Social distancing and shelter in place restrictions have made it almost impossible to interview candidates in person in your office. Conducting an effective interview is a challenge, by itself, and removing the component that gives you the greatest insight into a person’s energy, gravitas, body language, and overall presence can make choosing the best candidate much tougher. We have interviewed thousands of candidates via video over the last decade of recruiting for financial planning firms. Here are a few tips to consider as you are conducting virtual interviews now and in the future with potential new hires:
• Test Your Equipment – It sounds overly simplistic, but ensure you can connect seamlessly to your video platform and that your camera, microphone, and speakers are working correctly. This might be a good time for you to upgrade your equipment and consider other investments in technology too. Simple things like upgrading graphics cards, adding more memory, increasing processor speeds, and springing for the fastest internet speed options are good places to start for more efficiency. Make sure you have a contingency plan though, if even after testing, things do not work out as planned. Consider having an additional device (computer, tablet, or phone) on standby in case something happens. It is good practice to log on early anyways to get a glimpse of what your interviewee defines as being early to the interview. You do not want to make the candidate wait, so if you do experience technical difficulties, call the interviewee directly, and hold the interview via phone and/or reschedule the video component.
• Remove Distractions – Mute and/or put your smartphone away, pause calendar and any instant messaging notifications, and set the office phone to do not disturb. Interviewing people over video is more difficult than in person because it is harder to read people through a screen, so remaining focused is key to picking up on subtle body language movements, changes in speech pattern, volume, etc. Make sure you have the appropriate lighting where the interviewee can see your face clearly. If your background is unsuitable, you can use the preloaded backgrounds in popular video mediums like Zoom to protect your privacy (or cover up the piles of laundry behind you!).
• Set Expectations – Let the interviewee know upfront what the agenda is (a sample agenda could be: welcome, introductions of team members, overview of role, questions to candidate, questions from candidate, closing), and let them know you will be taking notes so they know there will be pauses and possible keystroke sounds. Keep in mind, candidates reveal more when they feel like they are in a conversation versus an inquisition. There is a fine line to consider, though, because virtual interviewing is not as conducive to small talk and chit chatting about the weather which helps nervous interviewees and inexperienced interviewers break the ice. Whatever your structure and style are, make sure the candidate is at ease and is excited about the position. One thing I like to do is opening with a huge open-ended question about why they are interesting in pursuing a career in financial planning or, if more experienced, why they are interested in the particular firm we are recruiting for. If done correctly, this can get the candidate to lower their guard, because they are immediately talking about themselves and their story (which people love to do)! It also gives the interviewer great insight into how the interviewee’s mind and thought process work, based on where they go with the question.
• Retaining the Wow Factor - Realize that since the candidate has not come to your office, it is highly likely they have missed an important component that often sets the tone and makes them more excited about potentially working there. Firms that have a video tour of their office space available to send to candidates or on their website will be better positioned to retain candidate excitement assuming they are wanting to work in a brick and mortar environment one day. Using your smart phone to record the various offices and work areas and free editing software such as, iMovie or VDSC to add music and captions, the video tour can be a simple and inexpensive touch that delivers substantial benefits because it can be used to boost job seeker excitement, but also give potential client prospects a more personalized introduction to your firm.
The shelter in place and social distancing orders have forced us all to rethink how we do things and develop new skills. I encourage you to consider these because even if you do not employ with candidate interviews, they apply to your virtual client meetings as well, which were becoming more standard anyways prior to the pandemic. If you find yourself wanting to devote your time, passion, and expertise elsewhere to grow your business consider outsourcing these functions to an HR/recruiting specialist.