Interviewing in Times of COVID-19

With the coronavirus spreading worldwide, remote interviewing has become a crucial factor for finding both jobs and talent. A new report from Hightech Partners offers suggestions for candidates and hiring managers alike for using the new technology to their best advantage.

April 6, 2020 – With the coronavirus spreading around the world, it is essential to start applying alternative solutions to carry on with our daily routines. Government might have restricted our physical and social interactions, but people remain constantly connected through technology. Even locked in their houses, many individuals continue to actively look for a job opportunity or seek to recruit someone to fill their open positions, says a new report Hightech Partners, a Brussels-based search firm.

That’s why remote interviews become crucial, said Raffaele Jacovelli, managing director at Hightech Partners and the author of the report. “Although we have always been taught how to conduct face-to-face interviews, we might lack knowledge regarding the tips and tricks of conducting interviews in front of our cameras in a crisis period as this one,” he said.

Here are some recommendations both for the candidate and the recruiter:

1. Show Your Best Professional Side While at Home

The video call is an open window to your personal life, so it is important to appear professional, precise and organized. “Therefore, get a tidy room, neutral background, regulate the lights, and inform people (and pets) sharing your habitation that you won’t be available at a set timeslot,” Mr. Jacovelli said. “If you’re using a top application like Zoom you can use a virtual background to hide details about the location as well as people or kids that can enter the screen range.”

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2. Check Your Application, Microphone and Camera

Before starting the interview, check to see if you have the right application on your device to match with the other party, try it out long before the meeting and check it again a few minutes before it, said Mr. Jacovelli. Assess the clarity of your voice through the microphone. “Use a small headset if the quality is better; big headsets should be avoided as they create a feeling of isolation to your interlocutor,” he said. “Avoid any noisy disturbances and filters when you are speaking and make your room soundproof. Check the quality of the camera and how you appear on the screen. Hearing together with sight are the only senses you can use to make a good impression, so make sure to take care of them.”

3. Be Empathic about COVID-19 or any Major Event Happening in Your Interviewer’s Environment

Today, 170 countries are being affected by the coronavirus. Some nations, however, have been impacted more than others, meaning that the seriousness assumed different forms: depending on the effects of the virus on the country, governments have developed different opinions on the gravity of this situation. “However, in case of major events happening in your interlocutor’s environment, you should inquire how they feel about it and if everything goes well. It is a natural human sign of empathy,” Mr. Jacovelli said.

4. Hightech Partners’ Practical Tips to Conduct a Professional Interview

  • Use a normal screen and not your mobile as you will see the reactions of your interlocutor in more detail and will be able to sympathize better.
  • Place the camera in a horizontal line to your eyes; don’t put it too low—your chin is not necessarily your most flattering feature.
  • Look to the point where the camera is located or to the middle of your screen; when looking away, move your head and not only your eyes. That might look odd on a screen.

Related: 11 Key Strategies for Seeking a New Job During a Pandemic

  • Do not react when it’s unnecessary: Responses like “Hmm” and “yes” are less sympathetic online than in an in-person meeting.
  • Do not wear striped clothing, as the lines might look to be moving to your viewer.

Tips for Candidates

1. Dress to Impress

“It takes about seven seconds to make a first impression,” said Mr. Jacovelli. “As you can’t shake hands, the first point of judgement becomes the way you are dressed, meaning that facade assumes a higher value. You only need to frame your face and the upper part of your bust, so establish that these parts are presentable,” he said. “One can wear shorts, but don’t stand up then, unless you apply for a job in Silicon Valley.”

2. Prepare Yourself to Speak in Front of a Camera

Looking and speaking in front of an inanimate object might be challenging, as many people are not used to doing it. “Prepare by speaking about your professional life in front of a mirror and look yourself in the eyes,” Mr. Jacovelli said. “This way you can exercise your communication skills but also become aware of your body language and adjust it if needed.”

Related: Managing Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

3. Check Your Mental State

Be aware of how the crisis is impacting your life and those closest to you, Mr. Jacovelli said. “Before bringing changes in your life, make sure to check whether you are in condition to do so,” he said. “Nobody is forcing you to do an interview during such a difficult period, so don’t be afraid to cancel or postpone.”

4. Ask about How the Company is Handling the Crisis

As a candidate, you should ask how the company is reacting to the crisis, said the Hightech Partners report. This will give you a deeper understanding regarding the overall mentality of the firm, their infrastructures and corporate culture. Moreover, it will inform you regarding the timeline and logistics of the hiring process.

Tips for a Recruiter/ Hiring Manager

1. Reassure Candidates Regarding the Crisis

“This situation allows you to show how your company or your client is reacting during emergencies,” said Mr. Jacovelli. “Therefore, make sure to mention all the security measures, precautions and employees’ benefits that the company is implementing during this difficult period. However, don’t forget to be as transparent as possible to create a trustful relationship with the candidate.”

2. Adapt Yourself to a Remote Interview

Remote interviews are very different than face-to-face ones, as establishing a connection is more challenging given the lack of a physical experience. “Therefore, listening to the content and the tone of voice becomes even more important,” Mr. Jacovelli said. “Moreover, you should pay attention to the candidates’ eye contact.” With the candidate’s approval – in compliance with current GDPR regulation – you can record the interview. “This will allow you to avoid taking notes and dedicate your undivided attention to the candidate,” he said.

Mastering the Online Interview has Just Taken on New Importance
Online interviews could be the new normal — not just because of the coronavirus crisis but because companies are realizing meaningful cost savings. That is leading to more broad acceptance of the practice. Carol Hartman of Hartman Group Consulting offers ways to master your next online interview.

“In addition, this will enable you to review it and gather some details that you might have missed during the conversation and annotate the relevant elements to be used in your report if needed,” he said. “This is a great advantage vs. face-to-face meetings.”

3. What’s the Candidate’s Mental State

It is crucial to understand how the candidate has been impacted by the crisis, the report said. “This gives you an idea of the candidate’s conditions, but also an understanding of his/her overall attitude, culture, capacity to see the relativity of it and even humor,” said Mr. Jacovelli.


Whether you are a recruiter or a hiring manager or a candidate, these tips can help when conducting a remote interview during a crisis period. Mr. Jacovelli said.

“Once the crisis is over, going back to normal would likely be impossible, as this situation is affecting us socially, economically and psychologically,” he said. “Therefore, thinking of the next normal’ would become imperative and getting used to new measures would be necessary. In the recruitment world, remote interviewing will become a common practice, hence you can take this opportunity to develop the most effective approach to conduct interviews at distance and leverage this experience in the future.”

Related: Working Virtually Keeps Everyone Safe and Productive

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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