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COVID-19: Tips for Transitioning Candidate Interviews to the Telephone

By Lacey Conner, SHRM-CP on Apr 07, 2020
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While your organization works to comply with changing federal, state and local regulations designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, transitioning from in-person to telephone interviews is likely either done or on your list. While changing the logistics is the first step, it's critical to also adjust your interview technique to one that's conducive to remote interviews. Here's what you need to know.

1. Set Eyes on the Candidate

Almost every organization would agree that non-verbal communication skills are essential - and that's one factor you can't assess through a telephone interview, along with a candidate's equally important personal hygiene. Whenever humanly possible, use a videoconferencing platform in lieu of a telephone interview which gives you an opportunity to set eyes on the candidate (and a better chance at connecting with them).

2. Maintain Order

Plan ahead to ensure only one person speaks at a time. Establish a lead interviewer, who will guide the call and "turn over the mic" in an organized way. For example, the lead interviewer will determine the order in which interviewers will ask questions, prompt panel members to introduce themselves ("Carmin, go ahead."), and select a panel member to address each question ("I think Darren can answer this one. Go ahead, Darren."). 

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3. Introduce Remote Meeting Etiquette

Workers who are accustomed to traditional meetings and interviews often don't know the rules of engagement that apply in teleconferences or web meetings. Beginning the call with a quick introduction to phone etiquette can be helpful, especially if all interviewers are calling in from their own offices (which is most likely the case in light of social distancing guidelines). For example, the lead interviewer may start the call with, "I know telephone interviewing isn't ideal, but to ensure we're able to maximize the potential of this call, I'd like to ask all participants to refrain from multitasking during the interview, mute your lines except when you're speaking, and refrain from putting the call on hold."

4. Show Up Prepared

Have the candidate's resume in front of you and make sure you aren't setting eyes on it for the first time during the interview. Additionally, have interview questions prepared in advance and distributed to all interviewers, which can streamline the process and make it much easier to prevent multiple people talking at once and then doing that awkward pause to allow others to speak and then all talking at once again (and then repeat endlessly until all participants are flustered). 

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5. Eliminate Distractions

The temptation to multitask is strong and we've all fallen prey before. The interview is your first and often last opportunity to engage top talent; if you have to ask them to repeat themselves because an email or a Skype message distracted you, it may compromise your connection with the candidate. Furthermore, it's virtually impossible to compare apples to apples when you're in and out of interviews because distractions are pulling your attention away. Close your Outlook and messenger prior to the interview, turn your ringer off, hang up your "Do Not Disturb" sign, and put your cell phone in a desk drawer so you can give the candidate your undivided attention (and make a great first impression). 

Many organizations elect to partner with a professional employer organization to develop their interview tools, screening and selection policies, and onboarding. To learn more, visit Axcet HR today.


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