Building a hospitable atmosphere in the remote interview experience

Integrating hospitality and empathy to enhance remote interviewing.

Matt Linkemyer
June 25, 2020
Resources

We’re at a place in time where everyone — no matter their circumstances — is spending more time at home. Remote interviewing is a new experience for many candidates and employers. Potential employers are responsible for making candidates feel comfortable so they can bring their best selves, even during a pandemic.

This new normal highlights many different challenges that result when home life meets work life. While everyone’s living arrangements are different, there are some experiences that we share right now. Some of the most common factors we have to adjust to while conducting an interview are: (1) home atmosphere, (2) internet connection, and (3) anticipation of a parade of family members (some furrier than others).

Setting the stage for a great remote interview experience

Whether you are a remote newbie or a remote expert, we all can’t escape these experiences. However, how interviewers handle these situations can determine how candidates view company culture. Today, we are providing common situations that may happen while you are interviewing and ways we can prepare, anticipate, and react to these situations in a human way. 

Home Atmosphere

An interview is about to start, you log into the company’s video conference system, and your background is a blank wall. A lot of thoughts can go through your head before an interview like:  

  • “Should I move?” 
  • “This seems like a nice picture for a background. What if people don’t like pictures of cats?” 
  • “Maybe the patio? But now you can’t see me because it’s bright.” 

With more companies moving to remote interviewing, candidates are having to worry about additional factors when preparing for an interview. Many people do not have the luxury of having a designated office space with the perfect backdrop. 

To help ease nerves, it’s best for interviewers to avoid small talk around candidates’ home environment. By initiating unfocused small talk regarding the candidate’s living conditions, we are allowing unconscious biases to enter an interview process. Instead, we need to make sure the interview is structured and focused on the task at hand. 

The interviewer should start by outlining the structure of the interview, what will be covered, and how much time you will give them to ask questions. This helps create a safe atmosphere and tells the candidate the interview will be clear and focused, lessening any anxiety they may have had at the start. 

Internet connection

A reliable internet connection may be the biggest x factor when it comes to interviewing from home. There is no telling when speeds will be fast, if your router decides it wants to reboot several times in a day, or even if you use a wired connection, when your provider may have an outage. In fact, my router decided to stop working several times while writing this blog post.

This experience is common yet frustrating for everyone. It is best to always have internet empathy. For interviewers, internet connection should not be a determining factor when deciding if someone can make an impact. For candidates, a lost internet connection can be embarrassing so how the situation is handled can influence their thoughts on your company culture. 

When internet issues occur during an interview — and this will happen eventually to everyone — the best we can do is be kind and either wait for a better connection or reschedule the interview.

Unexpected guests

“Cats! Alright, that’s not what this section is all about, but we can agree they are the furriest, right?” 

There has been a weird shift where companies want employees to create and maintain a quiet controlled environment. However, the office was never that environment to begin with. Being at home everyday means there is no avoiding our work and personal lives crossing at some point so we should be embracing our new unexpected environment rather than trying to completely control it. 

For example, a kid in nothing but underwear enters the frame and says, “parent, I put my favorite toy in the fish tank.” Rather than patronizing a candidate for this uncontrollable event, interviewers should be mindful that these situations are out of their control and provide the opportunity for the candidate to address the situation. For candidates, you should feel comfortable addressing the situation and if needed, request to reschedule the interview - life happens. 

Why is this important?  

Remote interviewing has added many factors to an already stressful experience of looking for a new job. It is also becoming a new way for unconscious bias to enter into the interview process. Creating an atmosphere that is a reflection of your company’s culture is important to candidates and will be a deciding factor if and when they are given an offer. 

Everyone right now could use one less thing to worry about and it is our responsibility as interviewers to create an atmosphere that sets candidates up for success. 

What are some things that you have done to make your remote interview experience better? Feel free to share in the comment section.

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Matt Linkemyer

Hey! I’m Matt, Manager, Talent at Webflow. Talk to me about sneakers. Follow me on Twitter @mlinkemyer if you enjoy one tweet per month.

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