Flexible working practices and freelancing are taking center stage in U.S. business, which means that sooner or later, you may find yourself conducting a remote job interview.
According to a Gallup survey of more than 15,000 adults, 43% of employed Americans spent at least some time working remotely in 2016, which represents a 4% increase since 2012.
The rise of remote working can be attributed to a huge range of factors including easy access to mobile technology and online collaboration tools, which in turn has led to a rise in flexible working initiatives and increased productivity and engagement among staff.
As summarized by virtual employment resource Remote.co, this is not a passing fad or an emerging trend. It’s very much part of life:
Worldwide, more than 50 percent of people who telecommute part-time said they wanted to increase their remote hours. Additionally, 79 percent of knowledge workers in a global survey by PGI said they work from home, and 60 percent said that if they could, they would leave their current job for a full-time remote position at the same pay rate.
As mobile technology supplier PGI puts it, “The digital workplace is no longer the future of work. It’s the new norm.”
Why Are Remote Job Interviews a Thing?
As a small business owner, you’ve probably considered hiring outside help. Perhaps you’ve taken on a freelance digital designer to knock out a new website, or you’ve hired a remote receptionist to manage your business calls and appointment scheduling.
You might even be considering a permanent employee to facilitate your business growth plan.
The point is, any one of these professionals will automatically become a representative of your company once hired, regardless of their role or how long they work with you. You wouldn’t let that happen without vetting the person in question, right?
That’s where remote job interviews come in.
With that in mind, it’s time to hone your virtual meeting techniques. These tips will help you conduct a great remote interview, putting you one virtual step closer to recruiting your top candidate, wherever they may be:
1. Call or Video?
Remote job interviews are often associated with video calls over Skype, Hangouts, Join.me or similar online video tools. However, a standalone telephone interview may be perfectly acceptable — particularly if your candidate is interviewing for a short-term or non-customer facing freelance role.
If in doubt, it’s usually worth keeping with the technologies that your company habitually uses. For instance, if you normally use video calling to communicate with staff, it makes sense to do the same with your job candidates. Start as you mean to go on.
2. Road Test Your Connection and Calling Software:
Check your Internet or phone connection and test your calling software ahead of time. Then check it again for good measure. You want to make a good impression on your candidate and set their expectations. The worst way to do this is to jump on the call late because your connection broke down, your call software expired or you couldn’t figure out your webcam.
Set the right expectations. When your relationship with your new recruit is based on technology, you need to invest a little time and effort in making sure it works seamlessly. This includes:
- Logging into your call software to make sure your account is fully functional.
- Checking for new updates and downloading any necessary plugins — this takes time and the software may prevent you from calling before the download is complete.
- Getting familiar with the software. In addition to logging on and testing your sound and visual elements, you may also need to patch other callers in (such as HR personnel) and screen-share documents. As they say, practice makes perfect.
3. Set the Scene:
If you’re conducting a video interview, remember that your caller can see you. Consider what they will see in the background and if possible, ask a colleague to test-call you beforehand:
- Background: Ensure it’s clear, tidy and free of distractions. It’s often best to back onto a wall or a plain, solid background (not a window or door) to reduce disturbances. Bonus points if you can have your company logo in view.
- Get your lighting right: It’s easy to under or over-expose your lighting situation, as demonstrated by Skillcrush (see point #8). Try to position yourself so the window is in front of you (and behind your webcam) for optimum lighting.
- Noise: Avoid shared coworking spaces and coffee shops at all costs — there’s far too much background noise. Plus, public spaces are not appropriate for a private job interview (unless you’re hiring a barista). If you connect from home, ensure your environment is quiet: pets, children, and noisy neighbors are all potential disturbances. Best of all, reserve a quiet meeting room for the duration of your call.
- Dress to impress: Aim for smart casual. We’re not talking suits and ties, unless that’s your habitual work dress. Leah Knobler, Internal Recruiter at Help Scout, advises: “Wear what feels good, but keep it simple and professional.”
- Turn off notifications: Turn off your phone and mobile device notifications. Those annoying pings aren’t just impolite, they’re also incredibly distracting for both you and your interviewee.
- Clear your (virtual) desktop: If you’re likely to share your screen, close any unnecessary browser tabs (yes, all 30 of them) and tidy up your desktop while you’re at it. At the very least, make sure any potentially sensitive information or documents are hidden out of view.
4. Have a Backup Plan:
Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” — which is especially true where technology is concerned. When planning a remote job interview, always have a backup plan. It might be as simple as asking for two contact telephone numbers instead of one, or keeping Skype on standby in case Hangouts fails (or vice versa), or having a landline nearby in case your smartphone battery dies. Likewise, if you are relying on a list of questions for the interview, keep both a digital and a hardcopy version close to hand.
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