Yes, Now IS the Time to Interview and Hire.

Here's How to Do it Remotely
Mar 30, 2020
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As we settle into our new remote work environments, the next step for many of us is to move from simply maintaining operations to propelling the business forward. If you have open positions to fill, your first instinct may be to put hiring on hold, while we see how long the social restrictions to decrease the spread of COVID-19 will last. 

But that may not be the best move. Believe it or not, many companies are still hiring, even during the pandemic. Some obvious ones, like healthcare, shipping, and delivery companies and grocery stores, are expanding in response to needs during the health crisis. Others, including technology and finance companies, are still looking to fill positions.

Why Hire Now

Think about it: As endless as the stay-at-home restrictions may feel, in reality, they won’t last forever. When business normalizes, your organization needs to be ready to jump into action quickly. You’ll need those key people in place. Remember how hard it was to attract top talent six weeks ago? In fact, now is the ideal time to find and hire them, and get them fully onboarded so they’ll be ready to accelerate with you when the time comes.

If you’re a company that is making bold moves even during the coronavirus, expanding your team and taking on new projects, it’s even more critical that you keep that momentum going and keep moving candidates through your interview process.

A lot of companies may have paused hiring, which means you’ll have access to great candidates, with less competition. An added plus: the people who are continuing their job search, even during this time, show a determination that will prove beneficial for any position.  They’ve also got more time to do phone and video interviews. 

How to Interview Candidates Virtually

You may already be familiar with screening candidates by phone, but once things progressed to an interview, you probably met in person. While screening by phone still works, we strongly recommend your interviews are done via videoconferencing. A number of platforms have the option to conduct one-way and live video interviewing such as our client Spark Hire.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, another client of ours, Interviewstream, is offering free access to their platform through April 30th.

Tips for a successful video interview:

  • Just as you would in an in-person interview, set your phone and laptop notifications on do not disturb (but check them up until the interview starts, in case the candidate has problems logging on).
  • Turn off your phone, and make sure your “coworkers” (partner, kids, pets) don’t interrupt or pass in front of your laptop camera. Be sure the camera lens is clean. Also, make sure the background that is in the camera’s view is neat and does not show any confidential information. 
  • If you have a panel interview, coordinate with the other members ahead of time so they know which questions to ask.
  • Log on a few minutes early. Test your equipment before the interview to make sure the camera height and audio are arranged as you want.

When you’re conducting the interview, pay attention to the candidate’s body language. When you’re face-to-face with a candidate, you may do this naturally, but you’ll have to do this more intentionally in a video interview. You won’t have a chance to shake the candidate’s hand or see how they interact with others on the way to the interview, so look for behaviors like good eye contact and facial expressions to guide you on the intangibles. 

At the same time, realize a candidate will try to glean as much information as they can from their on-camera conversation with you. They won’t be able to get a sense of your culture by walking in the building or watching team members interact, so they will be getting their cues about the job based on how responsive you are and your personality. For this reason, be sure to describe your culture. How is your team organized for now, with a remote focus, and what is it expected to look like when times normalize? What are the enjoyable aspects of working with the company or the community involvement activities you’ve done?

Remember, when candidates aren’t interviewing in your office, they can’t see your foosball table or the team barbecue photo to pick up hints about your work culture.

Making the Hiring Decision

It’s one thing to interview virtually, but it takes a leap of faith to hire someone you’ve never met. However, companies that hire globally do it routinely, and numerous companies operate completely remotely. You can hire from afar too.

If you anticipate that the employee will be working remotely for some time, make sure they have the skills needed for the job. (We talked about abilities remote employees need to have here.) On the other hand, if the candidate will not be working remotely long-term, assess their skills for in-office collaboration and communication.

In addition to gleaning information from the candidate’s resume and interview, consider your own observations. For example, how timely and thoroughly did the candidate respond to you during the interview process? Were they self-motivated in following up with you? 

If the candidates will be working on a team, have those members meet the candidate in a video interview and provide input. And, as with any potential hire, be sure to check references.

Still not sure about hiring someone sight unseen? Look at Buffer, which provides software to manage social media and has operated remotely since 2015. Buffer initially hires contract workers and sends them through a 45-day boot camp, after which they can be hired as full-time employees.

Or, include in the offer that employment is on a trial basis for a specified amount of time, to give you time to assess performance.

Even as you have a fail-safe in case you make a bad hiring decision, set your employee up to succeed. Create an onboarding program that gives them the tools and information needed, but doesn’t overwhelm.

Develop a performance management process so the new hire is clear on what to do day one. Connect the employee with co-workers, and recruit a mentor for the new hire. Communicate with the new employee often—not just about the tasks at hand, but to help the employee settle in and establish a social bond.


Whether you interview and hire in-person or virtually, there’s always a risk that a new employee won’t work out. But using technology and strategy to plan the interview and hiring process, you position your organization to be productive and ready for the next phase. 

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