While many companies are suffering difficult financial circumstances during the pandemic, there are of course, still organisations recruiting, interviewing and hiring. And while interviews by videoconference are hardly new, for many an entirely virtual process is not the typical process. So how do you adjust interviewing during coronavirus? How do you maintain standards to ensure quality candidates, but accommodate the realities of social distancing?
How to manage interviewing during coronavirus:
Be human and expect the same. You may need to be a little more forgiving of interviewees. That doesn’t mean lowering expectations around quality of the candidate. But it does mean factoring in the awkwardness and unpredictability when people have to set up interview type conditions in their home. After all, candidates usually expect you to do that – by providing the appropriate space on site in your office. Since that’s not possible, remember that people may have roommates, partners, children, pets . . . all sharing their space. So if a dog (or small human) wanders in, or their internet freezes, be more understanding and don’t ding them on professionalism (at least not for just that).
Do consider additional rounds. Regardless of the unorthodox nature of hiring remotely, you still need high calibre employees who will contribute to the mission, culture and future of the organisation. It is not unlike having to buy a house sight unseen. Your commitment to the investment is no less just because you’re unable to be as thorough as you normally would (or at least, in the way you normally would). One way to deal with interviewing during a coronavirus is by having a few more people participate in the process.
A couple of things to keep in mind – inform the candidate that you’re having a longer process than usual. Also, consider asking different people to focus on different aspects so the candidate doesn’t feel like they’re having the same conversation over and over. You can even try to filter out coronavirus “noise” from lack of professionalism. Being late for a virtual interview should be a red flag just like an in-person one. But, if it happens once because of technological issues, and it’s just a one-off, you can overlook it. If it happens throughout the process, take note. At the same time, you might want to test and retest qualities that are more important than ever – such as communication skills and self-reliance.
Reconsider group interviews. If you usually have two or three people interview together, reconsider. It’s that many more internet providers and individual homes that have to sync together. And as most of us have discovered over the last few months of videoconferencing exclusively, it is harder to have natural, organic group conversations. If you interrupt, you might not be heard, and there are often delays and it’s simply a more stilted process. That’s ok among colleagues you knew before COVID, but it puts a lot of pressure on someone new who is trying to make a good impression.
Be mindful of legal and ethical interviewing rules. You don’t have to avoid the elephant in the room – a historical pandemic has turned everything upside down, including hiring practices – but be careful to keep it general. Most jurisdictions put significant restrictions on any health-based questions by potential employers. Don’t ask anyone if they’ve had COVID, or if they’re taking extra precautions (for example, due to pre-existing conditions), etc.
Interviewing during coronavirus is probably another new norm
Candidates are likely to ask questions about how new employees get onboarded in the current environment, or if and when the company expects to resume onsite operations again. Be candid about what has changed, or what might. It’s ok to say how things are working but explain that’s subject to change, or simply that you don’t have definitive answers on that. Everyone is anxious and looking for certainty and stability right now. But it’s also fair to ask for flexibility from potential hires as well.
Dr Robert Kovach
PSYCHOLOGY. LEADERS & TEAMS.