HR and Recruiting

Interviewing candidates in difficult times

Written by Eric Titner

Interviewing is always a challenging affair—both for hiring managers and for candidates—but things get especially tricky when events in the world make it difficult to even meet up. A global pandemic, like that being experienced as the ongoing coronavirus impacts the world, certainly exceeds the criteria for a tough interview situation.

On top of the widespread health and economic impacts the pandemic have had across the planet, creating a tsunami of despair and uncertainty, there has also been a wave of social changes taking place that many of us have never experienced before. The concept of responsible social distancing, which more and more individuals, businesses, towns, cities, states, and even countries are adopting as each day passes, makes holding interviews a real logistical challenge.

Thankfully, we live in the digital age—where once holding interviews in a time of maintaining social distance would have been nearly impossible in bygone eras, today it’s a different story. There are now plenty of options for employers to connect with candidates. However, along with these advances come some potential issues and concerns.

The logistics of setting up an interview remotely aren’t too difficult to work through. Once the primary questions regarding what type of interview you’d like to hold (audio, video, etc.) and the platform you’d like to use (Zoom, Teams, Skype, Webex, and even the telephone, etc.) are answered, all you need to do is schedule a time and make sure everyone involved has the right software.

That said, some of the nuances and benefits of meeting candidates face to face can be lost. Simply put, there’s just something beneficial about being in a room with someone and having the opportunity to gauge synergy and body language in person in order to fully evaluate someone during an interview. After all, you’re looking to hire someone who you and your team will likely be interacting with on a regular basis, so you want to make sure they’re a good fit. So, while moving candidates through the early stages of your company’s HR pipeline and interview process can benefit from existing technology, actually hiring someone based solely on remote interactions can be tricky.


Also, using technology to interview during difficult times brings up some other concerns. Regardless of what side of the “virtual interview desk” you happen to be on, note that even the best computers and software are prone to unforeseen technical glitches. Make sure that your setup is operational and running smoothly prior to the actual interview—things like video freezes, poor audio connections, and disconnects, while understood as things that “just happen” to all of us, certainly won’t help make an interview successful. Make sure that other things like what you’re wearing (a video interview is not an excuse to dress casually) and the backdrop of your video environment (make sure nothing embarrassing is lurking in the background) are appropriate at well.

Doing a run-through beforehand is highly recommended, especially if you’re not used to talking in front of a camera or holding video meetings. It is a different experience from a face-to-face conversation, and like most things in life, practice is always helpful. If you can connect with someone you trust who can offer you an honest and helpful critique of your performance, even better.

What’s the bottom line when it comes to interviewing in difficult times, like during the current coronavirus scare? Everyone is doing the best they can, and interviewees understand that your circumstances are as strange as theirs. The work world should and will push forward, and the need for businesses to interview in an effort to appropriately staff their teams and meet their goals remains essential. Just do your best to remain as welcoming and professional as you would in a face-to-face setting. Although there are events that occur during a global pandemic that may make hiring and interviewing seem less important than before, in light of the seriousness of what’s going on around the world, the reality is that life goes on—even in the most difficult of times.

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About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.

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