As employers begin asking employees to work from home to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, virtual interactions are taking the place of in-person job interviews.
Every day, more and more companies are initiating remote work for at least some staff, while a few of the country's marquee companies—Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft—required employees to work from home beginning in early March, as employees in their Seattle offices began to test positive for COVID-19.
Amazon canceled most in-person interviews and set up virtual interview portals for candidates to connect with recruiters, complete necessary documents and take part in interviews via Amazon Chime, the company's videoconferencing software.
Google informed its candidates that interviews were to be conducted in Google Hangouts or using videoconferencing service BlueJeans. LinkedIn told interested job seekers that they have the option of conducting their interviews virtually via BlueJeans or rescheduling until meeting in person is possible.
"In settings where remote work is feasible, job seekers should be prepared to be interviewed via Skype or Zoom instead of in person and should also expect delays in interview scheduling, especially if they are looking for roles in companies with large numbers of employees based in regions that are affected by coronavirus," said Irina Novoselsky, CEO of CareerBuilder.
Kathy Albarado, the CEO of Reston, Va.-based HR outsourcing and talent acquisition consultancy Helios HR, said that she asked her staff of 40 to work remotely pending further notice because there was reason to believe that her employees' safety was in danger.
She said, "All of our internal interviews continue to move forward" using Microsoft Teams, a communication and collaboration platform that combines chat, video meetings, file storage and application integration.
"As part of our interviewing process for HR and recruiting consultants, we begin with an initial phone screen, then move into in-person interviews and candidate presentations," she said. "We've moved those interviews and presentations to video, and we're encouraging our clients to do the same."
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Microsoft is offering a free six-month trial of the premium version of Teams.
Albarado said that virtual interviewing "is different," but it's not an obstacle and doesn't degrade the interviewing experience.
Irene DeNigris, chief people officer at recruitment software company iCIMS, said, "You don't lose the human connection with video. You can still assess facial expressions and level of engagement when speaking virtually to candidates. We've found there are many meaningful ways to engage with people besides face to face. You don't need to shake someone's hand to hire them."
[SHRM members-only toolkit: Interviewing Candidates for Employment]
Many of the companies Helios works with were not fully prepared for remote work. "One good thing that will come from this situation is that it will encourage employers to leverage their remote-work technology or invest in it in the first place," Albarado said. "Hopefully, people will get more comfortable with these practices, and it will expand the opportunity for flexibility in the workplace—that's one of the top things we see candidates get excited about."
iCIMS Director of Talent Acquisition Amy Warner agreed, noting that "remote work is not a passing phase, and virtual recruiting solutions are critical for the future of work. Current events give us an opportunity to build out best practices and stress-test remote capabilities and the way we connect with candidates. There's a strong sense of candidate appreciation when you show concern for their health, schedule or family situation."
Tips for Virtual Interviewing
Video interviews don't have to be scary, said Imo Udom, chief strategy officer at OutMatch, a talent selection platform in Dallas.
Here are a few best practices for conducting interviews by videoconferencing:
Be prepared. Treat video interviews with the same seriousness as in-person interviews. Know the job description, the candidate's resume and specific questions to ask. Choose a quiet, well-lit room for interviews. Make sure all parties have the correct interview time on their calendar, properly adjusting for different time zones. Share with candidates how to access the videoconferencing technology and whether software needs to be downloaded.
Set expectations. Give candidates advance notice that interviews will be conducted virtually. "Just sending a candidate a link to a video interview can be jarring," Udom said. "Give them context for why you're using video interviewing, and very specifically give guidance about the experience and what's expected from the interview."
Check your tech. Double-check the technology you'll be using, and ask the candidate to do the same. Prior to the interview, test the camera and microphone.