How to interview effectively online or by phone

Coronavirus – shocked the world, bringing everything to a standstill – grounded flights, cancelled events, hit big businesses hard and small even harder, but what does it mean for recruitment? You can’t meet face to face but it doesn’t mean all recruitment activity needs to stop. At Meraki, specialising with relocating candidates across the world we have loads of experience with long-distance interviewing and, remote communication, here’s our top tips for assessing the best candidate from afar.


Tips to include:

  • Pre-interview prep
    • Communicate Expectations – communicate with the candidate about the format of the interview and how this might differ from the typical set up
    • Check logistics – are you in the same time zone? Are you using the same software – does the candidate need the software and / or an account? – provide a step by step guide for candidates to make sure they have the access they need before the interview starts
    • Who needs to be involved? Are multiple team members needed for interviews – think through how this might work and what tech will allow for multiple people?
    • Practice – yes, even for you as the recruiter/hiring manager, if the set up isn’t one you’re used to you may need to make some changes to your style and technique. It’s also worth prepping with your colleagues – plan in advance who is asking which question, it can be difficult to avoid talking over each other – preparing in advance will help.
    • Consider the different types of questions a new employee is likely to have at this time. If you can think of them in advance, you’ll be more prepared to answer the candidate’s questions.


  • Tech set up – what do you need
    • Video conferencing – we take it for granted in the office but many people won’t have the facilities set up at home,
    • How well does your laptop speaker and microphone work? Do you need to have a good set of headphones?
    • Test the set up in advance and ask the candidate to do the same – again practice, it’s better to identify any bugs in software before the interview than at the time!


  • Video v phone – benefits and drawbacks
    • Video – get to see the person, have more of an insight into body language, presentation etc. but more likely to have streaming / tech issues
    • On the call – make sure you check with the candidate that they can hear/see you clearly, it can make all the difference in their performance so you want to make sure everything is running smoothly.
    • Phone – reverse of above, useful for people in more remote areas, without the same level of set up and equipment required, a lot of people have unlimited minutes so relatively cost effective. No option to see the person though meaning more difficult to establish an emotional connection or gauge body language etc.


  • Tools you can use
    • Skype
    • Zoom
    • Whypay
    • Blue Jeans
  • Expect problems
    • Tech lets us down at the best of times and now more than ever there’s more demand on the networks so there may be some delays to the tech,
    • Have a back-up plan – Facetime, Skype, Zoom or just pick up the phone
    • Leave time between sessions to give yourself a buffer for tech issues
    • Check with the candidate that they have a comfortable set up – knowing any issues in advance will allow you to mitigate or plan for delays


  • Evaluation – how to keep track
    • It’s important to make sure you still have a set evaluation, create forms that are easy to print at home or that people can fill in on their laptops – if using online docs, be extra careful and aware of GDPR – your thoughts on that individuals performance count as personal data so need to be kept secure!
    • Perhaps organise a post interview wash up call with colleagues to compare notes and discuss


  • Selection of the best candidate – any protection
    • Consider any necessary ‘cooling off periods’ that you may need or want to include (Need to check if this is something people can add to a contract) to make sure the new employee adapts well to the team and is a good fit when you do get to meet face to face.
    • Consider information they will need to know going forward and make sure to keep them well informed- will they be remote working for now? How will they get access to tech equipment / files and resources? How will their initiation to the company work? Think of these issues in advance to help field difficult questions and have answers prepared.


That’s our top tips – but as always, if in doubt, speak to your recruitment agency for advice.