Pandemic Interviews: How are Hiring Managers and Job Candidates Navigating Interviews Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Read on as we explore how virtual interviews make candidates feel, how many are unwilling to accept in-person job interviews right now, and the downside of having to conduct a job interview in a digital space.

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In a world post-COVID-19, the notion of a “new normal” has been covered exhaustively. As many cities and states move through phases of reopening, despite the concerns of a rising number of cases in areas where distancing requirements have been relaxed, not every element of life is back to “business as usual.”

Regardless of age or industry, the job market and overall economy in the U.S. have been deeply moved by the pandemic. Having recently been classified as a recession, some analysts anticipate the impact of COVID-19 on the American economy to last for years, including reduced salaries and eliminated positions in some industries.

So what does COVID-19 mean for you right now if you’re in the market for a new job? Well, for one thing, it’s virtual interviews and video chatting.

For a closer look at how employees and employers are adapting to life behind the camera, we surveyed over 1,000 people, including over 200 hiring managers, for their perspective on virtual interviews. Read on as we explore how virtual interviews make candidates feel, how many are unwilling to accept in-person job interviews right now, and the downside of having to conduct a job interview in a digital space.

Common and confident virtual interviews

In spite of the fact that a staggering 1 in 4 Americans is now jobless or with reduced income due to the pandemic, the same number of Americans have already attended a virtual interview since the COVID-19 pandemic began. And while 77% of people reported having a positive virtual experience in those interviews, it’s also possible they would have been more comfortable with a conventional, in-person interview instead.

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Despite feeling more stressed (58%) in in-person interviews than virtual interviews (42%), respondents also identified feeling more confident (51%) when meeting face-to-face and more comfortable negotiating their salary (59%).

Of course, you might need to consider adjusting your interview etiquette as well. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to professional encounters in a virtual space, but there are some general guidelines you may want to consider. In deciding how to set the stage for their interviews, more than 1 in 3 respondents used their home office as a background, while 1 in 5 used their living room. Slightly less common, 15% of people used a custom background for their interviews, and 12% had the “meeting” in their bedroom instead.

In-person interviews in a pandemic

The expectations of social distancing may not be going away any time soon, but some people could be willing to put aside those recommendations when it comes to their job opportunities. Sixty-five percent of respondents were willing to attend an in-person interview during the COVID-19 pandemic, though 80% of employees and 76% of hiring managers agreed face masks should be worn in those settings.

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Still, more than 1 in 3 people (37%) indicated they wouldn’t attend an in-person interview until a vaccine for COVID-19 is released, and 62% of people indicated all interviews should be conducted remotely until precautions related to the virus are lifted.

A vast majority of people (87%) would be willing to attend an in-person interview amid the health pandemic if it meant potentially being able to secure their dream jobs, and 85% of people would do the same for the possibility of earning a higher salary. Of those people, 1 in 10 don’t believe job candidates should wear face masks during interviews.

From hiring managers’ perspectives

Even if the job description hasn’t changed as a result of COVID-19, the reality is that conducting or participating in a virtual interview is different and more nuanced than an in-person setting. In addition to making sure you have all of the technology set up properly in advance, it’s equally as important to set expectations up front for candidates who may be new to the virtual process.

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Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 59% of hiring managers reported conducting traditional, in-person interviews, while 28% reported a mix of in-person and remote interview settings. In contrast, fewer than 14% of hiring managers conducted exclusively remote interviews prior to COVID-19, though 58% expected to do so even after the precautions related to the virus have been lifted.

While 73% of hiring managers indicated virtual interviews as a workable replacement for interviewing in general, more than 1 in 3 hiring managers weren’t willing to adopt a virtual experience for their candidates during the interview process. Compared to 16% of hiring managers who expected it would take 7 months or more before they could conduct in-person interviews again, 9% expected to do so in less than 1 month, and 34% expected to return to a normal interviewing setting in the next 2 to 3 months.

Interview expectations during COVID-19

Of the 62% of hiring managers who indicated having conducted a job interview during the COVID-19 pandemic, 88% confirmed those interviews were virtual, while 12% of hiring managers maintained a cadence of traditional in-person interviews instead.

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Eighty percent of hiring managers acknowledged virtual interviews as a positive experience, with Zoom being the most commonly utilized teleconferencing platform (72%), followed by Skype (43%) and Google Hangouts (27%). In setting the mood of their interview, 57% of hiring managers used their home office as a background for the interview, while 17% opted for a custom background instead.

Pros and cons of virtual interviews

Hiring managers may generally perceive virtual interviews as a positive experience, but there are some drawbacks to consider, particularly where technology is concerned.

Workest Infographic

While online or digital interviews offer the added bonuses of flexibility (64%), protecting the health of managers and candidates (59%), and ultimately saving companies money (55%), hiring managers cited some negative elements of virtual interviews as well. The most common complaints centered around connectivity issues (60%), followed by webcam issues (55%), audio issues (51%), and being unable to fully assess a candidate through a virtual interaction (50%).

While slightly less common, some hiring managers also indicated concerns around privacy issues (26%), potential fraud (16%), and response time limitations (15%).

We also asked hiring managers to provide some advice to potential candidates for their upcoming virtual interviews. Here are 6 of the most common tips they agreed could help an applicant put their best foot forward, even digitally speaking:

  1. Dress appropriately – 72.6%
  2. Limit distractions – 71.2%
  3. Test your technology before the meeting – 59.6%
  4. Monitor your body language – 56.7%
  5. Keep your virtual identity professional – 56.7%
  6. Practice answers to common interview questions – 56.3%

Adapting to the future of job interviews

The need to adjust standard interview behaviors during COVID-19 was clear for most hiring managers, but the future of job interviews after COVID-19 remains vague and unclear. While some hiring managers expect to transition back to traditional interview formats within the next month, or 2 to 3 months, some expect they could be conducting virtual interviews for 7 months or more. While the digital experience has mostly proved positive (at least according to hiring managers), there are still some challenges to consider and added discomfort future candidates could experience.

At Zenefits, we help streamline your HR needs so you can focus on what matters most about running a business. With tools for simplifying your onboarding process, benefits, payroll, PTO, and hiring, Zenefits makes managing people easy and transparent. A complete HR platform can save you time and create a positive experience for you and your employees alike. Learn more by visiting us on the web at today. 

Methodology and limitations

We surveyed over 1,018 employed people via Amazon Mechanical Turk about virtual interviews amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 1,018 participants, 810 were employees, and 208 identified as hiring managers.

Of all employees, 45% identified as female, and 54% identified as male. Respondents ranged in age from 23 to 61, with an average of 37 and a standard deviation of 10 years. Of all hiring managers, 43% identified as female, and 57% identified as male. Respondents ranged in age from 24 to 63, with an average of 37 and a standard deviation of 10 years.

An attention-check question was used to identify and disqualify respondents who failed to read questions and answers in their entirety.

The main limitation of the study is its reliance on self-reported data. Issues with self-reported responses include, but aren’t limited to, exaggeration, selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and recency bias.

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