Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire
11 Positive Changes to the Interview Process in 2020

11 Positive Changes to the Interview Process in 2020

Companies around the world transitioned to remote work this year forcing their hiring processes completely virtual as well. Arguably, the most abrupt transition most companies have adjusted for is making hiring decisions based on phone and video interviews. However, recruiters and staffing pros have faced plenty of other changes in 2020 as well.

We reached out to recruiting and hiring experts to learn how they’ve shifted their interview process this year and what changes they plan to keep for years to come. Here’s a look at how the pandemic has changed the interview process as you know it:

1. Streamlining scheduling

Sonya SchwartzThanks to the scheduling software, it has now been easier to schedule interviews more than ever. We used to go back and forth just to find the most convenient time for both the interviewer and the candidate, not to mention the different time zones.

Sonya Schwartz, Founder at Her Norm

Scheduling software is a useful tool you can continue to implement for years to come. By simplifying your virtual interview process, your team will have more time to focus on sourcing and evaluating candidates, and less time on logistics.

2. Limiting candidate fatigue

Jon HillWe used to do fairly long in-person interview events where the candidate would speak with multiple decision-makers. For virtual interviews, we’ve found it’s more effective to schedule shorter slots with breaks between them. This limits “Zoom” fatigue for all parties and also gives more flexibility to cope with unexpected technical difficulties or other interruptions.

Jon Hill, CEO and chairman of The Energists

This method limits the burnout of being on video calls all day, but your candidates and interviewers can grow exhausted from a day of in-person interviews too. Improve your candidate experience (and interviewer morale) by incorporating ways to limit fatigue in your long-term interview strategy.

3. Checking references sooner

Bret BonnetWe’ve begun checking and calling a candidate’s references before requesting or scheduling an in-person interview. We usually reserve this step until after the in-person interview has taken place, but we’ve moved this step up much earlier in the process. It’s allowed us to focus our efforts on truly qualified candidates by reducing the number of phone interviews by 22%.

Bret Bonnet, Co-Founder and President at Quality Logo Products, Inc.

Many companies find efficiencies out of necessity that will work long after the pandemic ends. Don’t be afraid to change up the order of your interview process or the amount of time spent on each stage. The reference check is an important step to learn about a candidate’s personality and working style. Moving it up before the interview can be a long-lasting solution for filtering top talent quickly.

4. Conducting active feedback sessions

Stella KwonNo one on our team had interviewed, let alone hired, someone fully remote and we were quickly seeing the signs of decision paralysis. In response, we started scheduling additional time with our hiring managers to walk through the feedback, listen to their concerns, and ask questions to help them come to a decision. We’ve learned that conducting active feedback sessions between HR and hiring managers has been valuable, particularly in hard to fill roles, and we plan to keep this strategy as a tool in our toolbox.

Stella Kwon, People Team at Pumpkin Pet Insurance

It is critical to take time to train hiring managers on the ways they can be most effective in the interview process. Even if remote hiring wasn’t brand new, spend some time teaching managers to think like a recruiter. This means asking effective questions, being aware of unconscious biases, and giving candidates a positive experience with the company.

5. Hiring to train

David WeingotOur market has definitely broadened. You no longer need specialized skills to fulfill our duties. Most responsibilities can be trained and passed down, it’s all about finding people who can absorb that information well. It’s a lot more difficult to find those in this day and age of hiring. I’m guessing because this generation of workers are more ideal in their thinking. With this new age of technology and how things are running, it’s best for us to adapt.

David Weingot, CEO at DMAC Security

If you’re willing to teach new hires the skills they need to work successfully on your team, it can really diversify your candidate pool. With so many people out of work this year, many are looking to change industries or job functions, and their transferable skills could make them a great fit for your team, despite a lack of experience in your specialization.

6. Looking for disciplined employees

Reuben YonatanWe are moving towards a more remote/hybrid workplace. To that end, we need employees who can thrive in a remote environment. A remote worker must be disciplined enough to deal with distractions and produce good work without someone looking over their shoulder. Remote employees will encounter daily obstacles, and they should be able to troubleshoot and find solutions without help from anyone.

Reuben Yonatan, Founder and CEO of GetVoIP

To find candidates who can work well on their own, you might ask questions about the type of management style they prefer, how they have been managed in the past, or if they have worked remotely before. To uncover how they’ve solved problems on their own, ask candidates to share specific examples of a time when they had to overcome an obstacle without support. Were they successful?

7. Shifting the focus away from office life

David CusickWe really need to ensure a great fit. Prior to 2020, the main question we asked ourselves was, “Am I going to enjoy sitting next to this person every day?” Now, we focus more on how the potential hire approaches their work independently. One challenge is that you can really only see how someone works in practice. Yet by now, any good candidate has a familiarity with working from home. You just need to ask them what they’ve learned and be willing to listen — and, occasionally, commiserate.

David Cusick, Chief Strategy Officer at House Method

Managing a remote team is often more difficult than in-person so the interview process needs to screen for talent that works well independently. While there are plenty of talent management tools for remote teams, you really need to interview for talent that is the right fit for an autonomous role just as much as your team dynamics.

8. Conducting more personality and skills tests

Peter MannWe have introduced personality tests and skills-based tests into our hiring process as another way to screen candidates. This replaces assessment centers and face-to-face interviews. All candidates now complete a Gallup StrengthsFinder test to identify their top five strengths and complete a skills-based test that we obtained from another vendor. Their results are assessed before we decide to set up an interview.

Peter Mann, Founder of SC Vehicle Hire

Personality and strength tests are a great addition to knowing a candidate’s skill set, but it’s important to use the results the right way. In addition to helping to narrow down your job candidates, personality tests are also a great way to help diversify your team. Place an emphasis on hiring people who have the traits your team is lacking, especially those with strengths that support your newly-remote team. 

9. Working together to meet unique needs

Amy McWatersWe have had to shift what questions we ask in interviews, and they are more focused on lifestyle and work/life balance. For example, we ask if they are currently homeschooling their kids, and what accommodations they may need to make that work for all of us. We also try to gauge how people feel about lockdown and the virus in general as we want to know it is taken seriously. These are COVID-19 specific questions and feel unavoidable and important in the hiring process these days.

AmyMcWaters, CEO at Gifts Australia

The unique experiences of living through a pandemic prove you may need to adjust your interview questions to work within specific circumstances. Sometimes, you’ll have to shift your focus in order to find the right talent at the right time. But this is a great opportunity to discover ways you can set your current and future talent up for success regardless of their working environment or changes to workflow.

10. Looking for go-getters

Jagoda WieczorekSome common pandemic-related questions include, “What did you learn about yourself during the crisis?,” and “How did you spend your time during the pandemic?” In essence, these questions help us assess a candidate’s emotional intelligence, how they can cope with a crisis, and their resilience. Generally, we give preference to job candidates that can demonstrate they have been proactive members of their teams that managed to execute on their deliverables without missing a beat. We’re looking for signs they’ve used their downtime effectively, be it by earning an industry certification or completing an online course that helped them learn new skills and competencies.

Jagoda Wieczorek, HR Manager at ResumeLab

The pandemic has impacted everyone differently. Asking questions that reveal candidates’ emotional intelligence also reveals how a candidate will look for self-improvement opportunities throughout their career (despite their circumstances), which is especially important in identifying top talent with leadership potential.

11. Assessing for helpfulness and reliability

Paige ArnofWhile soft skills like charisma and confidence help you rise in the office environment, when it comes to remote work, groups value helpfulness and reliability over bluster and charm. In a virtual environment, you want people who are independent, self-motivated, and adaptable or flexible, so questions like these now carry more weight:

  • How do you stay organized and prioritize your workload to meet deadlines? 
  • How would you go about communicating a problem you’re encountering on a project?
  • Have you had to complete a task with a team member working in a different time zone or office and how did you do it?

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO at Mavens & Moguls

Not only has your interview process evolved but also the jobs you’re hiring for have changed. Adding questions about helpfulness and reliability to your virtual interviews ensures the candidates you hire can meet the demands of your remote team. 


How to Make Virtual Interviews a Lasting Part of the Hiring Process

Josh Tolan

Josh Tolan is the Founder and CEO of Spark Hire, a video interviewing platform used by 5,000+ customers in over 100 countries.