You’ve heard the phrase: It takes two to tango. And that is no truer than in the employment process for tech talent. The process is a dance, be it interviews for software engineers or Dev Op roles. Get it right, and everyone leaves the process enriched (yes, even if they didn't get the job, the candidate hopefully leaves learning more about the sector, industry and the interviewing process). But get it wrong, and people are left frustrated and hurt on both sides of the hiring line.
With stiff competition for top tech talent, potential employers must produce a satisfactory evaluation experience. Candidates need to be evaluated quickly and effectively. Likewise, candidates want to assess potential employers as well.
Not only do better interviews improve candidate experience, but they can also ensure your brand reputation remains intact. Over a third (37%) of candidates who’ve had a negative experience with a potential employer have said they've left a negative review online, so the quality of your interviews can directly impact your public perception.
With the rise of remote work, online interviewing has become increasingly important for employers and candidates. When done well, digital interviews can be an efficient way to screen candidates and identify the best fit for a role. Likewise, candidates can use digital interviews to learn about a company and decide if it is the right fit for their career goals.
However, there are specific strategies that both parties can use to get the most out of the experience. To help everyone involved, here are some tips to help you have a better interview experience, regardless of which side is interviewing.
Tips for Employers
With talent shortages growing, interviewing software engineers remotely presents challenges. It requires a different set of rules than those imposed by in-person interviews. You want to hire the best people - making them feel comfortable and relaxed so they can shine enhances your chances of finding the right candidate.
Tip #1: Establish and communicate expectations before the interview
You need to let candidates know what will be expected of them in the interview before time. This allows them to prepare and offers you the chance to see the best version of them in the discussion. Inform them of the length, requirements, people in the interview, format, and tests (if any) will allow them to fully prepare for the process. Communicate all this before the interview, preferably when scheduling the interview, and you will have well-prepared candidates. This, in turn, will make your decision in hiring.
Tip #2: Allow candidates to turn off their cameras after intros.
Video interviews are undoubtedly the next best thing to being together in person. Still, an always-on video meeting can imply expectations that don't replicate the real-life interview experience. When we meet in person, we don't maintain eye contact 100% of the time. Tech people are not always the most extroverted either, and having the feeling of always being watched can add added pressure. Allowing candidates to turn off the video in non-technical interviews before diving into questions that require deep thought can help them focus on their responses rather than being preoccupied with faces on a screen.
Tip #3: Communicate feedback, timelines and next steps
Just as setting expectations before an interview is crucial to ensuring that candidates are prepared and have no surprises, so should employees be clear about what candidates should expect following an interview. The importance of setting expectations for post-interview communication cannot be stressed enough. This is especially important given what we learned about how negative experiences during the interview can affect your company's brand. More than half of candidates aren't satisfied with the communication from most employers, so this is a salient opportunity to differentiate your company. Tell them you'll be in touch soon and what comes next if they are selected. The more specific and detailed the information, the better. Don't leave people hanging.
Tip #4: Use tech tools tests to assess hard skills
Assessment is an integral part of the hiring process, and interviews should not be your only method for assessing candidates. You can use tech tools to evaluate hard skills before interviewing someone to get additional information that you may ask follow-up questions about when reviewing their resume or asking test-related questions during assessments. We use Codility to offer this additional service for clients. However, you may wish to provide tech assessment in-house.
Tips for Remote Tech Candidates in the digital interviewing process
Candidates need to know how to prepare for and behave in remote interviews if they want the best possible experience. How candidates present themselves can impact their digital interviewing process just as much as what an interviewer does or says during a face-to-face meeting. Hence, it's crucial to not only put time into prepping yourself beforehand but also follow these tips carefully!
Tip #1: Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail
Do your homework about the role, the sector, the industry and especially the company. You must have some basic understanding of their product or service and what they do. Nothing annoys employees more than if they think a candidate hasn’t bothered to learn about the company and tech position they are interviewing for. Remember, it will also help you. Do you want to join a company, even remotely, where you don't know the company's values or culture? The homework will inform you whether this company is for you and aligns with your career goals and values. 47% of interviewers report they would pass on a candidate if they had little knowledge of the company.
Tip #2: For virtual interviews, control your environment
When you're in an online interview, you must limit the amount of background noise, visual distractions and other environmental factors that could interfere with your interview. This way, your potential employer can hear every word clearly and devote their full attention during an interaction. Inform your family you shouldn't be disturbed. Put your phone and computer alerts on silent. Slow the room fan if need be. You and your interviewer should be entirely focused on the Q&A.
Tip #3: Have notes, accomplishments and results/impact at your fingertips
When it comes to interviewing, the most important thing is that you are prepared. Your interview provides an opportunity for employers not just to see what's on your resume but also for you to tell your story through personal experiences and accomplishments- so make sure they know all about those! Make some notes ahead of time from previous positions detailing key project roles with metrics or results. An excellent technique to use is the STAR technique. Discuss the specific situation, task, action, and result of the problem you describe.
Situation: Describe the situation you were in or the task you needed to accomplish.
Task: What goal were you working toward?
Action: Describe the steps you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail and keep the focus on YOU.
Result: Describe the outcome of your actions and don't be shy about taking credit for your behaviour. What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?
By researching the questions, employers will likely ask, you can prep some of your answers beforehand and then practice (see Tip 5).
Tip #4: Be honest about technical difficulties
We’ve all been there: the lights go, the speakers aren’t working, or the internet has gone on the blink. If you are struggling to connect, be honest and upfront. Connect with the interviewer via another channel (e-mail, phone) and tell them what's happening. Don't lie or make up excuses. Just tell them the truth. Most likely, they will be happy to reschedule or make the interview a phone interview. However, it does show preparedness if you can minimise as many of these problems before time. Update your software, check the video conferencing software, invest in an internet dongle to give yourself extra backup, and even investigate buying a UPS or generator if your area experiences frequent blackouts.
Tip #5: Practice makes perfect
Practice your answers ahead of time, especially if you are prone to nerves. This will give you extra confidence before your interview. These prepared answers can be valuable crutches if your mind goes blank. You don't want to sound like you are reading from a script or have memorised the answer. But make sure you have learnt the gist of what you want to say to specific questions. You can practice in front of a mirror or with a friend. Knowing how you’ll respond to commonly asked interview questions can also help you appear more focused. A Harvard Business Review study found that "72% of job candidates who did not receive job offers, the majority (around 80%) appeared distracted, failed to engage their recruiter in a meaningful way, or seemed they were reading from a script."
Tip #6: Ask Questions
Nothing is more demoralising for an interviewer when a candidate has no questions. It communicates a lack of curiosity, inquisitiveness and even intelligence. They want you to ask questions – about the role, the company, the culture etc. It is one of the most effective ways to appear engaged. This is your chance to interview the interviewer, which shows them you're knowledgeable and interested in learning. It also helps you collect the information you need to evaluate a job offer when you receive one. Have a list of prepared questions in your head, especially around the role.
Better interviews equal better hires.
It's time to get acquainted with the emerging best practices for digital interviewing. This means you can make better decisions about which candidates advance. They'll be able to engage in an interview situation with companies that genuinely aligns their goals - not just those who are desperate enough or paying well enough (or whatever other criteria may apply). When both parties have positive experiences, this increases how effective interviews are overall- meaning hiring outcomes naturally improve as well!