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Interviewing during the COVID-19 pandemic

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip economies across the globe, few industries have been left untouched by the fallout, and that’s having huge implications not only for the workforce but also the recruitment process.

Some companies have moved to freeze hiring until the economic impact of the virus is made clear, but many others are continuing to recruit in a bid to prevent a business slowdown.

Indeed, in some instances the virus has sparked new demand for professions related to infectious diseases, according to jobs site Glassdoor, which has recorded a more than doubling of job postings with keywords related to coronavirus this month, particularly within the government, healthcare, biotech and pharmaceuticals.

However, measures aimed at containing the outbreak, such as social distancing and work from home policies, have required companies to get creative with their recruitment processes, and many of our clients have turned to virtual methods, such as video conference calls.

Tech giants Google, Amazon and Facebook, are among the global companies to announce a move to online job interviews for the duration of the outbreak. Video conferencing apps, including WeChat Work, Zoom and Slack, have risen nearly fivefold since the start of the year.

“In an effort to reduce some of the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on their businesses, companies are turning to technology to maintain business continuity during this time of uncertainty,” Glassdoor’s community manager, Jo Cresswell, stated.

The move is not unprecedented. In addition to a general uptake in video interviews over recent years, thanks to advances in technology, previous periods of economic and social duress have prompted a spike in remote hiring, for instance during the 2008 global financial crisis.

“We saw rapid growth of interviewing technology during the last recession, which is why I’m not surprised we’re starting to see a spike in interest from hiring teams during the coronavirus outbreak,” noted Peter Baskin, chief product officer of remote recruitment platform Modern Hire.

It does, however, mark a new era for interviewers and interviewees. Many who are used to in-person interviews will have to switch to virtual screening processes for the first time and figure out new ways to best convey themselves and their companies online.

Henry Nicholas have compiled our top tips for getting the virtual job interview right.

Advice for candidates
  • Test your tech — Make sure your internet connection and video conferencing program are both working well prior to your interview.
  • Dress appropriately — Dressing for success is no less important for remote interviews. Dress smartly, like you would for an in-person interview, and ensure your surroundings are tidy.
  • Be prepared — Do your homework just as you would for any other interview, rehearsing your responses to key interview questions and preparing your own questions for the interviewer.
  • Be personable — Make eye-contact, smile often and generally engage with the interviewer to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role.
  • Remove distractions — Ensure you’re fully engaged with the interviewer by removing all distractions, including your mobile phone.
  • Allow for less flow – Understand that presentations might have less flow and it takes interviewers a bit more time to warm up due to the lack of body language and in-person chemistry.
  • Follow-up — Send a follow-up note to your interviewer, thanking them for their time.
Advice for interviewers
  • Be prepared — Familiarise yourself and other interviewers with the candidate’s CV and the job description to give the virtual interview the formality of an in-person one. Likewise, keep the candidate informed on who they’ll be interviewing with so they can prepare questions of their own. And, of course, check your tech.
  • Have a strategy — Think carefully about the skills and attributes you’re looking for in a candidate and design questions that dig into each one.
  • Communicate openly — Keep candidates well-informed at each stage of the interview process. Without being able to give them a warm, in-person reception, it’s especially important to show them their time and efforts are valued.
  • Remove distractions — Be respectful to the candidate and position yourself away from distractions, including your mobile phone, as you would in an in-person interview.
  • Reinforce employer brand — Ensure interviewers at all stages of the recruitment process convey a consistent message about the company’s mission and values.
  • Give the candidate time — Pause to ensure the candidate is done with their response, before moving onto the next question to account for time lags and lack of usual social cues.
  • Allow for less flow – Understand that presentations might have less flow, and like yourselves, candidates may need a bit more time to warm up due to the lack of body language and in-person chemistry. 

Although the world of recruitment has been in many ways turned upside down in recent times, we are still helping numerous businesses continue with their key hires. If you are a business that still wishes to hire and would like our help, or you'd like some practical advice about how to adapt your interview and new employee onboarding process then please drop us a line.

If you are a candidate about to embark on your next interview process we hope these tips are useful.

Best of luck, stay safe and stay positive. 

John & the HN team.