The uncertainties ushered in by the Covid-19 pandemic may have slowed down hiring across industries, but some companies are still conducting job interviews – albeit remotely. With lockdowns forcing people to adapt to work from home, companies are also tailoring their business processes and requirements to align with the new work setting.
However, assessing candidates during in-person interviews can be challenging enough; and virtual interviews makes the overall process of accurately screening someone for a specific data science role even more difficult. It can even be daunting for some, who heavily rely on facial cues and gestures to judge a candidate’s competency to perform well in stressful situations.
But conducting remote interviews need not be so hard. In fact, with experience, companies will recognise that using virtual tools to assess a candidate can be more effective and rewarding when compared to conventional methods.
This is because it allows companies to follow a more structured process to get them the information they need. Especially true for data science positions, most companies lay a lot of emphasis on the candidate’s technical expertise and the breadth of their domain knowledge, all of which can be accurately assessed remotely.
Even if most companies are not hiring right now, businesses will do well to understand how to get the most out of remote interviews, since that may become the norm in the foreseeable future. To surmount some of the challenges in conducting a good virtual interview, here are some tips and best practices to make your hiring process better.
Create A Structured Process For Remote Interviews
Companies need to first draw up a framework that clearly outlines a process based on their objectives. In simple terms, it refers to the steps to run the interview smoothly with the candidate, as well as peers who will be joining the interview. Firstly, begin by notifying all stakeholders and find a way to keep everyone in the loop about any possible developments. There are many tools that can keep track of your workflows efficiently, and this can help monitor any changes to the scheduled interview.
These tools will also help systematically document key process changes in one place to minimise confusion and maintain a clear stream of communication. It can also log key behavioural and technical interview questions to use during the interview. Having such a structure in place will also help ensure consistency across interviews for the same position with different candidates.
This may actually improve the overall interview process for critical data science positions since most interviewers do not refer to notes when conducting interviews. However, virtual interviews allow them the flexibility to conduct a fair interview, since all candidates will be evaluated based on a proper structure. You can also log in your observations and share it with peers immediately, expediting the overall interview process.
Furthermore, some companies have noted that a common complaint among data science candidates is that the job role and what is ultimately demanded of them was not clearly outlined in the interview. Having a more structured process in place will take care of such ambiguities.
Give All Tech Tools A Test Run
Delays caused by technical snags can derail remote interviews, and it is applicable for both candidates as well as interviewers. Before you have even scheduled an interview, prep all the tools that you will be using and give them all a quick test run.
If you run into any technical issues during or right before the interview, it does not look professional and will reflect poorly on companies whose core offerings are tech-centred. Moreover, it is likely to agitate you and reduce the valuable time you have earmarked for important discussions with a possibly skilled candidate.
Furthermore, ensure that you have a good tech stack in front of you to get the most out of this interview. If possible, use a unified communications platform that is widely used and allows you to leverage numerous tools to communicate, including screen sharing, instant messaging, etc., in addition to video conferencing. Especially useful when testing the technical knowledge of candidates, try the screen sharing feature in advance and make sure you can navigate it comfortably if you get stuck.
Before any of this, however, make sure your signal strength is adequate, and your internet connection is strong. Set a check-list of things before an interview: Are all your devices plugged in? Are the camera and microphone working properly? Remote interviews can be stressful for both candidates and the interviewer, and a poor connection will only exacerbate these feelings.
Allow Yourself & Candidates To Adapt To The Medium
While some people, especially freelancers, might have acclimated themselves to remote interviews, most people are still getting comfortable with the format. This means that they will take some time to adapt to the medium, and interviewers should allow candidates that flexibility.
Use certain facial cues to establish trust at the beginning itself so that candidates can open up more quickly. A good way to do this would be to have a friendly demeanour and make some small talk before diving into the nitty gritty of the interview.
Furthermore, give them the time to develop their responses. Candidates in remote interviews may be in a rush to conclude quickly or give cryptic answers since they know they are only able to use their words to hold your attention. Interrupt by asking more related questions, and seem interested in what they are saying, even if it is off-topic. However, be mindful of the time and steer the conversation to relevant topics if necessary.
Building a connection in remote interviews can be challenging but not impossible. Use your words wisely, smile often and even exaggerate your facial expressions if need be – remember that you are doing this to find a good hire for your company.
Choose Your Team Wisely
Like in in-person interviews, remote interviews are best conducted with multiple people involved. This is because even if you have a proper structure in place for each interview for the same position, a bulk of the interview should be anchored around the responses generated by the candidate.
This means that if you missed an opportunity to ask an important follow-up question, someone else in your team can take it up. This also helps mimic a conventional interview, since more people can make the overall interview more conversational and organic. It will also give you the opportunity to collaborate with some of your peers to select the best candidate for your company.
What is more, having multiple perspectives of a candidate is better than one. It can be more difficult to manage since chances of interruptions are more, but the value it can add to the overall hiring process should negate these minor inconveniences. Assigning specific roles to each person in the team will help alleviate some of these challenges.
Learning to conduct remote interviews offers you the opportunity to re-evaluate your current interview processes. Is it designed to give you all the information you need about the candidate? What features of remote interviews can you leverage that you would not have got from a conventional in-person interview?
Although it will take some getting used to, use this as a chance to transition to a digital economy more fully. With remote working possibly becoming a norm in the time to come, learning to conduct remote interviews effectively will be an important segment of your overall company experience.
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Anu is a writer who stews in existential angst and actively seeks what’s broken. Lover of avant-garde films and BoJack Horseman fan theories, she has previously worked for Economic Times. Contact: email@example.com