Living in the post-pandemic world requires us to make dramatic changes in the way we run our companies. As lockdowns ease and businesses reopen, we're all eagerly trying to move beyond crisis management into the new "business as usual." Part of that is learning how to change where and how we work.
Working from home is now normal. Until sheltering in place is no longer required, parts (if not all) of your business need to be run online. This includes hiring new employees. Online interviews allow businesses to continue to grow while spreading positivity during a time when many are losing hope due to self-isolation.
Of course, remote hiring is nothing new; it's been done for years. However, many business owners do not have a lot of experience in meeting their potential employees online – and not just because of the technology. A lot of effort goes into a successful online interview.
These are the steps you can take to represent your business in a good light as you meet and greet people who may become part of your work family.
1. Prepare for the interview.
Know what you're after.
Before you think about conducting interviews online, you need to be clear on what kind of person you are looking for. Think about the job and the person who previously held that position. What skills, knowledge and experience does a person need to perform this job well? What personal qualities do you require in an employee? Involve your managers or team members in selecting the criteria for the right candidate; they may have insight into what it takes to get the job done.
Do your research.
Take the time to conduct some background research into your candidate prior to the interview. Study their resume well and check their social media accounts. A quick search on Google can net you information that won't appear on their application.
Prepare your questions.
Don't try to wing the interview. Write down your questions beforehand so that you don't forget anything. Some of your questions can be factual, such as when you clarify information on their resume and ask why they are applying for a job in your company. You should also include some situational or stress questions. For example, you could ask them what they would do in a certain situation or ask them outright why you should hire them.
Remember to avoid asking questions that involve race, marital status, weight, gender, citizenship status, religion, children or disabilities. They might be viewed as discrimination and open you up to legal action.
Create an interview structure.
It's easy to lose focus or get sidetracked when you're interviewing someone, even if you have a list of questions on hand. To make sure everything goes smoothly, it's best to implement a structure for your interview.
Generally, an interview has three parts:
- The first part is the introduction. This is where you put the candidate at ease with a bit of small talk. Ask about where they live, the weather there, etc. You can also use this time to explain more about your company and how the interview will flow.
- The second part is your main questions. This is when you will ask more about their skills, experience and any other criteria you have listed.
- The third part is the wrap-up. This is where you give the candidate the opportunity to ask their own questions. This is also where you inform them of the next steps, such as when you plan to follow up with them.
2. Prepare the environment.
Test your technology.
Your interview won't happen if your technology isn't working properly. Make sure that the software you'll use to make the video call works for you. Your video and audio should be crystal clear, and your internet should not be lagging. Conduct tests of these elements prior to your interview. [You can read about our picks for the best video conferencing software here.]
Set up the room.
Make sure that you'll be able to conduct the interview in a quiet place where there will be no interruptions. Remove anything that could distract you during the call. Make sure that the lighting is sufficient and doesn't negatively impact your appearance.
3. Look professional.
As the business owner, you represent the heart and soul of your company. Don't think that just because you're both in the comfort of your own homes that you can be casual about the interview. You may be the one conducting the interview, but keep in mind that these people are also "interviewing" you as an employer, and you definitely don't want to look unprofessional.
Look smart up top.
You're a business owner, so you need to dress like you're a success. This means wearing a type of shirt that's either business casual or just plain business. We're talking an Oxford shirt minimum for men, a nice blouse for women. If your business leans more toward corporate, then a suit jacket and dress shirt would be appropriate. Avoid wearing colors that are too flashy or bright and shirts with busy patterns; these can be distracting for your interviewee.
Dress the part down below too.
As tempting as it might be to forgo your pants when you're working from home, it is not an option for a business owner, especially one interviewing a future employee. First impressions last, and you don't want your candidate to have a visual of what you look in your underpants or sweatpants when you finally meet up in person. Even if they never see your lower half during the interview, it's important to be smartly dressed head to toe to cultivate your mindset of professionalism and increase your confidence. Men should wear slacks or dress pants; women can opt for pants, a skirt (not too short!) or a dress.
How about shoes?
Yes, please! Dress up just like you would for a day in the office. This helps keep you in the right frame of mind for your interview.
4. Be professional but personable.
It's easy to stop being professional in a video interview, because there's less pressure when you're meeting someone online compared to a face-to-face interview. In addition, being locked up at home for months has made us more relaxed and less polished than usual. But there's a fine line between being personable and being too casual or chill. Be pleasant, maintain eye contact, and smile. Just keep in mind that you're the head of the company and you should act like it.
5. Pay attention.
Just like in a face-to-face interview, it's important to take note of your interviewee's facial expressions and tone of voice. Do they seem excited to be interviewing for a job at your company? Are they engaged in the conversation? Are they asking questions about your business and the role they'll be playing? Do they look you in the eye (by this, we mean straight into the camera) while they're talking, or do their eyes tend to travel to whatever's beyond the view of the camera? Remember, when you interview someone for a job, it's not just about what they say; it's how they talk.