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Virtual Interviews: How to Interview Job Candidates Online

by michaeld on November 17, 2011


Interviewing potential job candidates online is a cost-effective, time-saving way of discovering talented employees you might not have access to otherwise because of geographic limitations. While interviewing online requires using standard procedures, also keep in mind these tips unique to web conference interviews.

Prepare for the Interview

Make certain you’re comfortable using the web conference software. If this is your first time conducting an interview with the system, do a dry run with a colleague. This enables you to test questions and gives you a chance to master the system so that you can concentrate on the job applicant, rather than technical difficulties.

Also make sure to prepare the interviewee. Send detailed instructions on the web conference at least two days in advance, and give the applicant an estimate of how long the session should last, what you expect to get out of the interview, what he or she should have on hand and who will call whom.

Review Materials

Take an online interview as seriously as you would an in-person meeting. Review the applicant’s resume and collateral materials closely beforehand. Take notes on any impressions you have and questions about what you’ve read as they relate to the job position you’re seeking to fill.

Consider Impressions and the Camera

True, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to hiring, but remember that your interviewee is also checking you out as a potential employer. The camera picks up everything in its view and in some instances magnifies it.

Ensure that your workspace is orderly and professional looking before displaying it on camera. Don’t sit in front of a bright light or window, as this will cause your face to become shadowed. Opt for solid clothing colors, not distracting patterns or white. And consider that mannerisms come across larger-than-life on screen. Avoid leaning into the camera or looking away.

In the same respect, take a good look at what the employee has chosen to show you. Are the applicant’s desk and surroundings tidy? Did the person take the time to dress up for the interview? Are there noisy distractions in the background that make it difficult for you to focus on what the person is saying?

Put the Candidate at Ease

You are in charge of setting the tone for the interview. Help the applicant feel comfortable enough to share important information online by being upbeat and enthusiastic. Open the interview with small talk and then provide a clear direction for the interview by relaying specific information about the job.

Ask Open-Ended, Revealing Questions

Yes and no answers leave uncomfortable gaping holes of silence during a web conference that give you very little information by which to make your decision. Ask questions that require thorough explanations.

Start with general queries that give you a feel for the candidate’s personality, such as, “Tell me how you got involved in this industry and why?” Move on to more specific questions that indicate a person’s work style and potential fit with your company culture: “Give me an example of how you solved a challenge in the workplace.” Also ask why the person wants to work for your company.

Close with an Invitation to Ask Questions

Conclude the interview by encouraging the applicant to ask you questions about the company and the position, which can also be revealing. And give the person an indication of the next step in the hiring process with a time frame.

If you are encouraged by the interview, let the person know this. When you suspect that the applicant isn’t a good fit, it’s preferable to tell the candidate right then, but you can also follow up with a timely phone call or email.

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