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31.08.2021 Hiring process

Digital recruiting: Bringing job interviews online

Digital recruiting: Bringing job interviews online

Video conferencing is becoming increasingly popular thanks to its numerous advantages and has also become firmly established in start-ups and SMEs — and not only for internal meetings: since Corona, job interviews have also been carried out via video call as a matter of course. 

Are you also facing the challenge of bringing a job interview online? With our guide for recruiters, you will make a professional performance in interviewing candidates online.

Online job interviews: Pros and Cons

As briefly mentioned above, there are many advantages in bringing job interviews online. In the following sections, we will briefly present the advantages and disadvantages of conducting interviews online.

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Pro: Online interviews save time, money, and safety issues

Conducting job interviews online is a convenient solution in many respects – especially when hygiene regulations, occupancy restrictions and such make it unfeasible to have a job interview take place within the usual setting. Essentially, online job interviews offer the following advantages for companies:

  • Online interviews save resources
    For some appointments, recruiters also have to travel – for example, if the interview takes place in another branch or in the office in general, whereas they usually work remotely. This time can be saved and invested more effectively by switching to online job interviews. Travel costs, possible additional expenses for meals and possible reimbursement of travel costs for candidates are thus simply eliminated while valuable resources are saved.
  • Efficient planning meets low logistical effort
    A time slot of 30 to 60 minutes per applicant is appropriate in most cases. But because the logistical effort involved in online interviews is significantly less once the technology is prepared in a functional way, planning can be much more efficient and close-meshed. As a result, many more interviews can be conducted daily, impressions can be gained more quickly and shortlists can be made more expeditiously, which speeds up the hiring process considerably.
  • Bridging long distances
    Applicants may also travel from far away. All the more bitter when, after all the candidate’s effort and expense, no cooperation is achieved. Or if candidates are delayed due to restrictions (strikes, cancellations, travel restrictions, etc.) and the appointment has to be postponed. If you opt for the digital interview directly instead, long distances and complications are avoided quickly and easily and the daily schedule does not get mixed up. And this is especially true if you are working on global recruitment to hire international employees.
  • No restriction on participants
    Involving the team leader or future team members in the interview is a great way to get a first impression of whether a candidate will fit in well with the team. However, this is difficult and all too often incompatible with corona hygiene regulations, distance regulations etc. However, the situation is different with digital job interviews: Here, all the necessary interview partners can participate without any problems. But be careful: the participation of too many interview partners quickly becomes chaotic and can have an unstructured and intimidating effect on the applicant.
  • Interviews can be recorded easily
    A crucial advantage of the online job interview: The video recording can usually be activated without much effort with just one click. Whereas with analogue interviews, recruiters had to rely heavily on their memory, digitally recorded interviews can simply be watched again if necessary.
  • More relaxed candidates
    You probably know it as a real game changer from the world of sports: the home advantage. Your candidates also benefit from this in online interviews, which makes some of them a little more relaxed and self-confident, just because they are not in a new and unfamiliar environment, but in their own safe space.
  • Possible insight into the candidate’s private rooms
    Show me how you live and I see who you are! If candidates voluntarily allow you as a recruiter to take a look into one of their rooms, the general condition, the colours used, and the room layout may reveal interesting insights into the personality of an applicant that you probably would not have been able to gain otherwise.

Con: Digital = less personal

In for a penny, in for a pound – and consequently you have to deal with one or two disadvantages of the digital job interview, as an online interview cannot hold a candle to an on-site interview for various reasons. Here is an overview of the disadvantages of an online job interview:

  • Does not replace personal contact
    It’s true, a virtual meeting doesn’t come close to a personal job interview. This is mainly because an important social component is missing: the pleasant small talk over a welcome coffee, which is supposed to ease the tension of nervous applicants. However, with a skilful conversation opening (positive opener) for your online interview, this problem can usually be overcome.
  • Eye contact difficult to impossible
    A big problem in the online job interview is the lack of eye contact. Many recruiters and candidates tend to make the mistake of looking at the screen in order to keep their eyes on the interviewer. If you focus on the camera instead to simulate eye contact, you often don’t see how the other person is behaving in front of the camera. Either way, eye contact is not really achieved. But eye contact is so important for assessing the applicant.
  • Body language of the candidate more difficult to analyse
    In an on-site interview, it is much easier to assess candidates because you can see almost the entire upper body, including the hands and sometimes you can even see the legs and feet as well. In an online interview, on the other hand, you only see a section of the applicant. Usually you can’t see more than the head and shoulders, maybe even the hands, but in general it is noticeable that the visible level is too small to enable you to analyse the body language really clearly.

How to succeed anyway

Online job interviews are basically pretty straightforward to set up. The necessary hardware is limited to a laptop with a camera, microphone, and speakers. The only software required is one of the common video call tools such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or similar. And of course a fast and stable internet connection. At least in theory.

Practically speaking, the checklist is a little longer than with the traditional interview process. You should therefore not disregard these points for a professional appearance:

  • Premises and background
    Would you arrange on-site meetings in dark, cramped or echoing rooms? Probably not, right? The same applies to online job interviews, of course. Therefore, make sure to choose a bright, friendly room with discreet decorations and good acoustics that draws the focus exclusively to you as the moderator.Tip:
    We recommend deliberately avoiding blurred or particularly colourful fake backgrounds. This is not only distracting, but also quickly looks as if you as an employer have something to hide. Rooms that are coloured in the corporate design and ideally resemble the future workplace are great for giving candidates a first impression of your office. If the interview takes place in your home office, on the other hand, a fake background is perfectly legitimate; but the reason for this should be communicated at the beginning of the interview and the background should also be kept subtle.
  • Prevent possible disruptions
    Once a suitable room has been found, make sure that no colleagues (or flatmates) can crash in. Lock the room or make it clear with signs and via company chat deactivation that you do not want to be disturbed. Notification sounds of all kinds should also be switched off if possible to prevent disturbances efficiently.
  • Optimize illumination
    Depending on how the lighting of the room is designed, it may be necessary to make some adjustments here to prevent a tired and sickly look. We recommend using the 3-point lighting here, which photographers and directors also like to use to create exactly the pleasantly natural impression a human eye would have on-site. But be careful, overexposure can also become unpleasant very quickly and might cast a metaphoric shadow on your job interview…
  • Observe the camera angle
    Another important factor is the angle the camera is pointing from. If you look at the camera from above, it looks as if you are looking down on the applicant and may intimidate him or her. If you look at the camera from below, you will appear weaker.Tip:
    Position the camera at eye level so that you literally meet candidates at eye level. This is not only more comfortable for the candidate, but may even give you the opportunity to keep an eye on the camera and video window while maintaining what is supposed to be eye contact.
  • Pay attention to sound and video quality
    Nothing looks more unprofessional than a cracked, choppy picture or tinny sound. However, not all laptops are equipped with good video and sound technology, so it may be necessary to re-equip here as well.Tip:
    It makes sense to test the sound and video quality from the desired “conference room” in advance with a colleague and get an impression of the (technical) call quality with a short video or screenshot.
  • Plan for additional hardware components at an early stage
    If the presentation of a short company presentation or similar visual material via screen transmission is planned for the interview, it is a good idea to plan for an additional screen. The reason for this: With some video call software, it is no longer possible for you as the presenter to see the video of the conversation partner. This means that you may miss important clues from the applicant’s facial expressions or body language, which should actually be included in your impression. However, make sure that your desktop is tidy and that no sensitive data is visible.Tip:
    If additional technical components are required for your online interview, communicate the need as early as possible and make sure that they will be available at the agreed time.
  • Pay attention to “suitable” clothing
    While a suit or blazer used to be the must-wear for all parties involved in serious job interviews, nowadays jeans and a sweatshirt have become more common in many companies. However, what is appropriate or suitable always depends on the company’s industry, the applicant’s role and the company’s dress code. Therefore, make sure to choose authentic clothes that match the dress code of the company, but also your position there. In the end, this also tells a lot about your company culture.
  • No recording without permission
    The candidate’s privacy must be accepted and protected. Both auditive and audiovisual recordings, in which he will be clearly identifiable, always require his explicit consent. A recording of the interview must therefore never be started without the candidate’s consent. Recording the video without it is a violation of personality rights.Tip:
    Communicate your wish to record the interview right at the beginning and obtain explicit consent. Have the applicant repeat his or her consent immediately after the recording has begun.
  • Always have application documents and notes at hand
    Act exactly as you would in the on-site interview: If possible, have the application documents ready at hand and take notes if necessary. In this way, queries can be clarified efficiently and a smooth flow of the application dialogue can be ensured. Ideally, the intention to take notes should also be communicated in advance so that applicants do not misunderstand this as a negative signal.
  • Give a virtual tour around the office
    A guided tour of the office is not possible with online calls? That is a far cry from the truth! In fact, it is very important to give your interviewer the opportunity of getting to know the working atmosphere and corporate culture as well as possible, despite the distance. The best way to do this is with a short virtual tour — but only after prior agreement with colleagues who are present, because the right of privacy also applies here (see point 8).

Additional tips & tricks for a smooth operation

Something that many companies still often disregard is the fact that it is not only companies that have to decide for applicants, but above all applicants that have to decide for companies. With the following tips & tricks, you can add a layer of professionalism, make it clear that you know the ins and outs of digital job interviews and ensure that your online job interview runs smoothly:

  • Select portable software for video calls
    If the applicant has to install software for an interview or register for software that he or she would otherwise never use, this rarely generates enthusiasm. So make it as easy as possible for your applicants by choosing an intuitive, easily accessible programme that does not require registration or installation. Examples of this are Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype for Web or Webex, which only need to be installed at one party. In this way, you also significantly increase the quality of the candidate experience at the same time.
  • GDPR: Inform about data protection and processing
    The GDPR is not a very popular topic, but it is an important one for video calls, because applicants also have a saying in the processing of their data. We therefore recommend that you find out in advance where the servers of the online service are located (ideally within the EU), which law they are subject to and how data is processed accordingly. Ideally, you will then already provide applicants with this information within the invitation to the online interview and give them the opportunity to opt out. However, we generally recommend that you discuss this with an experienced professional beforehand and find a suitable wording with him or her.
  • Send invitation link as early as possible
    Last-minute invitations make a disorganised and unfavourable impression on applicants. Therefore, send invitations to the online interview as early as possible and ideally have them confirmed. If necessary, ask after a few days without a reply to effectively avoid mishaps, overlooked invitations in the spam folder and other brake blocks.
  • Don’t schedule technology and sound check too tightly
    To ensure good sound and video quality as well as the glitch-free transmission of screen views, we recommend thorough tests with colleagues in other rooms; and please do not do this too close before the online interview, otherwise there may not be enough time to eliminate possible problems.
  • Be there a few minutes earlier
    As in the usual interview, it is best not to be there to the minute, but a few minutes early to open the virtual conference room; and of course, to also give the candidate the opportunity to demonstrate his or her ability to be punctual …
  • Give guidance for the conversation
    You are the host of the online interview. You know how you want the interview to go and what topics you want to address. The applicant, on the other hand, is nervous and does not know what to expect. Take some tension away by giving a rough guideline of the interview process at the beginning of the interview. The applicant will thank you for this, because he or she will also have a common thread and will be able to orientate better.
  • Ask for feedback and learn
    You certainly politely give feedback to your applicants at the end, which enables them to perhaps do a few things better. But you can also reverse this situation! Asking applicants for feedback does not leave an insecure impression at all, but rather shows your company’s ambition to constantly improve – also with regard to your recruitment process. So listen to targeted applicant feedback and actively use the insights to optimise your processes. This can also have a positive impact on the candidate experience.

Finally …

Online job interviews are not rocket science. They should not be approached too lightly, but with the necessary expertise and suitable technology, a high-quality interview can be conducted even with this somewhat impersonal interview variant – and even improve the applicant experience and employer branding in the process. We hope that this article will help you to understand the world of online interviews a little better and that you will be able to use the knowledge you have just gained in your future online job interviews. Good luck!


The information provided within this article on legal issues such as GDPR, data protection, data processing, and personal rights have been carefully researched, but do not claim to be complete or correct. We therefore always recommend consulting a professional lawyer.

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