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How to make the remote hiring process less painful

The remote hiring process can be just as tricky for hiring managers and bosses as it is for candidates. So how can you make the remote hiring process less painful for everyone?

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Remote working is receiving a lot of attention right now. We can hardly move around the internet without bumping into another news story or article about the future remote working world, its effect on the property market, our mental health or something similar.

What has received less attention is how the remote working world will reshape the hiring process, and even then, we tend to focus on how candidates can ace their remote interview. So, how can those responsible for hiring the right talent make remote hiring less painful while making good hiring decisions?

If you are not used to hiring remotely or haven’t even used video conferencing technology before, this post is for you. We’ll walk you through the different aspects of remote hiring to make the whole process as smooth as possible.

So, what’s involved in the remote hiring process?

Just like any other hiring process, it all starts with a job advert and receiving multiple applicants to be shortlisted. This shortlist is then usually assessed and filtered via:

  • Online competency tests
  • Telephone interviews
  • Video interviews

These interviews could take place from the office or from the hiring manager’s own home. Interestingly, there are some technologies being developed to conduct telephone interviews with candidates without human interaction.

Yes, that means a robot could pre-screen a candidate to assess if they should make it to the next stage of the selection process!

Why remote hiring is increasing

The immediate reason why remote hiring is on the increase is all to do with COVID-19 and social distancing. As some businesses continue to work remotely or have limited staff in their offices, the hiring process is being conducted remotely to minimise the threat of the virus spreading. Even if candidates get the job, they may be asked to work from home for some time yet.

But it is not just COVID-19 that has contributed to more of the hiring process being completed over the likes of Zoom and Skype. Remote hiring can benefit the business in normal circumstances by saving business hours and consequently saving on cost.

HR staff and managers can conduct a series of online tests, telephone interviews and video interviews much quicker than if they were to conduct them face to face, meaning the hiring process becomes more efficient and convenient for the business.

Pre-COVID, many businesses chose to hire remotely and offer remote working options to open the post to a much wider range of people from around the country or even around the world. Hiring practices don’t have to be limited by office location and geography.

Job adverts have never been so important

Since COVID-19 struck, the number of people in the UK claiming unemployment support has doubled to 2.7 million. This figure can be scrutinised somewhat, but it indicates that more people are out of a job and looking for new work. This is a trend also identified in the USA and other hard-hit pandemic nations.

With so many people scrolling through job sites and able to apply with a simple click of a button, the number of applicants to a given job is expected to be huge. For example, a recent receptionist job in Manchester received almost 1,000 applications in just one day.

This is not always good for employers because they don’t have the time or resources to look over hundreds of applicants. And for that reason, they need a job advert that starts filtering applicants from the get-go.

Remote hiring managers can use job boards and portals that enable them to ask a series of questions upon application. Through these questions, they can filter out applicants without the relevant experience, skills or qualifications. Ultimately, this reduces the workload and the number of suitable CVs that will require time for review.

Failing that, make use of quick telephone interview

But job advertisements with built-in filtering questions are not bulletproof to the potential of overwhelming applicant numbers. With more people out of work and searching for jobs, there are naturally going to be more suitable applicants.

A second way to start filtering applicants before even thinking about video interviews is to conduct quick phone calls with your shortlist. You can select a group of applicants to move to the next stage and give them a quick telephone interview with 3-5 questions. This will help you judge their suitability to the company and make a quick decision if they deserve to go through to the next round of your remote hiring process.

Create a task or test for applicants

Another way to narrow down the list of suitable applicants is to ask them to complete a short, work-related task. Unfortunately, CVs aren’t always the best way of assessing abilities, but this will add another layer of information to inform your decision making. If you create a task at 2nd interview, it can be quite in-depth. However, if you’d like to set a small task between the telephone interview and before the main interview, make sure that it will not take up too much of the candidate’s time to avoid frustration and ensure that it’s a positive experience for everybody involved.

Providing the interview details

Inviting an applicant to a remote interview means providing different details than you normally would. For example, you need to let them know when to call, let them know who will be making the call if you’re relying on Skype for your interviews – and consider the time zones between you.

You also need to discuss the type of video conferencing software to be used. However, this can be a sensitive topic because some programmes have question marks over their security and safety. The applicant may have a preference here, so it is a good idea to ask, or give them more than one option.

Getting used to video conferencing technology

Many hiring managers will not have used some of the video conferencing programmes that are popular right now. If that is the case, it is best to get used to them before conducting any interviews, and practice using them between colleagues.

Although it is usually the applicant that needs to impress the hiring managers, not being able to use these contemporary technologies will not going to give the business a professional image; and it could even put off a talented applicant wanting to work for the company. Make sure you don’t forget to test it before interviewing, especially the audio.

If you want to enhance your knowledge of business technologies, there are some fantastic business technology courses now available!

But you might not have to learn all the functions of every video technology being used, and there is a way to save time here.

If two or three people are involved in the remote hiring process, you can split mastering each video programme between the group, so one person will be in charge of controlling an interview depending on the video conferencing software used. Alternatively, you could ask someone who does know how to use the technology already to sit in on the interview to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Considering the setting (and on-site staff)

If you are back in the office, the ideal place to conduct a remote interview is in a boardroom environment or in a meeting room. This will keep the conversation discreet and make the candidate feel at ease knowing no staff members can eavesdrop on their conversation. It can be off-putting to everyone if another worker is in the background who isn’t involved in the hiring process.

Some other considerations are:

  • Where is the light? Use natural light in front of you so the applicant can see your smiling face. Don’t use it behind you or your face will be in a shadow and could be intimidating.
  • Is everyone in the picture? Interviews conducted with a panel or multiple people should include everyone in the image seen by the candidate. If this is not possible in your business due to social distancing, ask managers to use their own computer and use a split-screen to keep everyone in view.
  • Where is the camera? One of the biggest mistakes made by interviewers and interviewees is that they look down at a camera below their eye level. This makes it look as though they are looking down at the person they are talking to. The solution is to raise the computer camera when possible. In sophisticated boardrooms, this can be done with technology, but if you are at your desk, simply place some books beneath the computer.
  • Is the setting professional? Another key consideration is the appearance of the office. Is it clean and professional, and does the setting match what was mentioned in the job description? It is easy to forget that remote interviews are just as much a chance to sell the business and what it has to offer to candidates.

Dealing with internet problems

One of the biggest worries for both parties in the interview is that internet problems will make the conversation delayed and awkward. These issues can occur on either end and there is only so much you can do to try and prevent them.

When interviewing from home, make sure nobody else in the household is using the internet during these times. And if you are interviewing from the office, speak with the tech teams to make sure no internet maintenance is planned. With fewer people around the office, they may not communicate minor maintenance as often, so you may need to be proactive.

If you do experience internet problems while on a video interview, you can try to reschedule or divert to a telephone call. If your wifi signal is weak or overloaded, one trick is to turn off the video function of the call so you can only communicate via the audio (just like a phone call). However, at the end of the interview, you can spend the last moments – maybe just a goodbye – with the video streaming back on. This will help you get through the remote interview questions with reduced internet issues, but still maintain that personalised approach that video interviewing offers.

Starting with the small talk

You might be nervous when conducting your first remote interview. Will your dog interrupt everything? Will you know enough about the technology? These are just some of the worries you may have. But even then, you are not likely to be as nervous as the candidates you are interviewing.

To make them feel at ease and make the interview less painful for everyone, it is best to start with some small talk. Now is the easiest time to make small talk because you can ask how they have dealt with lockdown and their general experiences in the last few months. Keep the conversation light and don’t go political. Moreover, using small talk to start the conversation will help you get a feel for the candidate’s personality.

Don’t forget to ask remote working interview questions

Most interview questions are the same when hiring remotely. But If you are conducting a remote interview because the company is sticking with remote working and could be keeping it for the foreseeable future (to some degree), then make sure that you have some relevant questions prepared.

You should ask how they feel when working from home and if they think they are good at it. You may want to ask about approaches and strategies to maintaining focus and also ensuring they have a work/life balance. Also ask about any software or remote working platforms that they have experience with, such as project management platforms like Trello.

Offer candidates a chance to show their worth

Remote hiring doesn’t have to be a pain and it can be used to your and the candidates’ advantage. You could include an opportunity for candidates to answer questions with the technology to hand. For example, they could share screens and show evidence of their work and portfolio. This helps the candidate and it also helps you decide who is best for the job.

Future Learn can help remote hiring managers

If you want more tips and advice on how to ace the remote hiring process, there are some popular courses at Future Learn that will help.

We have plenty of courses that can be used to improve your remote hiring strategies, including our Communicating with Diverse Audiences course from the University of Surrey.

And don’t forget our new Online Recruitment and Onboarding course, which will enhance key remote hiring skills in just three weeks!


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