If there’s one thing that COVID taught us, it’s that remote meetings can work. Prior to 2020 virtual interviews were happening, but they weren’t commonplace.  

With the pandemic, more people became accustomed to a virtual chat, either with the GP, their family, colleagues and friends.  

Virtual interviews are great when it comes to volume. In the retail space, an example of that is a national recruitment campaign for a new or expanding store or a Christmas casual drive. From a few moments of a virtual interview, you are able to make a shortlist that would have been a logistical and time-consuming nightmare to organise in person.  

They’re also uniquely useful when there is more than one decision maker involved in the new hire. Each person can watch the video in their own time without the need to align busy schedules or ask a candidate back several times.  

For many candidates interviewing in a place and at a time that suites them will put them at ease and allow them to show their true personality. For candidates who are neurodiverse, introverted or shy at public speaking they are able to record answers several times and only submit when they are happy with their response. It doesn’t require someone to make in-person eye contact or excel with rapport-building.  

How to create a better virtual interview:  

Record the questions 

Some virtual interviews are conducted with potential employees answering written questions. I’d recommend recording the questions being asked. This helps role model the expectation for interviewees and also begins to build a rapport between the organisation and the candidate. Recorded questions rather than written questions bring the people, culture and organisation to life and put a friendly face to the company from the very first interaction.  

Provide top tips 

Help candidates to succeed by providing specific examples for what you do and don’t want to see in their response. Would you like to see their personality? Would you like them to address specific points about themselves? What are you looking for in a candidate? 

This can also include specific advice on the technical aspects of the video. For example framing the video so you can see them well, hear them well and understand them clearly.  

Involve a human 

At some stage the interview process needs to provide an opportunity for the candidate to ask questions. They may have specific work requirements they wish to raise or queries about the role. Providing an opportunity for conversation is still an important part of an interview process, even as the popularity of virtual interviews increases.  

Make sure it all works 

There is nothing more frustrating to a candidate than technology that is hard to navigate or a system that doesn’t function well. Asking candidates to complete a virtual interview that then fails to upload or is slow to use will create frustration for the candidate and put them in a negative headspace before they are even employed. It is a responsibility of employers to create a positive hiring experience, to attract the best candidates.  

Things to consider 

The major concern I have when it comes to retail positions being solely hired via virtual interviews is isolating an older demographic from the workforce. While technology skills have become a necessary skill in most workplaces it is important to offer advice and support to candidates who may not have the tech literacy but are keen to learn.  

It’s also a very strange experience recording yourself and these type of interviews can make some people even more nervous. These people may be great in person at building a rapport and thrive in social settings but come across as awkward without the back and forward of a normal conversation.  

Virtual interviews are here to stay. They save time and therefore money in the recruitment process. For most candidates they’re also a more simple and effective way to interview. There’s no traipsing into an office you don’t know, trying to find parking, waiting in reception nervously before thrying to put your best foot forward.  

However, like with many technological advancements there is no replacement for human connection. With back and forward conversation, you may find out something about a candidate that would otherwise never have come up.  

Sarah Piper is founder and director of talent strategy and advisory business, Invisible Partners.