It's no secret that so much has changed about how we work. Most of us in SaaS no longer need to commute for work. Remote is no longer an exception but the norm. You can say that we are already living in a kind of a 'metaverse' that Mark Zuckerberg is betting on.
We attend back-to-back office meetings on Zoom, get our focused work done on Flow.Club, and socialize with professionals from around the world via Lunchclub. We couldn't have imagined this to be the norm a few years ago.
On the same lines, a lot has changed regarding what a candidate looks for when joining your organization. The free food and the ping pong tables aren't an attraction anymore. And to add to that, the paradox is—the remote world has made it possible to work from anywhere, and yet hiring the right candidate has become more challenging than ever.
The approach to hiring needs to change. And because remote hiring is still a new concept, most businesses, including us, are catching up to the current hiring norms—and there's always room for improvement.
This post will discuss how to improve the remote hiring process, and some of our learnings align the way.
What makes remote hiring difficult?
Traditional interview formats are still the norm, and they cause a lot of chaos in the hiring process. For instance, the interviewing process in most companies is a victim of poor planning and bad execution. A job candidate moves from one round of interviews to another—often stumbling along the way. The process is still largely manual—the interview panelists don't have a smart way to share the context about a candidate smoothly across the internal teams.
The problems tend to magnify in a remote interview setup. Eventually, the poor candidate experience often leads the job candidates to form a negative perception of your brand and minimizes your chances of hiring and retaining good talent.
But to be fair, offering a seamless remote hiring experience isn't as easy as it sounds. The need for remote cross-functional collaboration has exploded and is a critical component to providing a seamless hiring experience. With recruiters, hiring managers, and interview panel members working remotely, several factors need to work seamlessly—candidate shortlisting, interviews and assessment, collaboration on the hiring decision, and communicating the decision to the candidate. And then, rinse and repeat.
Fixing a broken remote hiring experience
From a candidate's perspective, the expectations from employers are on an all-time high. The Great Resignation is perhaps the best point of reference to understand that. It is a phenomenon that has voluntarily caused 20 million Americans to quit their jobs since April 2020. While a record-breaking 4.3 million Americans gave up their positions in September 2020 alone, the en masse quitting is still ongoing.
Today's candidates are more aware and purpose-driven. They expect more than good pay, work-life balance, realistic work deadlines, and role clarity.
When I joined Avoma—one of my core expectations was to see if my values and the founding team's values were aligning.
The interview experience and the overall interview process play a massive role in displaying the values. For example, one of my core values is transparency. And here's how Avoma's interview process displayed transparency.
All my interview conversations were recorded, transcribed, along with the AI-generated summarized notes on Avoma, and was made available to the interview panelists (the founding team), which ensured two things:
- Complete transparency (everybody knew what was discussed/agreed upon, etc.)
- Better interview process (there were no repeating questions)
If you aren't meeting the expectations of today's candidates (assuming it's realistic and meaningful), you can miss out on the opportunity to hire the best possible candidates for the right roles.
Now let’s look at some common mistakes that contributes to a broken interview experience:
1. Lack of enough communication before, during and after interviews
It's much easier to read the room and structure a conversation in the right direction when doing an in-person interview. But in a remote setting, people don't have the luxury to pick up each other's nonverbal cues, analyze the body language, or interpret the exchange of messages. It'll help if you over-communicate with your interview candidates to avoid any chances of miscommunication or misinterpretation.
How to fix it:
Make sure you leave no stone unturned in articulating an interview agenda, scope, expectations, etc., much before the interview commences. As a rule of thumb, let the candidates know the following things before the interview:
- How long does an interview round typically take?
- How does the overall interview process look?
- Who are the people joining the interview panel?
- How long will you take to inform them about the interview's outcome?
- What is the medium to attend the interview?
- Calendar link to the interview and login credentials, and more.
Over-communicating the details of the process also sets the right expectations for the candidates. Most job applicants appreciate it when they know what's next in the interview process to prepare themselves better.
2. Assuming that every panelist knows how to interview
Most HR Business Partners (HRBPs) and talent acquisition teams often assume that the respective hiring managers know how to conduct interviews in the best possible way. But it's not true. Most of the hiring managers are never trained to identify and hire the best-qualified candidate.
Here are a few things that we’ve seen works best:
- Having clarity on what to expect from an ideal candidate (specific experience, skills, etc.) ensures that the interview panel has agreed upon the make-or-break factors.
- Have a structured approach to understanding the candidate's experience and exploring a fit, and avoiding the cliche questions
- Lastly, we make it a point to offer feedback at the end of each interview round so that there is clarity on both sides of the fence and doesn't leave the candidate hanging.
3. Not having a clear interview agenda
The seeds of a good job interview are sown in its preparation—more so when it's a remote interview process. On the other hand, bad interviews are often a result of a lack of thoughtfulness. And like a car pile-up on an interstate, a poorly done job interview has a domino effect across all other stages of the hiring process.
Add to that data from a LinkedIn survey where over 83% of job seekers said that a negative interview experience could change their minds about the employer brand.
How to fix it:
But you can make remote job interviews fun, fruitful, and productive if you put some planning into it. For instance, you can create a meeting agenda template to cover all the areas you want to address during an interview. Use Avoma to create a template specifically for your interviews and see the magic happen.
Avoma automatically assigns the right meeting template to your interview meeting, and you can be ready for your meeting in seconds. That means you neither have to create a new template from scratch every time you schedule a new job interview, nor do you need to copy-paste contents of an existing template. Thus it helps you make your interview process simple, repeatable, and scalable.
4. Not having the right technology to support your remote interviews
Remote work relies heavily on the use of technology. While you can’t completely control the curse of Murphy’s Law during important interviews, you can at least try and minimize the chances of things going wrong.
Here are some of the essential etiquettes that you might want to follow during remote interviews to make a good first impression:
- Default to video interviews and ask the candidates to enable their camera.
- Start with some small talk, but don't digress too much from the interview topics.
- Make sure you smile and talk to the candidates on a friendly level.
- Ensure good lighting around you. Use an external lighting source if necessary.
- Dress professionally—if you want the candidates to take you seriously.
- Have a professional-looking background. If your home setup isn't great, choose a virtual background from Zoom.
- Keep distractions away from you—mute your smartphone, email, and Slack notifications. Also, keep your door locked if you are at home.
- Ensure that you have good wifi connectivity.
- Test your tech set up before you start the interview. You don't want any last-minute glitches during an important interview.
Some of these etiquettes are also tech readiness before an interview. Tech readiness is an integral part of getting your remote interview experience right. If you have been working remotely for a while now, you know how unpredictable tech can be just when you need them to work.
How to fix it:
There's no shortage in terms of the availability of tools— be it application tracking systems (ATS) or a full-fledged Human Resource Management Software (HRMS). And yet, a lot of times, it can feel like using Zoom for interviews is good enough, and you don't need any additional bells and whistles, but that's not a scalable solution.
For example, when you interview multiple candidates for multiple roles, it can become too difficult to track who said what and why you should select one over the other. And even if you have invested in an ATS, you need to ensure that the ATS integrates into your existing tech stack and doesn't operate in silos.
From our experience, we would recommend you invest in interview intelligence.
Interview intelligence is the modern way to approach hiring by harmonizing all aspects of the interview process into a beautiful symphony. An interview intelligence tool records, transcribes, and analyzes candidate conversations. It helps the hiring managers, recruiters, and HR Business Partners (HRBPs) to gain deeper visibility into the interview process, create smooth feedback loops between the panelists, and improve the overall recruitment process.
Here's an overview of the Interview Intelligence journey:
Here’s how interview intelligence helps:
As you record all the interview conversations, it becomes easier for the entire panel to course-correct wherever needed. Here are some examples:
- The talent acquisition teams can listen to interview conversations between the candidates and the hiring panelists. It helps them understand the gap between the hiring panel's expectations and the candidates' expertise. Therefore, listening to these conversations will help the talent sourcing team shortlist candidates that better fit the expectations.
- The interview panelists can listen to the recordings of the candidates' previous discussion rounds to have a better context of the candidates. It also ensures that they don't repeat the points discussed in the earlier rounds so that the overall discussion progresses seamlessly.
- Panelists can share specific snippets of their interview conversations with peers or the recruiting team to throw a spotlight on a topic discussed that needs attention.
5. Not being an empathetic listener
Most job interviews are one-way streets where the interviewers overshadow the interviewees. And we can't blame the job aspirants since we are taught to think that the prospects of getting a job go down if you talk too much. While there's a bit of truth in that, a job interview is anything but a one-person show.
Remote interviews can get awkward if the panelists dominate the conversation for the most part. For instance, we can take inspiration from sales professionals who know how important it is to keep a sales conversation interactive, which is why they listen more than they talk.
The interactive aspect is also valid for remote interviews because encouraging the job candidate to be more conversational will open conversation loops that give you rich insights into the candidate's strengths and weaknesses.
To that end—practice empathetic listening to engage with the candidates personally and understand their working style. Empathic listening means to listen with your whole self—to give someone your undivided attention instead of judging or interrupting them mid-course. Empathetic listening entails listening with the intent to understand, internalizing what is being said, and asking clarifying questions wherever necessary.
How to fix it:
Looking at the data across all our online meetings and interviews, we at Avoma have found that the recommended talk range is 40%–60%. And if you are talking for more than 60% of the total time on the call, you are probably not listening enough. So the best way to approach this is to become more aware of your talk range and listen more by having an eye on your talk-time during your meetings.
And finally, don’t underestimate the power of employer branding
Talent acquisition is as critical to your success as customer acquisition. Apart from improving your remote interviewing process, there's one more thing you can do to overcome the hiring challenges—build a powerful brand presence online.
Prospective candidates evaluate all aspects of a company before applying for a job or accepting an offer. And social media—especially LinkedIn—is a natural place for employees to research a company's culture, background, and the people in the management.
Maintaining an impressive presence on LinkedIn helps you build a hiring pipeline. It lets aspiring candidates perceive your brand in a positive light and apply for a role in your company when the right opportunity opens up. On the contrary, we have noticed that people are wary about joining a company they haven't heard of—or can't find much information about online.
In business, people buy from companies that they know and trust. If your company's brand is within a person's mental radar, they are more willing to apply for a job or accept an offer.
But building a good employer brand doesn't mean constantly posting your marketing content across all social media platforms. You would need a strategy to showcase your brand's personality, position your company as a modern workplace with the right incentives, and market it as a friendly place to work.
It's easier to get candidates to appear for a job interview when you build a good brand online. Once they are ready for an interview, apply the tips discussed above to augment the interview experience and increase your chances of hiring great talent in your company.