Finding the Best Job Interview Format

Virtual, in-person or hybrid? In a post-pandemic world, the answer depends on several key factors.

By Lisa Rabasca Roepe August 29, 2023

​Before the pandemic, virtual interviews were rarely part of the hiring process. But as businesses began sending employees home to work in 2020, interviewing via video became commonplace. Three years later, even though social distancing mandates are now just a memory, many companies continue to use virtual interviews for at least part of their hiring process.

The primary reason is that virtual interviews ­enable employers to consider more candidates from a wider geographic area. For organizations that are now ­mostly virtual, this is a big plus. Video interviews can also speed up recruiting and hiring processes, allowing companies to extend offers faster, which can be essential when labor is in high demand.

PwC, a global professional services firm, has adopted a fully remote interview process to expand its talent pool. "We're able to reach people from a vast range of experiences and diverse backgrounds," says Rod Adams, PwC talent acquisition and onboarding leader. "Previously, if our firm didn't have a physical presence at a particular school or in a certain location, it was difficult to build a relationship with the people there."

However, a recent study from the American ­Staffing Association found that 70 percent of American job seekers actually prefer in-person interviews. "Candidates want to see the company they'll be working for and the people they'll be working with in person," explains Maria R. Pell, managing director at Hechkoff Executive Search Inc. in New York City. "Meeting in person is the sweetener that seals the deal before you go into an offer."

Most companies that Pell works with are taking a ­hybrid approach to the hiring process, using a combination of virtual and in-person interview formats. Typically, the first and second interviews are remote (by either phone or video), and the third or final interview is onsite, enabling candidates to personally meet their prospective manager and colleagues. 

Hybrid Approaches

For any position at the director level or above, it's ­essential that the final interview be in person, says Mary ­Olson-Menzel, founder and CEO of MVP Executive Development, a leadership development and executive coaching firm based in New York City.Screen Shot 2023-08-28 at 104251 AM.png"They will be leading your people," Olson-Menzel says, "and their behaviors and mannerisms matter." She adds that it can be difficult to get a feel for a person during a virtual interview. "You get a vibe in person more than you do on the phone or Zoom." 

At Playvox, a producer of workforce management software in Sunnyvale, Calif., all interviews are virtual, except those for leadership positions. Although the firm is fully remote, it can be difficult to assess the behaviors and mannerisms of an executive candidate via video, according to Ismaily Piedra, the company's senior vice president of people and culture. For ­nonleadership roles, the final step in the Playvox process is a 15-minute virtual meeting with the CEO.

Other companies prefer sticking with in-person interviews for all positions. After an initial 15-­minute screening call, Weaver, the ­Houston-based public accounting firm, invites candidates to its office.

"We're not getting much pushback—if they're local, they want to come into the office," says Emily Flamm, Weaver's recruiting senior manager. She adds that an in-person interview allows Weaver to show off its workplace culture, its people and newly reno­vated offices in some of its 16 locations across the country.

"A candidate might determine that while accounting jobs are similar, Weaver took the time to meet with them in person, and it was a great experience," says Kassie Ross, a recruiting manager for the company.


Flamm recognizes that Weaver must make fast hiring decisions, so her team typically decides whether to make an offer after one in-person interview. "We have to move quickly," she says, "or the candidate will be off the market."

Katie Lopez, CHRO at Bonduelle Fresh Americas, an Irwindale, Calif.-based producer of fresh foods, also ­recognizes that speeding up the interview process is essential to landing the best talent.

"You have to meet candidates where they are in order to drive an excellent candidate experience," Lopez says. "Candidates either want flexibility, or they want to come in and meet you and walk the building."

However, Lopez recognizes that virtual interviews have some advantages for both the candidate and the employer. "There are multiple touch points along the way with virtual interviews, and you can keep the candidate engaged more easily," she says.

Piedra adds that candidates may be more open to a ­virtual interview because they don't have to take extra time off to travel to the office.


For companies that have decided to embrace virtual interviews for some or all of their hiring processes, there are some proven best practices to follow. 

Make it personal. It's important to build a rapport with interviewees—which can be more difficult via video. One-on-one virtual interviews can work if the interviewer takes steps toward making a personal connection, which means not having multiple interviewees present, Pell says. Adams adds that all of PwC's virtual interviews are done in a one-on-one setting to help candidates focus and build a relationship with their interviewer, who is typically an employee or partner who can speak to their own experiences at the firm.

Set the stage. To help put job candidates at ease, Piedra likes to start her interviews with a topic that isn't tied to the formal process. She says this can be as simple as telling the candidate about ­yourself as a person and what you enjoy doing when you're not at work. Piedra says Playvox also prepares prospective employees for their virtual interviews by providing detailed information about the people they'll be meeting and what to expect during the call.

Map out the conversation. Video interviews typically require more of a script than in-person interviews, says Olson-Menzel. "You don't catch the casual moments and nuances on video," she says, "so you have to put more structure in place so you can zero in on the most important key points you need covered." For example, if a hiring manager is interviewing several candidates, it's a good idea to ask them the same questions to see how their answers compare.

Play it back. Another advantage of video interviews is the ability to record them, as long as a candidate gives you permission to do so. Recording an interview allows anyone involved in the hire to review what candidates said before making a final decision, ­Olson-Menzel says.

Be prepared. Hiring managers say it's important to be ready for technical glitches, should they occur. "We start off each interview by connecting the candidate with someone from our team who makes sure their ­technology is working, answers any logistical questions and helps the interviewee get comfortable before they meet with their formal interviewer," Adams says. 

Don't judge a candidate if the technology fails, Lopez adds: "If something happens with the video, pick up the phone and keep the process going."

Olson-Menzel says she expects companies to continue to take a hybrid approach to job interviews. Hybrid "is a timesaver," she says, "because you can get through more candidates virtually via Zoom than by making small talk in the hallway when people come into the office."

Regardless of which interview format you choose, Lopez says, the foundations are the same. ­"Interviewing is really about evaluating ­someone's skills and experience based on their past experience and getting them to talk about it," she says.

Lisa Rabasca Roepe is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va. 



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