Hiring Right Now? Tips For Conducting Virtual Interviews

Here’s how to navigate video interviews, according to experts.

Right now is arguably quite a beneficial time to interview for new staff. Of course, our hearts go out to all of those business owners that had to let go of their team for financial reasons when forced to close their doors – and, needless to say, our hearts go out to those employees too. But for any businesses that went into lockdown when already in need of a new team member, now may be the perfect moment. While most beauty and aesthetics businesses remain closed, and owners and managers have some extra time available, you have the opportunity to get all of the time-consuming interviews, admin and paperwork processes out of the way and get your new team member/s prepped and ready to hit the ground running when it’s time to reopen. 

Of course, COVID-19 means a shift in the way we hire; in particular, interviews are now generally conducted virtually, which can be unnerving for both interviewee and interviewer if inexperienced in this method. We’ve collated some words of wisdom around virtual interviews from some Australian recruitment experts to help you through.

Nick Robertson, senior consultant at Sydney-based executive recruitment firm Mahlab, says Australia is already lagging way behind the rest of the world, who are already conducting virtual interviews as common practice. “From an employer perspective, we’re very focused on having those face-to-face meetings. I’m not downplaying the importance of that, because it is an important aspect of the hiring process, but globally – particularly in Asia and the US – a lot of hiring is already done remotely. It’s a case of Australian businesses catching up with how things are done in the rest of the world.”

“You just have to be really upfront. Because if there is a lag or you can’t have good eye contact, you’re never going to be able to make a good assessment.”

When it comes to video interviews, experts say it’s crucial to manage your own and your interviewee’s expectations, and recognise that the process will likely be longer and more difficult than face-to-face.

Alex Hattingh, chief people officer at Employment Hero, suggests setting extra time aside at the beginning of the interview to iron out any technical kinks or general housekeeping. “It’s about hiring managers taking the time to ask, ‘Can you hear me? Can you see me? I’d like to make sure we have good eye contact. I understand you might be more nervous because this is over video, I want to assure you this is all new to me too,’” says Hattingh.

“Or, ‘You’re actually sitting a little too far away from the camera, would you mind sitting closer so we can have a better conversation’. Or, ‘The quality isn’t that great, perhaps your internet is down.’ You just have to be really upfront. Because if there is a lag or you can’t have good eye contact, you’re never going to be able to make a good assessment.”

Workplace Assured, a Sydney workplace relations firm, also recommends holding off diving straight into your interview until you are sure the applicant is comfortable and any glitches are sorted, as well as having a backup plan (eg. phone numbers at the ready or a second time/date in mind) in case the technology at either end fails.

David Landau, director at accounting recruitment firm Richard Lloyd, says in the current environment, you need staff that are adaptable, quick learners and take initiative. “If you’re hiring someone who will join your business without a face-to-face induction, you’re going to need someone who can pick things up quickly. Focus on competency based questions around someone’s learning ability, i.e. ‘What was the hardest task you had to learn in your current role and how did you go about doing it? That gives a very good insight into someone’s initiative. This is incredibly important, especially if this thing drags on for months,” he says.

Some additional tips:

  • Remember to put yourself in a distraction-free environment where you may be disrupted by other people, outside noise or device notifications
  • Do your best to read body language – this will be much tougher virtually, but ensure you have a stable connection that will provide you a clear image to read facial expressions, and feel free to ask your candidate to move closer to the camera if need be
  • Cut candidates some slack – we all know it’s much tougher to use humour or act on timing or conversational cues on virtual chats. Bear in mind you won’t be receiving their complete selves, just as you will find it difficult to deliver your full self virtually. If in doubt, we suggest pairing virtual interviews with phone chats to see if the conversation doesn’t flow more naturally
  • Test your tech privately before you log on. We’ve already seen far too many industry videos and virtual seminars rife with technical difficulties – do your best to mitigate these issues before your candidates are in front of you

If you have conducted virtual interviews recently during COVID-19 lockdown, we would love to hear from you! Share your experience in the comments below.

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