Keep Job Interviews Virtual After Covid

Bloomberg Opinion , April 07, 2021

As recovery from the coronavirus pandemic continues, Bloomberg Opinion is running columns looking at crisis-inspired innovations that promise better living over the long run — from more resilient economies, telemedicine and healthier offices to five-star meal kits, better elections and less unnecessary business travel.

One of the hiring rituals among large corporations, most famously technology giants such as Google and Amazon, is the day-long marathon of back-to-back job interviews at the company’s campus.

For job candidates, it’s part comprehensive exam, part endurance test and part get-acquainted visit. For recruiting coordinators, it’s a major logistical challenge. They have to get the right busy people in the right place at the right time, all the while accommodating the recruit’s travel schedule.

The pandemic upended the practice. Campuses closed and travel was impossible. But hiring continued. Interviews went online, some employing custom-built tools, others using popular video-conferencing services like Zoom.

The virtual approach poses challenges, especially for interviewers accustomed to asking recruits to solve problems on whiteboards — which are not standard household equipment. (One manager recommends that job seekers get the lap-size version school kids use.) Lighting can be bad and accents more difficult to understand. Interviewers say they have to concentrate harder on getting the right information.

But they also cite big advantages. With virtual interviews, “We can pretty much do it over two or three days if that’s what the candidate prefers,” says one executive. “The interviewers can be picked across a much wider pool of interviewers,” based on their schedules and exact role rather than location. (Like others I talked to, he asked not to be identified because he wasn’t speaking officially for the company.) Employers can make better matches between candidates and the people who interview them.

Especially now that people in a wide range of industries have gotten comfortable with virtual meetings, more interviewing can take place online. Recruiters can replace screening phone calls with video, and final interviews can mix in-person conversations with virtual conversations. Those virtual calls don’t have to take place on the same day in an office conference room. They can be scheduled a few days before or after the visit. A three-day hybrid might not be as dramatic as an all-day marathon, but it should be able to accomplish the same results — and make everyone’s life easier.