Hiring During COVID-19: The Best Way to Conduct Virtual Interviews and Onboarding

 

As the world adapts to the reverberations of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, recruitment and hiring practices have transformed to accommodate new social distancing protocols. While managers and executives were previously able to conduct interactive one-on-one interviews and employee onboarding, the current situation has rendered conventional procedures impossible.

As the lockdown continues, leading businesses have devised a “new norm” that ensures recruitment and hiring  for critical fill roles continues instead of being left in limbo until the situation ameliorates.

Video conferencing services like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype for Business have increased in popularity owing to the overwhelming demand for virtual business meetings, interviews, and onboarding requirements.

While technology has made the transition smoother than expected, many employers still struggle to conduct successful virtual interviewing and/or onboarding.

Since one of the key benefits of one-on-one interaction allows both employers as well as candidates and new employees to glean valuable information by gauging body language, soft skills, and the authenticity of the person they are communicating with, it is critically  important to conduct these meetings in settings where you can actually see the other person. Limit phone calls as much as possible, and take advantage of the platforms readily available that will allow you to physically see each other.

We’ve rounded up five tips to help employers conduct successful virtual interviews and onboarding.

1. Familiarize Yourself with the Video Conferencing Software/Application Beforehand

Prior to partaking in a virtual interview, ensuring your application/software of choice runs seamlessly is essential.

While you may not be able to prevent unexpected glitches, this measure will help you maximize control over technological functionality and efficiency.

Here’s a roundup of the most popular and seamless video conferencing tools of 2020:

Assign someone on your team to evaluate the various features of the top ranked tools listed above, and choose the best one for your team. It makes more sense to have everyone using the same platform, as opposed to having your team all using different tools. Once you decide on the most practical one for your needs, draft a brief email to your team with tips and tricks on optimal usage.

We also recommend sharing that email with the interviewee, or new hire. This will ensure that everyone is familiar with the system prior to the interview, thereby reducing the chances of any disruptions.

Be flexible and understanding in case of weak connectivity. There are some things that are simply out of our control, and with such a large percentage of the population now utilizing these tools to communicate, many are experiencing brief interruptions in service due to being overloaded. With that said, it is always good practice, especially now, to encourage all participants to run a connectivity test beforehand which will help you ascertain whether the video interview will run smoothly.

In case of  a poor connection, it may be best to reschedule or opt for a conference call instead. Not only will this prevent time wasted attempting to resolve connectivity issues, but it’s always smart to have a strong contingency plan for future virtual meetings.

2.  Inform the Candidate That the Interview May Run 10–15 Minutes Longer Than Expected

One of the biggest cons of virtual interviews is being unable to fully assess the candidate’s skills, demeanor, and authenticity in their entirety. This can impede optimal decision-making. Unlike a one-on-one interview, the virtual barrier in the case of video interviews makes interviewee assessment challenging.

We recommend informing the candidate that the interview may run 10–15 minutes longer than expected. This will help you ask follow-up questions if you feel like you were unable to form a clear picture of the candidate’s skills, abilities, attitude, and work ethic. It is also advisable to perhaps conduct a 2nd virtual meeting when the norm is just to conduct one. By having repeated contact, you will get a truer picture of the person you are connecting with.

Be vigilant about jotting down questions prior to your meeting and taking down notes during the actual call—more so than you would be in a conventional office-based interview. This will help you ask important questions along the way, thereby ascertaining the candidate’s compatibility with the position.

3. Assess… But Don’t Over-Analyze!

Keep in mind that we are living through a global pandemic. The vast majority of us are dealing with unprecedented stresses in our lives, ranging from life and death scenarios with loved ones, to the challenges of distance learning for school age children. While assessing the applicant, take careful measures to avoid over-assessment. Ask questions that help you determine the candidate’s skills and disposition. However, avoid putting them through the wringer by asking them challenging questions that may not be directly relevant to the position. No one needs extra stress right now and putting a candidate through exasperating exercises like trying to get a paperclip out of a bottle are ill-advised during these unique times and would be considered tone deaf during the current climate.

4. Ensure Seamless Collaboration between HR and IT Professionals for Onboarding

While virtual interviewing can be less challenging than anticipated, virtual onboarding can admittedly be an onerous feat to accomplish.

To ensure smooth onboarding, we strongly suggest prioritizing seamless collaboration between HR and IT professionals. This will help minimize technical errors and ensure new employees receive the required introductory training.

5. Create an Open and Accessible Virtual Work Culture

Once the HR and IT collaborations are taken care of, take strong measures to create an open and accessible virtual work culture. This will help employees ask questions liberally—something that’s essential given the lack of in-person training.

It is imperative in these times to ensure that open communication is available and encouraged.

Provide suggestions on the best ways for new employees and candidates to communicate with you and make it a habit to respond quickly. Everyone is feeling quite isolated right now, and it takes a conscious effort to alleviate those feelings with new hires as well as prospective candidates that are interviewing within your company.

Draft a welcoming email that lets new employees know who they should reach out to for which specific topics, and encourage them to present their questions via call, video call, or email without any hesitation. In addition, be actively and assiduously responsive to their queries and concerns. The openness will ensure streamlined and successful training.

We also recommend encouraging long-term employees to actively reach out to new hires, offering to assist new team members with the software, formal procedures, and essential insights. Research consistently shows that when a new employee has someone within the company on a peer level that they are comfortable going to with questions regarding culture, etc., it dramatically improves the retention rate.  Instituting a policy where you assign peers of new hires to reach out once a week to build a working relationship, and to help them become acclimated can go a long ways in overcoming some of the common new hire stresses, which are compounded during this unprecedented time.

While many of our clients have put hiring on hold, there are still companies out there, perhaps some of your direct competitors, that are taking advantage of this unique opportunity to aggressively go after top talent and to gain market share. Be open to moving forward in acquiring talent to fill key roles, and don’t let this situation stop you from bringing on top talent. As Winston Churchill so famously said, ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’.

Since 1999, ISC has been a leading team of  executive recruiters in the U.S.. International Search Consultants specializes in identifying top tier professionals for companies operating in a wide range of industries. If you’re struggling to fill a critical role, contact us now to strategize on your ideal candidate profile.

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Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants, and can be reached via direct dial at 888-866-7276 or via email at

Anna Souers is Director of ISC’s team of Financial Services Recruiters. Anna can be reached at   or direct dial at 800-450-3808.