In the Wake of COVID-19, Here’s How to Build a Fully Remote Interview Process
In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 went from a novel flu strain to a global pandemic. If you find that your office is closed and you’re forced to work remote due to COVID-19, you have to do your best to keep business as usual. In many cases that means still hiring top talent for your growing team. The challenge, though, is that traditional hiring practices like in-person interviews simply don’t work in a COVID-19 world.
In the interest of public health and safety, and in order to best protect our community, team, candidates and the clients we partner with my company Bloom has strongly recommended that companies build a fully remote interview process.
Instead of letting this pandemic destroy your hiring process, take it as a chance to build a new remote-first interview process for the months ahead. Even if you choose to head back into the office after COVID-19 subsides, this process will empower you to interview and select amazing candidates from all over the world to welcome into your offices.
Let me start by saying that I know we are all in unfamiliar territory right now. Despite the uncertainty I know startups, scale ups and tech companies are still hiring. As a Founder I fully understand the hesitation many leaders feel at this moment when deciding whether to keep hiring or not. This is a guide to help you feel secure with your interview process so you can continue to grow.
Build your systems to support remote
Building a remote interview process becomes much easier when you build the systems you and your team need to support it.
Train hiring managers via video
To build a sustainable remote interview process, record all hiring manager training as video clips and share it with your hiring managers. This is a fun way to share interview tips and best practices as well as train hiring managers on your approach to hiring. You know what they say; “The number one skill hiring managers aren’t trained on is hiring”.
Be sure to:
- Share it with a common folder on Google Drive, company intranet, or whatever file sharing system your company uses.
- Record your video in a quiet, well-lit room (for basic optics and sound — so you don’t have to do any editing!).
- Remember you can use your phone camera in most cases — you don’t have to be a pro.
Plan a daily Recruiting Standup
In an office environment, you can quickly ask a colleague a question about a candidate or feedback from a recent interview over coffee. That doesn’t happen while working remotely. Instead, book a daily Recruiting Standup. This will give you time to talk about issues from the previous day and any upcoming interviews you have booked. If you’re not familiar with the standup meeting, check out this great resource on how to run standups.
Get the right tools in place
In a remote world, you have to replicate in-person “tools,” such as meeting rooms, with a digital equivalent:
- Meeting rooms → Zoom, UberConference, Slack video chat, or another video conferencing platform.
- Pen and paper → A notepad app on your computer or comment functionality in your applicant tracking system (ATS)
- Tracking candidates → Use your ATS (Applicant Tracking System). If you don’t have one, a simple kanban board task management system like Asana, Monday.com, or Trello will work too!
- Colleague communication → Slack or another business messaging platform with a specific channel to discuss candidates and interviews.
- Specific skills testing → Code collaboration platforms or screen sharing to discuss niche skills in a specialist interview.
Tweaks to the interview process
Changing the interview process is about finding the digital equivalents to your in-person process, not necessarily redesigning the whole process from scratch. Here’s what you need:
Make sure you have an autoresponder set up in your ATS (applicant tracking system) or customize the confirmation message on job boards / LinkedIn to set expectations when candidates apply to your company. Be sure to include:
- Confirmation that the application was received.
- General timelines on when candidates can expect to hear from you.
- A general overview of your interview process. I like to include a “How We Hire” section.
- An explicit section indicating you will be doing a fully remote process.
- A list of tools that the candidate needs in order to be prepared for the interview (e.g. video conferencing or code collaboration platforms). If the tools you want to use cost money, it’s your obligation to pay on the candidate’s behalf and send them appropriate login information.
Set up your virtual ‘in-person’ interviews
If a candidate makes it past the phone screen (which you decided after discussing it in your hiring manager Slack channel!), then send the candidate a calendar invite with a video conferencing link. Instead of having them in-person, explain that you’re doing a virtual coffee and that you would like to use video in order to best mimic the feeling of being in the same room.
On your end:
- Treat it like an in-person interview: dress as you normally would and bring a coffee or water into the room with you.
- Take the call in a quiet, well-lit room.
- Make the video your whole screen so you’re not distracted by notifications during the conversation.
- Try to avoid taking notes in the interview itself — keep it conversational and take notes after.
Be ready for accommodations
Just as you’d accommodate a candidate with specific physical or ability based needs for an in-office interview, be prepared to accommodate candidates in a remote interview process:
- Some candidates may not have access to a webcam. Simply have another conference call.
- Offer international dial-in numbers (standard on most subscriptions for video conferencing) so candidates can call from wherever they are without additional fees.
- Be willing to reschedule if someone is feeling ill that day just as you would for in-person interviews — remote doesn’t mean they should work through illness.
If you’re still not sure you have all your bases covered, the best thing you can do is run a mock interview with a colleague — remotely! Do the whole thing, from application to offer, and see which parts are lacking when you remove the office environment. While you may not be able to offer your candidate a coffee, you can leverage technology to provide a high-quality remote interview experience that feeds into your amazing culture.
PS: At Bloom, we support companies who aren’t ready for a full-time Head of Talent but need the leadership on an interim basis. We do the nitty-gritty foundational work like implementing the best tech, tools and processes that are infused with your org’s values. If you’re looking to up your talent game but aren’t ready for a full-time hire, get in touch!