Five Thoughts on Conducting Virtual Interviews

Since the coronavirus lockdown we have had to conduct all interviews virtually. Although we still believe that the face-to-face interview is the best way to assess candidates, at Carnelian Search we have found that there are ways to mitigate the downsides.

1. Interview for longer. Before the lockdown we normally conducted 60-minute face-to-face interviews with candidates. During lockdown this has often increased, giving us more time to probe into areas we are nervous about.

2. Interview in pairs. Before lockdown we often interviewed in pairs. Now we always do. One person listens to the content, the other pays attention to all the other non-verbal forms of communication that are harder to pick up when the person isn’t sitting in front of you (tone of voice, sense of humour, body language if using a video call, etc.)

3. Use informal referencing. We have often felt that this is an underused tool. During lockdown it is more important than ever. Post-interview formal referencing is frequently a box-ticking exercise. Informal referencing happens before the interview and involves seeking off-the-record comments on the candidate from a trusted source. Often it’s informal referencing that gives the really valuable information.

4. Audio vs video calls. It is often assumed that videos calls must be better for interviewing. But audio calls have many advantages. With audio calls:

  • You often listen more attentively to the person. There is greater sensitivity to tone and choice of words when they’re they only information presented.
  • Strangely, there is greater intimacy. Therefore, trust often builds more quickly.
  • You are not distracted by the picture of yourself in the corner of the screen.
  • There is no off-centre eye contact that comes from the gap between screen and camera. In normal life, someone who will not meet your eye is considered untrustworthy or socially dysfunctional.
  • Often we have two calls with a candidate so that we benefit from the advantages of each: the first an audio call, the second a video call.

5. Use psychometric testing. Personality styles and ways of working are harder to assess without meeting in person. Psychometric testing can often help make up for this.

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