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Virtual interview
Insights

Hiring from home – remote interviews and growth at Zühlke

Naomi Smethurst

Nine months ago, Covid-19 has changed our home and work life drastically and imposed new challenges on all of us. At Zühlke, we have been fortunate that our business kept thriving despite the recession, allowing us to further grow our teams. Our Manchester team in particular has seen an unprecedented growth, going from a small team of eight at the start of the year to 27 till date. Five employees and leaders who were key players in this period of growth are sharing insights into growth, remote teams, challenges and the culture at Zühlke.

Insight series “Working, hiring and leading from home” – part 2 of 3.  

Insight in brief

A Talent Acquisition Specialist about hiring from home and...

  • The benefits and challenges of video interviews
  • Relevant considerations for candidates and employers
  • How to secure a job in the current climate

Video interviews have become the new normal, are you a fan?

I actually am! Before lockdown, I never considered video interviews as an equally effective tool to assess candidates and doubted their suitability to help build a relationship with candidates. But now that I’ve done both and learned to overcome the remote hiring challenges, I appreciate the advantages of video interviews. For example, the irrelevance of a candidate’s current whereabouts has broken down quite a few barriers. Candidates also tend to be less stressed before a video interview as they can take it in their familiar environment, rather than needing to rush through the city to get to the right address in time. 

How have interview processes changed in a remote world?

The tools we have at hand with video calls, screen-sharing and virtual whiteboards, allowed us to easily replicate on-site interviews and technical assessments online. The only adaptions we had to make is in building a relationship with candidates and providing insights into our culture. How do you mimic these moments at the start or end of an interview when you walk to the meeting room and the candidate gets a glimpse of the office and the vibe? Since this isn’t currently happening, we reviewed the structure of our interviews to make sure we ask the right questions that trigger relevant conversations around our culture with a candidate. We prioritise giving them a good insight into the work environment in the video interview, so that they know what to expect if they join us.

What should candidates consider when interviewing remotely?

I'd say before the virtual interview, ensure that you trial the video link, have any required application downloaded (e.g. Zoom, MS Teams). Set the permissions right for audio, video and screen sharing options. Recruiters are usually happy to help with this if needed. During the remote interview, make sure that you are in a comfortable setting and minimise potential distractions around you so that you can concentrate. And just like with any interview: Do your research into the company, know the interviewers’ names and come prepared with questions to show that you are really interested in this opportunity.

Did Zühlke take any steps to make their video interviews more accessible?

Besides accommodating for individual needs, we investigated how we can support candidates in navigating remote processes to help them feel more comfortable before and during an interview. The output of these considerations was the implementation of an interview preparation resource for candidates, which informs them about our remote hiring process and how to best prepare for it – including some of the above stated considerations. This new resource has already made a big difference: Candidates feel better equipped to succeed in interviews and navigate uncertainties. And of course, our interviewers are equally aware of accessibility considerations such as speaking clearly to ensure a smoothly flowing conversation.

What tips would you give a candidate to be successful in their remote job search?

I think to stand out, it has become key to not only tailor your application to the role you’re applying for, but to the new skill set required in a more remote world. Showcase your experience with remote projects and distributed teams, your ability to work independently, your cross-platform communication skills, and your flexibility in adapting to different working scenarios. I also observed a whole new appreciation for personal connections, and while networking has become more difficult in the absence of physical events, it’s worth going the extra mile and connecting with relevant people from the organisation you’re applying for. Attend virtual talks they may host and ask questions to start the conversation. Follow insightful sites or blogs which relate to you and engage with social media posts that highlight your interests.

What was your funniest remote interview moment?

I would say one of the downfalls of video interviews is sometimes when you lose internet connection and freeze in the most unfortunate situations – I once froze for quite a while in full motion with my mouth wide open… Luckily, we’re all in the same boat and know that these things happen!