Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced broad swaths of the economy to embrace remote work, the impact on employees and managers has been seismic. For many of those recruiters and hiring managers tasked with finding new talent, the change from in-person to video-only interviewing has come as a bit of a shock. Job candidates are also wrestling with the adjustment, especially if they’ve trained extensively for the nuances of in-person interviews.
Another big factor: As COVID-19 decimates companies and industries, the unemployment rate is rising—and that means those in a position to hire are facing a flood of applicants. That increases pressure on companies to sort through as many candidates as possible. For candidates, there’s also the need to stand out in a growing crowd.
Fortunately, hiring managers and CEOs have some solid, easy tips for handling this new world—whether you’re hiring or trying to get hired.
For Recruiters and Hiring Managers
Companies that decide to wholly embrace video interviewing will need to shift their processes in order to handle the aforementioned flood of applicants. Fortunately, there are ways to quickly determine which candidates have the skills and experience required for a further conversation. “Requiring candidates to take a code assessment at the first stage of your remote interview process will cut down the number of applicants for high-volume roles and help you quickly identify which applicants should move on to the video interview stage,” said Vivek Ravisankar, co-founder and CEO of HackerRank.
For hiring managers and other interviewers, the new focus on video interviews is going to inevitably “disrupt” the traditional way of doing things, and not necessarily in a good way. For example, in-person interviews give both interviewer and job candidate the opportunity to bond a bit over shared interests and other topics; what’s casually said during a tour of an office, for example, is often more revealing than whatever’s imparted during the sit-down interview.
Without the “quality” of that in-person connection, interviewers must do their best to make up for it with “quantity”; that is, with constant communication that makes both sides feel that they’re being fully recognized. “To keep your interviewee in the loop and keep your role top of mind, reach out to them at every stage of the evaluation process. Prioritizing constant communication with your candidates will make them feel valued,” Ravisankar added, “and will leave a positive lasting impression.”
In lieu of tours and in-person meetings, companies can provide all kinds of e-materials to candidates, similar to what an onboarding hire might receive before they walk in the office for the first time. This “package” could include everything from articles and press releases about the company’s accomplishments to a brief video that runs through company history.
Indeed, as many companies ramp up their video-interviewing capabilities, many are finding the process a relatively smooth one. “An unexpected advantage of conducting all interviews over video is that scheduling is much easier,” Beth Perkins, director of people and culture at O3 world, a digital-product company, recently told Dice. “Without the friction of having to take a few hours off of work, traveling to the interview, finding parking, etc., we’ve been able to move candidates through our process more quickly than before.”
There are still some challenges, however. “The biggest disadvantage of a completely virtual interview process is the lost opportunity to connect in person,” Perkins added. “Video is great, but you still miss out on subtle queues like their handshake, how they dress, how they carry themselves, how they interact with others in the office as they come and go from the interview. Unfortunately, the candidate also ends up missing out on key opportunities to gain insight into the company culture. Accepting a job offer is a big decision, and a crucial factor for most candidates is the office environment, culture, and team.”
When you’re at home, it’s typical to run a lot of apps on your laptop or desktop simultaneously. You might have Spotify, Gmail, Slack, and a word-processing app open in the background—and forget about all of it. Before you conduct your video interview, though, it’s important to quit as many of these background apps as possible.
Why? For one thing, they might impact your bandwidth and processing power—especially if you have to share a screen and walk the interviewer through some drawn-out bit of programming or data-crunching. Second, those apps can prove a distraction: A notification popping up at exactly the wrong moment can derail your answer to a particular question.
With everyone improvising their home-office space, it’s also important to find an area without physical distractions for your interview. An alcove or an unused bedroom is good. Space on the kitchen counter—or any well-trafficked area of the house—can prove a mistake if kids and pets are constantly running around in the background. While most folks appreciate a glimpse of a friendly animal as a way to brighten up self-isolation, a barking dog can quickly ruin a job interview.
If you’ve applied for a job recently, you know that it’s often a drawn-out process. If the potential employer doesn’t offer a “roadmap” of what’s coming, make sure to ask about how many rounds of video interviews (and coding tests) you can potentially expect. That will hopefully set your mind at ease.
“We’ve historically used take-home exercises to assess skills in our interview process, so not much has changed there. However, depending on the position, sometimes the final stage in the process is to present your work on the take-home exercise to the interview team,” Perkins said. “Presenting to a group via video is much different than presenting in person.”
With these group videos, she continued, “the team not only gets to see the quality of the candidate’s work, but they also get to see how well they can run a room, how they carry themselves, how comfortable they are standing up and presenting their ideas.” Sure, that might lead to moments of awkwardness, but “seeing how people can adapt to the awkwardness and make it work for them (or not) can shine a light on traits that might have otherwise gone unnoticed in the candidate.”
Before sitting down for your interview, it might pay to frame out and rehearse possible answers. If you’re showing off a bit of code, app, or your answers on a test, run through what you’ll say and when you’ll click or highlight a particular aspect. That will ensure things go at least relatively smoothly, even if you’re not wholly comfortable with video interviewing as a format. Keep in mind that everyone is doing their best to adapt to this new COVID-19 paradigm, and that might help relax you a little more.
For more COVID-19 content, check out the COVID-19 Jobs Resource Center.