Woman waves hello as she introduces herself during a virtual interview for a new job.

How to Virtually Hire Remote Employees


Many brands have adjusted to working remotely. Whether you're looking to hire or secure interviews, here's what to know about virtually hiring employees.

Like almost everything else in the workplace, the hiring process has been transformed in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, a survey from Gartner found that at the height of lockdown, 86% of organizations had conducted virtual interviews. And with many businesses reluctant to reopen their offices, remote hiring is bound to continue.

Since you’re likely already adept at Zoom calls and in-person interviews, it’s easy to think that putting them together will be effortless. However, you might be surprised at how different it can feel to read a candidate without the in-person cues we usually rely on.

Here are nine remote hiring best practices that can help you find your ideal candidate, even in a virtual interview process.

1. Pre-Screen Candidates

You might assume that remote interviews are less time-consuming than in-person meetings, but in reality, virtual meetings take up the same calendar space as real ones. That’s why it’s wise to do extensive pre-screening, looking at the experience and skillsets of the candidates, to ensure you are only conducting “live” interviews with your top choices.

Plus, given that the hiring pool rapidly expanded with the pandemic, you likely have more talent than ever to choose from, making this a key step for efficiency.

2. Send the Candidate Clear Instructions in Advance

Since we’ve been using video for everything from social events to work meetings these days, most prospects probably have the required software. However, it’s still wise to give them adequate time to download and figure out a new system, if needed.

Make sure they have all the connection information, along with a number they can call if they are having technical difficulties. And collect one from them, too, in case the disconnect is on your side.

3. Prepare For the Interview

It’s tempting to shortchange the process as you move from call to call. But it's still critical to make time for the same preparation you would for an in-person interview—possibly even more. To make the interview flow smoothly, create “cheat sheets” to have on hand:

  • Print out the candidate’s resume and cover letter.
  • Make notes on their specific experience or achievements you’d like to discuss.
  • Jot down questions you have.
  • Print out the job description so you can refer to it to answer questions.

4. Treat the Interview Like Any Other Important Meeting

Again, remember that this is just as important as an in-person interview. Consider all the prep you do for a client meeting, such as finding a quiet room with a professional background and testing your technology, and put the same effort into a remote interview.

That’s because while the job market remains tight, there is always competition for top talent. You want to put your company and team in the best possible light, and technology snafus or an unpleasant interview experience can make an applicant wary.

5. Put Your Candidate At Ease

One of the most telling parts of any interview is often the “hallway walk,” where you have a short chat to get to know one another, and you can observe their personality and conversational style. In a virtual interview, you can replicate that experience with a few minutes of small talk at the outset. Prepare a couple of questions or tell a story to help the candidate relax and make it easier to foster a personal connection as the conversation flows.

6. Give Candidates a View Into Company Culture

Many people are re-assessing their work/life priorities due to the pandemic, and that has made company culture more important than ever, finds a survey from TopResume. If your office vibe is one of your strong points, you’ll want to find ways to try to emphasize (if not replicate) that in a remote interview, even without the usual tours and informal meet-and-greets.

If your website or social media adequately captures your culture and personality, invite applicants to take a look, sending them video links or other specific images you’d like them to see. During the interview, directly mention some activities that your employees enjoy both now when you are working remotely and on your eventual return to the office. Then, make an effort to connect them with others in the office who can answer questions about the day-to-day atmosphere.

7. Define Remote Work, Expectations, and More for Your Business

While many companies are unsure of their return-to-work plan, you don’t want to mislead candidates. If you intend to eventually reopen the office and this position is one that will need to be in the office at least occasionally, it's important to be upfront about what that means to them.

If they don’t live locally, do some internal reflection to make sure it will be acceptable to have a permanent remote hire, even when the rest of the team resumes meeting in person.

8. Communicate Throughout the Process

While candidates often find themselves fretting about next steps in any interview experience, our tolerance for uncertainty is even greater today. You’ll make a strong impression if you go the extra mile to keep candidates in the loop.

Reaching out with frequent communication also allows you to assess their skills in that area, which are key if your team will be remote for a while; you want to make sure they are responsive and thorough with emails or calls.

9. Have a Robust Onboarding Strategy

Once you have found the right person, you want to keep them. The remote interview process is just the first step in forging a connection, and you want to make sure they feel welcome and involved from the start.

You may need to revamp your onboarding to take into account the new realities of the work world, holding engaging online sessions and making a point to connect new employees virtually with coworkers from other teams. And since you won’t have that first-day lunch or get-to-know-you meeting, make sure you recruit others to reach out and make them feel part of the team.

These days, we’re all polishing our skills in developing online relationships. The easier you can make the transition for the team and new employees, the more cohesive your workplace will be.

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