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What Every Hiring Manager Should Know About Hiring During a Pandemic

Many companies are still working in remote or partially remote work environments. This poses a new set of challenges to the way most of us are used to hiring. Gone are the days of shaking the hand of a candidate when they enter your office for an interview. This has left some hiring managers feeling uneasy about making hiring decisions, with questions like “How do I get a good feel for who the person is without an in-person interview?” or “How do I read body language and communication styles through a video call?” or “How will I be able to tell if they are a good fit for our company culture without meeting them face to face?"

Although these are questions hiring managers find challenging to answer, even with in-person interviews, the traditional face-to-face interview environment puts some of these concerns at ease. Most people are used to conducting interviews in person, and familiarity often equates to “it’s easier.” For the first time ever, remote hiring has become the norm, and while it is not a new concept, most companies still preferred to hire in-person prior to the pandemic.

The pandemic has changed that, though, and most companies no longer have the luxury of conducting in-person interviews. The good news, however, is that with the abundant technology and resources available to businesses today, there is no greater time to conduct virtual interviews. The second piece of good news, and what every hiring manager needs to know about hiring during a pandemic, is that the interview process is not that much different virtually than it is in person. With several minor tweaks and some reliable tools and technology, you can conduct highly effective interviews with candidates right from your home.

Follow Hiring Process Best Practices

The hiring process has minimal tweaks when moving to a virtual one. The biggest change in the process is conducting the in-person interview virtually. In most cases prior to the pandemic, the rest of the hiring process was being handled virtually already through emails, phone calls, pre-employment assessments, and applicant tracking systems. Below is a sample step-by-step hiring process to use as a guide. This process incorporates hiring best practices.

Sample Hiring Process

1. Post the open position for candidates to apply

2. Prescreening: HR team or hiring manager screens candidate resumes and applications for qualified individuals

- Invite qualified candidates to complete a pre-employment assessment

3. Conduct reference checks

- Based on reference check results, send a letter of regret via email or schedule a virtual panel interview

4. Conduct a virtual panel interview (using video)

5. Conduct a background check and/or drug screen

- Based on the background check and/or drug screen results, send a letter of regret via email or schedule the final virtual interview

6. Make the final candidate selection

7. Make a verbal contingent offer to the candidate

- Candidate accepts the offer

8. Send an offer letter to the candidate with their start date

9. The new hire begins orientation and training

Minor Tweaks When Hiring Virtually

One of the questions we are asked most often when talking to companies is “Are there different things we should be focusing on in the interview if the candidate will be working remotely?" While much of the hiring process will stay the same, there are a few areas that need to be adjusted to best fit a virtual experience.

Interview Questions

Interview questions should continue to focus on the competencies needed to be successful at the job, but you can also add a few questions that specifically target remote working skills. For example, if the position will require the remote employee to use their camera and or give presentations, it’s a good idea to ask questions regarding their experience giving remote presentations and using video.

Another thing you can do as part of the interview process is to ask them to prepare a short presentation. This will allow you to get a “preview” of what it will be like to work with them remotely and see their skills in action. Remember, just as if they were giving the presentation in person, look for things like how they present themselves and how comfortable they are with using the technology (camera, screen share, mute/unmute, etc.).

Don’t forget to ask them if they have any previous experience working remotely. Follow the STAR behavioral interview method when asking this question so you can get a better understanding of how they will perform virtually based on their past experience in a similar context.

Conducting the Virtual Interview

Conducting an interview over video is also not really that different than doing it in person. It just takes some practice and some technology prep in advance to ensure everything goes smoothly. Follow the three virtual interviewing tips below, and you’ll be a pro in no time!

  1. Test your video and sound equipment in advance: Technical difficulties make for an awkward interview and a poor candidate experience that could leave a negative mark on your brand. Alleviate this by testing in advance.

  2. Select a quiet room with no distractions. Just because you might be conducting the interview remotely does not mean anything should change about the atmosphere. You wouldn’t have an interview in your office with people talking in the background, so why should that be any different virtually?

  3. Create a guide for candidates: There are numerous video platforms available, and each has its own unique interface. Chances are high that you will be using a platform that is unfamiliar to the candidate. To help set the interview up for success, create a quick instruction guide for the candidate so that they know how to use the platform you have chosen. Some quick tips, such as how to share their screen, test their video, and mute/unmute, will help get the interview off to the right start!

Welcome Package for New Hires

The “first day new hire lunch” is pretty typical, but when workers/the whole company are remote, this poses a challenge. The first day lunch is an excellent practice because it helps new hires get to know their boss and or coworkers and starts to build the foundation of the working relationship. When hiring during a time of social distancing or hiring a remote worker, modify this practice by mailing a welcome package or kit to new hires their first week on the job.

This could include items like branded company swag, office supplies, snacks, or even a voucher for a food delivery service so they can have lunch of their choosing delivered right to their door! Most importantly, make sure this package includes a handwritten letter from their boss welcoming them to the team and offering a few words of encouragement and support. This small gesture will make a big difference in building the relationship and making your new hires feel like part of the team.


Need help or want more guidance on hiring during a pandemic? At ZERORISK HR, we believe in a world where businesses lead innovation and economic growth with happy and productive workforces. We offer a variety of human capital solutions to help your company hire, develop, and retain the best team possible. Contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation, and we can talk through your hiring challenges and ways to overcome them.


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