Conducting (Good) Remote Interviews

I’m writing this whilst we’re in the midst of Covid-19 and restrictions still make physical interactions riskier than remote ones.

With that in mind, I’ve been asking around for advice on conducting good remote interviews. This post is an attempt to summarise what I’ve learned in case it’s useful to someone else.

Many thanks to the following people who contributed…
Ena LLoyd, Huw Cook, Henry Field, Dyfrig Williams, Dave Floyd, Chris Weston, Gaby Wolferink, Julie Nicholas, Louise Schute, Stamanfar, Rachelle Hembury, Gail Peck, Phillipa, Chris Lunt, Lizzy Sharman, Elly Hoult, Sarah Prescott.

Running order and timings

Build a buffer into the running order for the day so that…

  • You have time to deal with any unexpected technical issues.
  • Interviewers and candidates don’t feel rushed.
  • There’s sufficient time expand on areas of conversation and cover off any additional questions.


Be clear about the technology you are planning to use. Provide lots of detail to interview candidates as early as you can. If possible, choose video calling services that don’t require account creation, setup or configuration.

Some candidates may not have a laptop or home broadband, so try to make the interview process inclusive of different ways people may join. That might include joining via a video call on a smartphone, a phone call or even arranging to physically meet if it can be done so in a safe way.

Have a plan B on hand if the technology doesn’t work as planned on the day. This may be alternative video calling services or the ability to join the call via phone call. Communicate this to candidates so that they are clear what happens if things are not working as expected.

In order to minimise stress and disruption, it may also be helpful to have a named contact on standby that’s not involved in the interview panel so that they are available to resolve problems. It may be useful to arrange a test video call where people can join and ensure everything is set up correctly ahead of the actual interview session.

Groundrules & Enabling Constraints

You should be clear about how the interview process will be conducted. These are useful for both the people on the interview panel and candidates. This might include things like..

  • Ensuring your device is fully charged if it can’t be plugged in.
  • When your camera should be switched on or off.
  • Muting yourself when not speaking.
  • Raising your hand to talk when others are speaking.
  • Typing interview questions into the chat for additional clarity.
  • Situating yourself in a space which is free from background noise.
  • Ensuring you have a decent Wi-Fi signal and/or mobile phone signal.
  • Ensuring you are well lit and are close enough to the camera to be seen by others.
  • Using a headset and microphone to ensure you can hear and be heard.
  • If the interview will be recorded, for what purpose and when it will be deleted.

‘Soft’ Skills

Interviews can be inherently stressful situations, so you should think about what you can do to put candidates at ease so that you can see the person and not just their nerves.

Make it clear that it’s okay to…

  • Repeat a question
  • Go back to a previous question
  • Ask for more clarity
  • Pause for a drink
  • Pause to think
  • Have a pet or child inadvertantly wander into frame (we should be congniscent that we are being invited into people’s homes)

Interview Questions

Some people advise sending interview questions out in advance of the interview day itself. This gives candidates time to think about their answers and prepare a response.

Some people think that this makes the interview process more inclusive for candidates who may find it difficult to manage their nerves or who find it hard to ‘think on their feet’.

Other people think that sending the questions out in advance makes the interview process too rehearsed. They also think managing nerves might be a representative of different kinds of work, so observing this process is useful.

I think the consensus opinion is that it depends on the role you’re interviewing for. For an analytical type of role, it’s perfectly reasonable to give people time to go away and prepare a fully formed answer because that’s coherent with the nature of the work.

There’s an interesting thread of debate on these different approaches via James Arthur Cattell’s tweet below.

Anything else?

Have I missed anything? Please let me know! I’m @Neiltamplin on Twitter.

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