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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.