that candidates have a positive encounter with your organisation.

This in turn builds a better reputation for you and improves your employer brand. More people will want to work for you, making it easier for you to secure the talent you want.

 Work with a recruitment consultant at Hamlyn Williams to define your candidate experience throughout this unpredictable time. Whether you are a client or candidate, please get in contact with us to be put in touch with a specialist recruiter who can assist with your hiring needs at every stage of the recruitment process and offer advice, specific to your market.