We have all had to adapt quickly to the ‘new normal’ of virtual recruiting, and many of our charity recruitment clients at Eastside Primetimers have now experimented with how to proceed with recruitment processes even without traditional face-to-face interviews.

Tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have enabled us to support a number of clients to deliver effective interviews and successfully appoint to key roles, keeping their organisations moving at a crucial time. This has been particularly true of Board and Interim roles in recent weeks.

Feedback from clients and candidates who have experienced a virtual interview has generally been positive. Though some were new to using tools such as Zoom, I have found that people are quickly becoming used to speaking online. Moreover, we are also finding unique advantages to online interviews – for example, they are typically easier to arrange to fit around employers and candidates’ availability, as there is no travel required. Employers may find they can broaden their options by extending the choice of a virtual interview to prospective candidates as a matter of course, even after the current situation with COVID-19 passes.

Top tips for virtual recruiting

Online interviews are of course similar to in-person meetings, but there are some key differences that both candidates and those recruiting virtually should be aware of and prepare for:

  • An obvious one is to make sure you have done a test run with whichever device you are using for the interview and that the microphone, camera, internet connection etc. are all working well. It is better to use a desktop or laptop rather than a phone, if possible.
  • Choose a location for the interview that you feel comfortable in – somewhere quiet, clutter free and in good lighting. Let others where you live (if applicable) know that you are interviewing and ask them not to disturb you.
  • Have a backup plan. Despite testing, technology can still malfunction, or you could lose signal. Your plan B may be to have a phone interview instead, or perhaps to reschedule – discussing this with the interviewer/interviewee ahead of the interview takes the stress out of it.
  • It can be harder to develop rapport online than face-to-face and for interviewers to help candidates feel at ease (e.g. you don’t have that bit at the start where you settle a candidate in, get them a drink etc). It’s worth building in time at the start of the interview for small talk, rather than launching straight into questions – this will help both of you to feel at ease and to perform better.
  • Interviewers should prepare the questions, the question order and who is asking which question (if there is a panel) in advance. If you are having a panel, keep it to a maximum of 3 people as it is harder to manage this online than it would be face-to-face. You won’t have the body language and eye contact that you can normally count on to assist with the flow. You could potentially set up a number of shorter interviews with different interviewers if you would like additional stakeholders to ‘meet’ potential candidates – this is much easier to do online than it would be face-to-face.
  • Ensure you make eye contact – this can be harder to do in an online interview. Positive body language, such as nodding and smiling (perhaps more than you might do normally) will show the other side that you are involved and listening attentively. It is harder to read body language through a video, so be especially aware of your nonverbal cues.
  • Build in extra time – though this may seem counter-intuitive, interviews/meetings often take longer online than they would do face-to-face. Of course you still save on travel time, but you may find you need more questions in the interview itself to really get to know the candidate.

Can we help?

If you are thinking about starting a new recruitment process or are wondering how the market is looking, we would be happy to share our recent experience with you. Contact me at bernice@ep-uk.org.

Bernice Rook is director of Director of Membership & Recruitment at Eastside Primetimers. Part 2 of this blog on virtual recruiting will focus on ways to onboard newly-hired staff and interims, when traditional induction and team-building has not been possible.

Eastside Primetimers

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