The interview and hiring process has gone completely virtual.
For most, this marks a big change in the way hiring gets done. Sure, we’re all used to preliminary screening phone calls and even first interviews over video conference calls. But the process usually culminates with an in-person meeting.
In the recent past, we’ve had the means to hire virtually, but not the will.
Why? We often avoided going all-virtual because some of the data we process when we make hiring and career decisions comes from non-verbal cues that are easier to decipher in person.
We ask: How well would we get along with this person? How well would they get along with the team? And the answers can depend a lot on the quality of in-person interactions.
Now that hiring needs to happen virtually, how can employers learn enough about their candidates to feel confident making an offer?
And on the other side, without visiting the office and meeting the team in person, how can candidates get comfortable enough with a new employer to accept an offer?
Getting to the Offer
The basics of an excellent hiring process remain the same, virtual or not.
Get very clear on which skills and strengths are most important in the role; use assessments to check on required skills; check references and use interviews to assess soft skills and personality fit.
Know what your strengths are and what you need in an employer to perform at your best; use the interview process to investigate what the employer’s goals are and discover how you would help to achieve them as part of the team.
Here’s what’s changed: with virtual hiring, the hard part is getting comfortable with the “get to know you” part.
Building Trust Virtually
Video calls can be awkward – people accidentally talking over each other, unnatural pauses, accidental distractions. Whatever you do, don’t rush. Give yourself the time to get to know the person on the other end of the call. Start with a short video interview – enough to get a first impression. Then, with your best candidates, schedule a longer video call.
When you’re in the same room, it’s a bit easier to get an understanding of what someone is like. Even without explicit questions, you can sense their communication style and respond to their body language. In a video call, you don’t have access to that kind of non-verbal data. So sub in a different but similar data set: ask them about their interests and about what they do in their free time and volunteer that information about yourself.
Adjustments to your video call technique will help you come across as more engaged and present. It’ll also bring the virtual interaction closer to the real thing, and comfort on both sides of the interview will increase.
- Get the set up right. If you’re using a laptop, put it on a box or a stack of books and set it a bit back. You want your head and shoulders in the frame so that it feels like you’re sitting across the table from each other. Natural light is best, and make sure you’re not backlit. That way, the other person can see your face and read your expressions easily.
- Minimize distractions. That means not only silencing your phone, but also turning off email notifications, as well as anything else that could interrupt your conversation. Wearing bright, solid colors helps your face to pop on camera. Patterned or shiny fabrics work fine in in-person interviews, but in the two-dimensional world of virtual conversations, they siphon attention away from what you have to say.
- Perfect your video call body language. It’s natural when you’re on your computer to sit back and curve your head and shoulders toward the screen. In an interview, don’t. Whether you’re the one asking or answering the questions, you want to exude a strong presence. Sit on the edge of your chair. It’ll be easier to have good posture and project your voice.
- Eye contact on a video chat can be tricky. For more natural-feeling conversation, it’s easy to look at the other person’s face. But to simulate true eye contact, you’d have to look directly into the camera. Consider looking into the camera when you’re talking and looking at the screen when the other person speaks.
See the subtle but powerful difference it makes:
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