Over the past 14 months, countless employees have been interviewed, hired, onboarded and started diligently working for organizations where they never stepped in the front door; where they never ducked out for coffee with a colleague or high-fived a supervisor after a professional win. Virtual interviews have shown potential as a normalized HR tool for companies across the country.
Many organizations moved to remote work as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the unique times, certain banalities persisted: employers needed to hire employees, and hiring professionals adapted interviewing practices accordingly.
More recently (and thankfully!), the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. is catalyzing a return to the physical office. But as the workforce returns to their cubicles and corner offices, it would be worthwhile to evaluate and leverage the value of the remote interviewing process.
While some employers held phone or video interviews prior to the pandemic, an unprecedented number embraced the use of video as the sole method of conducting interviews over the past year.
Using Zoom, Teams, or other video-based applications to conduct interviews can substantially increase the geographic pool of candidates. Previously, organizations would have to pay for the travel costs to bring a candidate in for an interview. This cost, as well as the additional travel time, often made out-of-town candidates a less attractive option, especially without knowing if it would be time well-spent. Employers would be prudent to conduct an initial interview via video, then invite the best candidates for a follow-up interview in person.
Similarly, video may allow the opportunity to consider candidates with a more unique background or a circuitous career path (maybe that applicant with a stint on a llama farm is worth meeting), without expending significant resources. A quick screening interview using video may uncover an amazing candidate that would have otherwise have been passed over.
Continuing the use of video interviewing affords flexibility and saves time for current employees who are involved in the interview and decision-making process. Conducting video interviews allows greater flexibility to work around the schedules of busy interviewers. For example, what may typically be “one round” of interviews with multiple interviewers can be split into consecutive days to accommodate conflicting schedules. Whereas asking a candidate to come into an office two days in a row is typically considered burdensome, asking a candidate to log on for daily consecutive virtual interviews is hardly onerous.
Remote interviewing has another key benefit: speed. Top candidates are often being courted by multiple companies and getting through the interview process in a quick and efficient manner is critical. If a C-Suite leader who must meet the candidate is out of the office, this need not hold up the whole process. The entire team can meet the candidate in person, and the executive level individual can meet via video mixed in with the others.
One of the unexpected benefits of virtual interviewing is the ability to mitigate some elements of unconscious bias. For those not familiar with the concept, “unconscious” or “implicit” bias is the idea that our unconscious mind makes assumptions and judgements about people before our conscious mind even registers them.
When meeting a candidate, an interviewer’s subconscious makes conclusions about that person based on their appearance, their resume, their name and countless other factors. Whether these assumptions are positive (“She went to Harvard—she must be smart!”) or negative (“She went to community college—she must not be that smart”), unconscious bias risks counter-productive conclusions about the person and may lead to mistakes in hiring.
During a remote interview, certain pieces of information, like clothing and shoes, are visually obscured. Examples of unconscious bias around clothes include a female candidate wearing a pants suit (“Will she be aggressive?”) or a particularly short skirt (“Not serious about the job?”). Another example is to equate a candidate’s wearing an ill-fitting suit with disorganization in their work process.
It’s also more difficult to discern a candidate’s height, weight, or body type on video. Studies show that heavier individuals are frequently the subject of unconscious bias and hiring discrimination. Additionally, tall male candidates are favored, as we unconsciously associate excess weight with laziness, and height with strength and power.
Clearly, neither clothing nor body type have anything to do with the ability to excel in most positions. Embracing the opportunity to minimize these biases is an important step toward equity and inclusion—and more productive hiring.
All of the advantages of virtual interviews above are focused on the organization. However, don’t overlook the benefits of video interviewing for job candidates. In particular, candidates appreciate that an interview does not necessarily need to take up a whole day. This is particularly important for candidates who are currently employed, as well as those interviewing with multiple organizations. Traveling to an interview, finding parking, mapping out a route on mass transit and arriving in a timely manner are factors that take a great deal of time and mental energy.
Employers should also consider integrating video as a standard “backup” as part of their interviewing protocol. For example, in an area of the country with repeat snow days or hurricane watches, an employer could provide the video information in advance and be prepared to pivot to an interview remotely in lieu of in-person quicker than you can say, “You’re on mute.”
The benefits of remote recruiting also vary by field. For example, a law firm litigator, a sales representative or a public relations specialist would all be well-served to be dynamic over the video screen. This is an excellent way to gauge that particular skill. Therefore, in addition to all of the benefits above, it’s worth evaluating whether your particular position may be well-served by using remote interviewing as part of the process.
There is no doubt that there are many concrete benefits to in-person interviews. If your office has a wonderful open-door policy, stunning city views or a fancy lunch café with an espresso machine, those details are hard to share via video. However, in the rush to put all remnants of the “COVID-era” behind us, don’t throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. There are also numerous benefits to embracing video for interviews, and the technology need not be used the same way across the board. Consider the unique needs of your organization and workforce, and be ready to “join the meeting.”
©All Rights Reserved. May, 2021. DailyDACTM, LLC d/b/a/ Financial PoiseTM
Meredith J. Kahan, Esq. is the Director of Associate & Student Recruiting for Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP’s sixteen offices where her role focuses on hiring the next generation of talented lawyers. She is also the Firm’s Co-Chair of the Working Parents Committee which supports attorneys and staff who are balancing both professional and…
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