Written on: 22 January 2021
Written by: Frances Hardcastle
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Interviewing and onboarding a new employee is often thought of as a face-to-face activity. But in a new world of home and hybrid working, remote recruitment is taking off.
Many companies have adapted to the challenges of 2020 and are shifting away from survival mode. Once more, managers are beginning to think about to growing their team through new hires and apprenticeships – and many of these newly enrolled apprentices have started out working from home.
At Baltic Apprenticeships, our recruitment team has been successfully interviewing apprentices by phone and video chat for years as we match applicants to opportunities. Over the years, we’ve refined our remote recruitment techniques, and have developed some top tips for remote interviews.
During a video interview, you can create a similar experience to an in-person interview, asking questions and holding natural conversation with candidates to get to know them. Just like with a physical meeting there are specific things you can do to make the remote interview process run smoothly.
“Being organised is the first step,” says Lucy, a Senior Recruitment Consultant at Baltic Apprenticeships. “With technologies like Zoom and Teams, it’s important to have a back-up plan in case someone can’t get connected on the day. We’ve all been there – you’ve got an important call, and the technology just isn’t working. It’s good to collect alternative contact details in advance so that you can carry on with the interview over the phone.”
Provide links to the meeting well in advance, advise whether any software needs to be installed beforehand, and share your back-up plan so your interviewee knows what to do if there’s a problem. It’s also helpful to confirm whether the call will require video, so that candidates can dress appropriately and prepare their environment.
Think of this process as the equivalent of booking a meeting room, organising someone to greet new arrivals in a waiting area, and offering candidates a drink to put them at ease.
Whether you’re interviewing someone across a desk or over the internet, the basic techniques are the same. Identify what you need to know to make an effective hiring decision and then structure your interview around this.
Matt Welch, Baltic’s People and Culture Manager, advocates for a simple approach: “The less complicated you make the interview, the better. The more you focus on the person, the role and the apprenticeship programme itself – the better. An interview is about encouraging a person to open up; as employers I think we’ve got a responsibility to set candidates up for success and ask questions that let them put their best self forward.”
In contrast to more senior staff recruitment, it’s important to recognise that most candidates applying for an apprenticeship vacancy are not likely to have a lot of work-based experience. So you may need to consider ways to adapt your usual hiring questions and focus on the individual in front of you on the screen – asking questions that draw out transferable skills, interests or experiences that align with the role.
As a general structure, Matt recommends beginning an interview by telling your candidates a little bit about your organisation, explaining what your team is like, and sharing what you find really exciting about the role. This technique opens up a conversation, puts your interviewee at ease, and sets the stage for questions to the candidate about why they wanted to pursue an apprenticeship, and what they are passionate about.
Asking open questions can be a great way to set candidates up for success. Senior Recruitment Consultant Rebecca recommends using points from their CV as prompts to tell their story: “if someone is interviewing for an IT apprenticeship, and they’ve listed building their own PC as an interest on their CV, ask them about it. Get them to delve into the details, give them a chance to share their enthusiasm and show off their technical knowledge.”
If you’re interviewing someone without using video, or over the phone, it can be more challenging for each person to pick up on non-verbal cues signalling encouragement, approval, or when to wrap up an answer. This lack of visual feedback can sometimes cause candidates to come across as more shy than usual.
“Sometimes I can speak to someone at the beginning of a phone call and get one-word answers,” says Lucy. “But with some open-ended questions and a bit of encouragement they end up launching themselves into the conversation and they demonstrate their passion for the role.”
Over the phone, your candidate might need a bit of guidance to help their abilities shine, including asking follow-up questions to tease out more detail, re-phrasing a question, and giving verbal confirmation when an answer gives you what you’re looking for.
“I always think it’s a bit like The Voice,” Lucy explains. “During a phone interview you can’t see the candidate, but it means you have a clean slate with no preconceived ideas about what someone will be like. You’re meeting someone for the first time and build up this picture of a person from the ground up. For the candidate, they experience the interview as a conversation centred around them – they get comfortable and start asking you questions about the company and the role. It feels like a two-way process, which is so important for getting the right person in the right role.”
We asked our in-house interview experts to share the questions they ask during a remote interview, here are some of their favourites:
“I like to ask the question about relevant skills as one of the last questions,” Lucy advises. “By then, they’ve got an idea of what you’re looking for and it’s easier to speak about their achievements.”
Changing the way that your business recruits new talent may seem like a challenge at first - but change can be a powerful thing. What was unthinkable for so many companies before March 2020 has rapidly become business as usual.
Remote recruitment is simply an extension of the remote working toolkit that has become commonplace in many organisations in recent months.
With our tips in mind, you will be able to adapt your interviewing technique to suit your available technology and successfully take on a new apprentice remotely.
With the interview done, and your ideal candidate selected, you can then think about onboarding your apprentice. For more of our top tips for success, check out our related blogs: