How to Interview Remote Job Candidates

Looking to hire your next remote employee? The interviewing process can look quite different from a traditional co-located hiring process. 

We've already discussed the preparation phase and the application phase for hiring remote employees. Once you’ve filtered all of your initial applicants, all of the candidates left in the pool have the skills you need for that open position. Now it’s time to get to know your candidates, so you can figure out who is the best fit for your company.


Administer a Screening Interview

One way to further narrow down your candidates before taking up much more of anyone’s time is to do a quick (15-20 minute) screening interview. The screening interview can be conducted by video or phone by the hiring manager or someone in HR. The purpose is to check in with the candidate to confirm that they understand the role and expectations. Salary range information and benefits can be shared with job candidates at this stage (if that’s something that your company can share up front), and the candidate should be given a chance to ask any questions they have about the role or the company. This interview can be conducted live via video call, or by sending the candidate a list of questions and asking them to record a video response.

In addition to screening for the basics, the interviewer should be considering things like culture fit, trustworthiness, and professionalism. If there aren’t any red flags at this point and the interviewer recommends moving forward with the candidate, communication around scheduling the next interview should happen swiftly within 1-2 business days.


Conduct One-on-One and/or Group Interviews

The goal for this stage in the process is to have your job candidate pool down to a reasonable number (ideally 5-15 candidates.) Individual interviews with any more than 15 people is going to take too much time in your schedule, and you want to really be able to focus on only viable candidates at this point. We recommend doing live interviews via video call at this stage because virtual face-to-face communications can really help both sides get a feel for one another.  

The individual interviews should be conducted by multiple members of the hiring committee — including the direct supervisor. If all of the members of the committee can’t attend, be sure to record the responses for distribution and review. Although this will take up more time for more people, it’s an efficient and collaborative approach.

A first round of individual (or group) interviews will help you narrow down candidates — removing from the list any no-shows or anyone who did not seem like a good fit right off the bat. If you started with 5-15 candidates at this stage, you may need to do multiple rounds of individual and/or group interviews in order to get down to 1-2 final candidates.  Two or three rounds of interviews is reasonable, but we recommend structuring your interviews so you don’t need to do more than three with any one candidate.


Coordinate a Working Interview

When you have your candidates down to 1-2 final choices, we recommend doing a “working interview” or a test project. This is a great way for you to get to know your final candidates better and for them to practice virtually collaborating with your distributed team. This is also a time for both sides to be able to determine whether or not it’s a good fit before either makes a long-term commitment to one another.

Keep the conditions for the working interview as realistic as possible, and be respectful of the candidate’s time. The test project should be paid and should last no more than 1-2 weeks. If the candidate is not currently working, shoot for a one-week project term. If the candidate is currently working, they will need more time since they will need to fit the project in during the evenings and weekends. Either way, try to incorporate the candidate into your normal workflow as much as possible.

The working interview is a time for you to get a feel for the candidate’s communication, ability, and workflow. You want to be sure the candidate works well within your existing structure. Ultimately, you need to have confidence that the candidate will be able to work well with their team and within the company as a whole.

After administering a screening interview, conducting one to three rounds of individual and/or group interviews, and running a test project with the final candidate(s), your hiring committee should be able to make a final decision and present an official offer to your candidate. Congrats!

Have you hired a remote employee lately? Do you have any tips to share about how to interview job candidates? Tweet us @yonder_io to share your perspective!