“Tell me about yourself”: Conducting job interviews from home

Let’s be honest. The novelty of working from home has worn off. People, communities, and businesses have to get on with their lives and activities even as they continue to social distance and shelter in place. This is true in spite of the utter lack of precedence for how to move on after a pandemic. Businesses specifically face challenges because they must also confront management, capital, customer, employee and many other complex matters. Even conducting online job interviews has challenges. For small businesses with limited resources, the online interview process is even more difficult because they have less of a safety margin for bad hires. Yet, quality recruitment is critical to company success; employees play a crucial role in the morale, productivity and growth of a company. So how can small businesses nail the remote job interview?

First, prep for the interview

The purpose of an interview is to meet and assess a stranger, actually a total stranger. The purpose of a remote interview is to meet and assess a total stranger… remotely. Doing that successfully and accurately, however, requires preparation. For example, you can make the interview process go more smoothly and be less stressful if you choose a well-lit room for the videoconference and let the interviewee know ahead of time which conference tool will be used to conduct the interview and what topics will be discussed. It can also be helpful to invite relevant team members to participate in the interview and hiring decision and to seek the opinions of trusted colleagues about what to ask and what to look for. In addition, be prepared to sell the position and your company in case you see a winning candidate. And, of course, always make sure your video-conference technology is set up and working.

If you haven’t used video-conferencing tools before, no worries. Now is the perfect opportunity to get up to speed. Plus, if you’re not sure which tool to use, there are plenty of reliable options that you can test out before the interview. 

Second, know what you want to learn from the interview

Knowing what you want to learn about the job candidate will direct every other step in the interview process including the questions you ask and how much time you allot the interview. It will also help guide you in determining if the job candidate would be an asset or a liability. Obviously, you need to know the candidate’s background and training, but personality and behavior are also important. Can this person handle a fast-paced work environment? Is the candidate open to feedback? Does the candidate like working with others or prefer working alone? How does this person handle failure or success? How much you learn depends on the questions you ask, but those questions must be guided by what you want to learn.

Third, asking the right questions

A job interview is the interviewer’s opportunity to learn about applicants beyond their resume; to see if they’d be a good fit for the company, to get a more in-depth understanding of their training and experience, and essentially whether the candidate will contribute to the success of the company. Certain types of questions help reveal this information better than others. As you formulate the questions you will ask in the interview, keep these guidelines in mind:

Ask questions that demonstrate 

  • how the candidate deals with new challenges;
  • how the candidate’s prior work experience relates to the position you’re looking to fill;
  • how the candidate’s experiences with past managers are relevant;
  • how well the candidate will get along with other team members;
  • what the candidate thinks are the most important qualities in a company;
  • what the candidate’s long-term career plans are.

Fourth, don’t forget about cybersecurity

The current WFH situation has significantly expanded the cyber-attack surface and hackers have been quick to take advantage of it whether by spying on online meetings via webcams and microphones or launching corona cyber attacks. Small businesses are especially vulnerable because they usually commit fewer resources to their cybersecurity, making them attractive targets to cyber criminals. Thus, now more than ever, is the time for small businesses to prioritize their cybersecurity. To ensure the digital safety of data, customers, employees and potential employees, at the minimum, businesses should have powerful antivirus protection, browsing and download protection, and secure passwords.

Taking back control of the job interview process

Taking back control is a process and it’s done in measured steps. Recruiting is one step in the process of taking back control of your business as good employees are critical to business success. Done properly, remote job interviews will give you the confidence to conduct a constructive interview and help you find the best candidate.