3 challenges with all-remote interviews (and how to solve them)

Woman working on laptop at home

From the first phone screen to the last in-person interview, recruiters know what to expect when it comes to engaging with top talent (as well as the when, where and how). With that familiar foundation to build upon, the only piece left is optimization.

But now with the world of work in a state of change, expectations for when, where and how recruiters connect with candidates is evolving rapidly. All-remote interviews and distributed hiring are now the new normal, and may be for some time to come.

It might be tempting to take what’s familiar and apply it directly to a virtual environment. For example, taking any meeting or interview and using video conferencing instead. While this sounds great in theory, the trouble is that many recruiters are running into specific challenges with this 1:1 scenario. There are nuances with this medium that don’t exist when people are in the same room.

Not to worry! Greenhouse is here to help. We work with hundreds of companies who have been leaning into all-remote interviews long before 2020, such as InVision, Webflow, Mozilla, Elastic and GitLab. Greenhouse empowers teams of all sizes to hire great talent, no matter where you and your candidates are located.

Below, we’ve responded to three remote interviewing challenges to help you navigate an all-remote interview process.


1. “I keep having technical difficulties in interviews (and so do my candidates)”

When interviews are all-remote, it’s important to ensure a smooth process, whether it’s on the side of the candidate or your own. The best way to avoid technical difficulties is to do a bit more pre-planning than you would for an in-person interview.

Before you send out your first calendar invitation, determine whether the interview will be a video or a phone call. Though it might seem counterintuitive, not every interview needs to be a video chat. Allowing yourself and your candidate to connect across different mediums will help you diversify your understanding of their fit for the role.

If you do decide on a video interview, will you be leveraging screen sharing or sending a pre-read to the candidate? Be sure to have all your materials ready to go ahead of time to avoid any last-minute scrambling. If bothyou feel more prepared and confident, chances are that energy will put your interviewee at ease, too.

Next, it’s always a good idea to prepare your candidates on what to expect. Let them know what types of tools you’ll be using and on which platforms so they can download what they need in advance of speaking with you. If you’re conducting a video interview, ask if the candidate has any materials they’d like to present or share live. We’ve put together this handy list for candidates before heading into a video interview that you can send to them. This article covers other technical aspects such as audio, wifi and more.

Touching base ahead of time via email will ensure you and your candidate are that much more comfortable when the interview begins so you can have a productive and engaging conversation while reducing the risk of technical issues.


2. “I’m having trouble explaining our company culture to remote candidates”

It’s true that an all-remote interview process doesn’t offer the same ease when it comes to expressing your company’s culture to an interested candidate. A lot can be said when walking through the doors of an office: seeing the location of the building, the way the space is configured, what’s offered in the break room and how the conference rooms and desks are arranged can communicate a lot about your company culture.

Without that in-person element, though, it’s important to think outside the (office) box. What helps express company culture beyond physical office space? Everything from the communication tools you use (Slack or email? Zoom or Google Hangouts?) to the ways in which you provide an inclusive environment for remote workers (opportunities for employees to connect and bond virtually outside of work hours or over lunch) speaks volumes to someone considering joining your company. In that sense, company culture can be shown as your company’s ability to adapt and embrace change, while finding creative ways to provide human connection and inclusivity.

At Greenhouse, for example, we’ve always made it a priority to include video conferencing optionality for all meetings, to ensure that a remote employee who is invited to attend can quickly and easily join. We also have the technology to support the inclusion of remote employees via video chat in all our meeting rooms. With a group of our own Greenhouse employees working full time in a distributed capacity, it’s important for us to show that they’re as much a part of our working community as those who come into the office. We also plan virtual happy hours, coffee chats and more for those who can’t be in the same physical space.

In order to make remote candidates feel more comfortable in your company, you should consider communicating each stage of the employee lifecycle during the interview process: what happens before they begin working for you, during their new hire onboarding and once they’ve become a regular contributing member of your team. Check out our remote work culture blog post to dive deeper into this topic for existing employees and get inspiration on what to communicate to candidates.


3. “I keep running into scheduling conflicts with candidates”

There’s no doubt about it: the working world is in flux and so are everyone’s schedules. While at first we might have considered less time commuting to equal more free time, many of us have found the opposite to be true.

If your scheduling conflicts are due to a surge in job applicants, focus on getting your candidate pipeline organized and prioritized first. Pull back on sending individual emails when you could be bundling and sending batches instead, and leverage data reports to determine if you’re attracting candidates who are the right fit for the roles you’re trying to fill.

Next, are there video interviews that you’re conducting live that you could make asynchronous (aka, the candidate pre-records their interview based on a set of pre-selected questions and sends the video back to you for review at a later time)? Making that change can help you free up your schedule along with the candidate’s, and some are sure to be grateful for the additional prep time.

Finally, use empathy when approaching the interview process remotely. From kids at home to health concerns, many people are adapting and changing the ways in which we typically schedule our day. It’s important to be more flexible and roll with scheduling issues as they arise (within reason). With this heightened level of flexibility, both recruiters, hiring managers and candidates will all get through these changes to our normal routine.


An all-remote interview process can be a growth opportunity

Rather than simply augmenting a current process to fit a virtual environment, recruiters should take the opportunity to adapt their traditional processes and create something entirely new.

"With recruiters and candidates spending more time interviewing remotely, it's important to approach these interactions in a structured yet human way,” says Jacqui Maguire, Director of Talent Acquisition at Greenhouse. “Whether remote or in-person, every touchpoint can be an opportunity to promote your company's culture and learn more about the candidate."

Now more than ever, it’s important to adapt and grow when situations are challenging, and to find new ways to approach old systems and expectations. Together we can create new opportunities for our teams and candidates alike.


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Marnie Williams

Marnie Williams

is content marketing manager at Greenhouse. Marnie has been in the thought leadership content space for 10 years, previously at WeWork and Oracle. She has a master’s in marketing from the University of Denver and a bachelor’s in English from Colorado State University.