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How to Conduct Remote Job Interviews

By Dana Borowka, MA

Many companies struggle to find the right candidates for their organization. Having a small radius to find the right talent can add to these challenges.

The solution is to open up the geographic area for recruiting because that opens up a whole new talent pool. Now your company can target specific areas in the country where more candidates with certain talents may be found.

However, there is a concern. Remote worker programs mean hiring managers need to get better at remote interviewing through video.

During the COVID crisis with the stay-at-home order, remote interviewing has become a requirement, not a luxury.

“Remote worker programs must be done right if you are to garner productivity gains,” says Patty Crabtree, a senior consultant at Lighthouse Consulting Services with 25 years of operations and finance leadership experience.

“As someone who has implemented these programs and now helps clients transition to these programs, how you interview remote job candidates is an important new recruiting skill,” says Crabtree.

Author and recruiting expert Barry Deutsch has strong views on remote interviewing.

“Most companies do a terrible job preparing managers and executives to hire effectively, including remotely interviewing candidates,“ says Deutsch, a partner at IMPACT Hiring Solutions and co-author of the book You’re Not The Person I Hired.

“In most companies, hiring is not a process, it’s a random set of arbitrary meetings where each individual manager does interviewing in their own misguided way,” says Deutsch. “The minute you turn hiring into a process, train all your managers, and put some rigor behind it, then hiring accuracy starts becoming more reliable.”

Crabtree concurs.

“Once you have a system set up, you can interview anyone through Zoom or similar solutions regardless of their location,” says Crabtree. “It comes down to your process and how you assess candidates.”

Here are tips from Deutsch and Crabtree on how to maximize the effectiveness of your remote job interviews:

Take Advantage of Video

Zoom, Skype and Go-to-Meeting, just to name a few, have been a boon to remote job interviews. Seeing the candidate is so much better than just interviewing them by phone. But beware. Sometimes the technology goes awry. One company we help had a bad interview session with a candidate because the technology was not working right. They were just going to throw out that candidate. That is a huge mistake. With our assistance, they re-interviewed the candidate when the technology was more cooperative.

“Know how stressful or intimidating panel interviews can be,” says Crabtree. “Make it fun and interactive. The attitude should be: ‘Let’s have a conversation and get to know each other. Let’s see how this dynamic will work and if you have the skills to do the job successfully.’”

Deutsch says the most difficult part of interviewing through video is that the process of conducting testing where you ask them to do something to validate the skill they are claiming, such as welding, electronic soldering, physical use of hands in a manufacturing, construction, or assembly role.

“This is now missing unless you bring them in a for a final test before hiring,” says Deutsch. “For all other roles, especially at the professional and managerial level, written tests, role plays, case studies, and situational examples are still important to validate, verify, and vet the candidate responses.”

For some of the knowledge or experience-based testing, there are online educational applications that can be used to proctor these tools.

Prepare Your Interview Questions

“I actually like video and audio interviewing compared to face-to-face interviewing because it tends to remove the bias and emotions most managers use in interviewing that lead to mistakes and errors,” says Deutsch.

When asking questions, focus on understanding their past experience about working from home as it is a different experience, advises Crabtree.

“Delve into self-motivation, organization, time management and development of work relationships,” says Crabtree. “Similar questions you would normally ask but looking to connect their skills and behaviors with the uniqueness of a work at home experience.”

Make sure they can keep themselves on track in a work at home environment along with making sure they could build relationships with their colleagues. There are many introverts in the world that struggle with the relationship piece. While that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t hire them, it gives the manager insight into the support that needs to be provided to help the individual be successful.

Make Sure Your Process is in Order

“If you need workers, using remote interviewing will help with the social distancing that is needed during this time,” says Crabtree. “You can successfully screen candidates remotely with the right process and tools and limit the in-person interaction.”

When she was a hiring manager, Crabtree remained flexible.
“Timing was no different whether someone was local or living in an out of area location,” says Crabtree. “We worked around schedules and determined the times that worked for everyone involved. Sometimes this was early in the morning, during lunch hours or into the evening. We stayed flexible because finding the right candidate was the most important driver of this process.”

Ask Deep and Penetrating Questions

“The top trait of success is initiative,” says Deutsch. “This is also characterized as proactivity or discretionary effort. Very few candidates consistently show that trait.”

According to Deutsch, the very best performers are constantly going above and beyond the call of duty, doing more than they were asked, anticipating, and always thinking one step ahead.

How do you measure this number one trait of success in the interview?

“A large part of hiring failure can be attributed to asking the traditional, standard, stupid, inane, canned interview questions,” says Deutsch. “If you want to determine if someone can achieve your desired goals, outcomes, deliverables, expectations, key performance indicators, and metrics, then you need a set of interview questions designed to extract that information to predict future performance and fit.”

Of course, don’t just rely on the interview. Also carefully check references.

Use an In-depth Work Style and Personality Assessment

Since you’re not meeting people face to face, the use of assessments becomes even more important.

“Never hire another candidate, especially a remote candidate, until you put them through an in-depth workstyle and personality assessment,” says Deutsch. He advises that it doesn’t matter the level of the position. You should test every final candidate.

“Anything less than five hours of effective interviewing is nothing more than closet psychology,” adds Deutsch. “You’re just guessing what’s behind the curtain.”

Yet, hiring for attitude, behavior, and cultural fit is just as important as measuring whether the candidate can perform to your expectations.

When Crabtree was a hiring manager, she had a solid multi-step process in place before she started hiring remote employees.

“After screening the resumes and a quick online assessment, there would be an initial phone call by the hiring manager,” said Crabtree. “If the basic qualifications were met, the candidate would then take an in-depth workstyle and personality assessment, which would help us understand that person’s workstyle and how they would fit into the team.”

Always Seek Top Talent

Remember, the objective of remote interviews is to find top talent.
Here is what Deutsch has to say about finding top talent: “Top talent is working; it’s rare that they’re unemployed so don’t pin your hopes on the resume database of a job board or rely on a recruiter that doesn’t have access to working candidates.”

The better you understand what makes top talent tick, the better chance you have of attracting them.

Deutsch went on to say: “Top talent is usually already well paid and working on amazing projects so don’t believe that paying more money is going to be enough to shake top talent from their current employers. Top candidates ultimately take new jobs because: the opportunity is terrific, they will be working for a boss they can respect, and the company is one they can respect and admire.”

Remember, remote interviews with candidates are a two-way street. Top talent candidates have many options. You want to assess if the candidate is right, and you want to persuade the candidate that yours is the right company for them. The hiring manager has an important job of communicating that during the remote interview.

Lighthouse can help guide your organization in designing and implementing a remote work force platform with the help of our practice specialist through our full service business consulting division For more information please contact Dana@lighthouseconsulting.com or call 310-453-6556 ext. 403.

A Final Thought: Supervising A Remote Work Force

We just did an outstanding webinar entitled, Supervising A Remote Work Force. You’ll find it to be very helpful and will want to share it with others!

Audio: https://lighthouseconsulting.com/openline/040720/OpenLine040720.mp3
Slides: https://lighthouseconsulting.com/openline/040720/OpenLine040720.pdf

Lighthouse can help guide your organization in designing and implementing a remote work force platform with the help of our practice specialist through our full service business consulting division. For more information please contact Dana@lighthouseconsulting.com or call 310-453-6556 ext. 403.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your business”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Overcoming Hiring Mistake #2: Superficial Interviewing

By Vistage International, Barry Deutsch and Brad Remillard

The sole purpose of an employment interview is to investigate whether the candidate can succeed in the open position. Uncovering that information requires a rigorous, disciplined interview process that leaves no question unasked and no stone unturned.interview with bizmen

Yet, according to Vistage speakers Barry Deutsch and Brad Remillard, the second most common hiring mistake at the executive level involves just the opposite.

In too many cases, executive hires involve a sloppy, undisciplined process that fails to put candidates under the magnifying glass, verify claims or check facts. And when hiring managers accept at face value everything candidates say during job interviews, a bad hiring decision almost always follows.

“In our workshops and training sessions, we routinely ask executives what percentage of job applicants embellish or exaggerate their accomplishments during the interview,” says Deutsch. “In most cases, we hear a number from 100 to 125 percent, because many candidates embellish more than once.

“Granted, not every job candidate is guilty of what we call ‘interview puffery,’ but it does happen on a regular basis. And unless you take adequate steps to guard against it, you can easily end up with a hiring decision that ends in failure.”

The solution to eliminating candidate puffery and avoiding hiring mistake #2?

Become a great interview detective. And that, suggest Deutsch and Remillard, requires a rigorous three-step process.

Step One: The “Five Key Question” Interview

Through 20 years of experience recruiting and hiring top five percent talent, Deutsch and Remillard have identified five keys traits that are universal predictors of success at the senior executive level. To uncover whether candidates possess these essential traits, ask five key questions:

  1. Can you give me an example of a situation where you have demonstrated high initiative? Initiative is a lifelong pattern, not an anomaly. The top performers will be able to give you example after example.
  2. Would you please give me an example of when you have executed a project or a strategy flawlessly? Top performers don’t make excuses; they do what it takes to get the job done. They hit deadlines, achieve goals and meet budgets in spite of all the problems, bottlenecks, roadblocks and speed bumps that get in the way.
  3. Tell me about your most successful accomplishment in leading a cross-functional team on a major project or initiative? Top performers excel at team leadership. They know how to rally the troops and motivate people (even under difficult circumstances), and will have a minimum of several examples where they have built and led successful teams. “Be sure to insist on examples of cross-functional teams,” advises Remillard, “because strong leadership requires the ability to influence others not directly under your control.”
  4. One of our most critical objectives is <Success Factor/Outcome>. Would you please describe your most comparable accomplishment? Before you extend a high-level job offer, you need to feel confident that the candidate can achieve the Success Factors you’ve outline for the position. Comparative means “similar in scope, size, complexity, resources, budget and timeframe.” (Note: See Overcoming Hiring Mistake #1: Inadequate Job Descriptions for the importance of Success Factors in the hiring process.)
  5. Please walk me through how you would go about achieving <Success Factor> in our environment? This question addresses the candidate’s ability to adapt to your specific situation, environment or timeline. Does he or she understand what’s different in terms of size, scope, teams, people, changes, standards, resources, values and culture? More important, does the candidate ask intelligent questions and problem-solve to answer this question?

“Often, the questions the candidate asks during this discussion are more important and revealing than any statement they make,” says Remillard. “So pay close attention to their questions and the assumptions behind them. The only real wrong answer is ‘The same way I did before.’”

Step Two: Put The Candidate Under the Glass

To validate the candidate’s answers to the five key questions, Deutsch and Remillard recommend the “Magnifying Glass” approach, a technique that involves asking for multiple examples of each answer to make sure the behavior isn’t the exception to the rule.magnify

“Put on your reporter’s hat and ask ‘who, what, when, where and why?’ with several ‘how’ questions thrown in for good measure,” suggests Deutsch. “In other words, ask candidates to describe, in specific terms, who did what, where and when they did it, how they did it and why they did it that way. Then ask for the outcome/results to determine if their approach succeeded.”

Examples of generic magnifying glass questions include:

• Could you give me an example of that?
• Can you be more specific about that?
• Can you give me a bit more information about that?
• What were the most important details about that situation?
• Tell me about another time when you faced a similar situation.

The idea is to gather as many specific details as possible about each key question. To drill down further, ask questions more focused questions, such as:

• What was your role in the project?
• How did you define and measure success?
• Can you give me a few examples of your personal initiative on the project?
• When have you faced a comparable challenge?
• How did you and the team make midcourse corrections?
• What did you learn from this project?
• With the benefit of hindsight, what would you do differently next time?

“Be prepared to spend 15 to 30 minutes exploring the details of each example the candidate gives you,” adds Deutsch. “Keep going until you uncover what you need to know or it become apparent the candidate is being elusive or outright lying, at which point you might as well cut your losses and end the interview.”

Step Three: Homework Assignments

Once you’ve narrowed the candidate pool down to two finalists, it’s time to come up with some homework assignments to observe their thought processes, analytical skills and problem solving capabilities in real time.

According to Deutsch and Remillard, effective homework assignments involve projects of reasonable size and scope that relate to one of the most critical Success Factors listed in your Success Factor Snapshot™. The candidate should be given all the support he or she needs to complete the assignment, and should report back to the interview panel to present his or her results and conclusions based on the homework.

woman at computerExamples of homework assignments include:

  1. Bring in a sales plan/board presentation/financial statement you’ve created in a previous position, present it to the panel and be prepared to discuss it in detail. (Note: never ask candidates to divulge confidential information during a homework assignment.)
  2. Based upon what you know about our company and our needs, create a high-level strategy to address Success Factor X. We will give you access to the personnel and materials you need to complete the assignment.
  3. Take home this set of financial statements and analyze them. When you return, tell us where you see problems and how you would go about fixing them.
  4. Prepare a PowerPoint presentation on how you would begin to approach each Success Factor if you were offered this position.
  5. Outline the steps you would take to crate a vendor qualification program.

“Homework is one of the best ways to assess how a candidate thinks,” points out Remillard. “It also provides useful ancillary information about the candidate’s current work environment, resources, communication capabilities, strategy and planning techniques.

“In addition, some of the most qualified candidates are poor interviewers, while others are great at giving interviews but not so good when it comes to actually tackling problems. Homework levels the playing field and allows every final candidate the chance to demonstrate his or her aptitude and work style in your work environment.”

Some candidates may balk at the homework assignment because they perceive it as unpaid work. However, most top five percent talent, because of their self-motivated nature, will embrace the challenge and jump into the assignment with gusto. Either way, it helps to reassure the candidate that you don’t expect them to come up with the “right answer.” Instead, your goal is to assess their analytical, problem solving and presentation skills in your work environment.

“Successful interviewing is all about drilling down and getting to the facts,” concludes Deutsch. “By asking for example after example, you will discover a critical truth about the interviewing process — that candidates can’t make up false answers quickly enough. They have either done what they say they have done and can describe it in infinite detail, or digging bizmanthey will implode in front of you.

“To ensure that your interviewing process uncovers the information you need to know, ask the five key questions, probe for relevant details and give a meaningful homework assignment. You’ll get a very accurate picture of the candidate’s ability to perform on the job and, more important, you’ll make better hiring decisions.”

Created for Vistage View. Copyright 2014, Vistage International, Inc. All rights reserved.

Vistage International is the world’s largest CEO membership organization, helping executives become better leaders, make better decisions and get better results through a unique combination of peer group meetings, one-to-one coaching, expert workshops and access to “members only” conferences, online best practices and a global network of more than 13,000 executives. Learn more about membership at www.Vistage.com.

More interviewing information can be found in Deutsch and Remillard’s book, You’re Not the Person I Hired and on their website, www.impacthiringsolutions.com. Barry Deutsch and Brad Remillard of Impact Hiring Solutions are veteran recruiters, national trainers, and hiring coaches to CEOs across the country as well as Vistage International speakers. Impact Hiring Solutions is a hiring portal, training, and hiring systems consulting company. Barry can be contacted at (310)378-4571 or barry@impacthiringsolutions.com and Brad at (949)310-5659 or Brad@impacthiringsolutions.com .

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code and Cracking the Business Code, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.