So the Coronavirus is forcing companies to rethink their recruitment process and clearly online interviewing is the natural option. As an executive search consultancy that partners clients throughout Europe and North America, we moved almost exclusively to online interviewing a few years ago. Whilst we enjoyed travelling the world to interview our leadership candidates face to face, the expense and time it takes didn't make sense for our clients. Instead we have helped them construct a robust interview process that doesn't rely on hiring managers being available to meet candidates face to face. I agree that seeing the whites of someone's eyes and feeling their handshake would always be my preferred option but circumstances usually take over and the Coronavirus certainly has!

Without getting into the small details of how we assess candidates, I would like to offer our advice to employers on how to prepare to make online interviewing a "human" and effective experience and process.

Advice for employers

1. Prepare well

Ensure that you know the online tool you are going to use (Skype, Facetime, Go to Meet or a video conference facility etc...) very well. If you don't, have a practice session with a colleague to avoid any problems or embarrassment. As a minimum, ensure you have good broadband connection! Probably best to avoid using your smart phone and definitely don't "fit in" an interview while you are out and about in coffee shops or hotels. You need to provide a professional experience to candidates and space in which you can interview effectively.

Consider the online interview in the same way you would a face to face meeting and prepare thoroughly. Know the candidate you are going to interview, know their resume or CV, read any notes you have been given by your recruiter or HR / recruitment team and please DO NOT try to "wing" it. You will be found out quickly and could lose out on an exceptional candidate. 

2. Prepare the candidate well

Let the candidate know what they can expect so they can also prepare well. Communicate the time allocated, the structure of the interview and what you expect from them. Respect their time and ensure the meeting balances the needs of both parties.

Keep candidates well-informed at each stage of the interview process. Without being able to give them a warm, in-person reception, it’s especially important to show them their time and efforts are valued.

3. Be human

Focus on how to make the meeting as "human" as possible. Encourage small talk, an ice breaker and generally an opportunity to get to know the candidate. You are ultimately interviewing someone to work with you and your team and so I am sure you will want to find out if they are a cultural and behavioural match. There is nothing worse for candidates and their motivation to work for you than no small talk and the participation in an emotionless, direct, inflexible and pretty dull interview format! An online meeting will only accentuate this.

3. Formulate an interview plan

What are your objectives for the interview? Create a plan to achieve them. What areas of the resume or CV are you going to focus on? What don't you know about the candidate that you need to know? 

Ensure you have a job description and know it. Also ensure that you have an interview plan, know what information you want to find out and what criteria you are interviewing against.

4. Remove all distractions

Be respectful to the candidate and position yourself away from distractions, including your smartphone, as you would in an in-person interview. Ensure you are in a quiet environment and won't be disturbed by colleagues, pets, children, the postman, the amazon delivery driver or anything else!

5. Bring the opportunity and the employer brand to life

Ensure interviewers at all stages of the recruitment process convey a consistent message about the company’s purpose, core values and company culture. 

6. Provide the candidate time

Pause to ensure the candidate is done with their response, before moving onto the next question to account for time lags and lack of usual social cues.

The last thing we should be doing is postponing critical hiring processes until we are allowed to start meeting candidates face to face again. Candidates are actually sat at home currently and so you will never have a better opportunity to engage with them and take them through an online interview process.