How to Conduct Safe Interviews Amid COVID-19

HR Question:

If I am an essential business that needs to continue hiring new staff during this time of the COVID-19 outbreak, how do I conduct safe and effective interviews?

HR Answer:

Now that the Stay-at-Home order has officially gone into effect across the region, virtual interactions are being added as necessary steps in lieu of and prior to inviting a candidate to an in-person job interview.  At this time, it is important to limit the need for a candidate to be on-site for an in-person interview.  Below are recommendations on conducting virtual interviews and best practices to follow when it is necessary to have the candidate on-site.

Conducting Virtual Interviews During COVID-19

1. Phone Interviews

If it is not already normal practice for you to conduct phone interviews as an initial step to qualify candidates prior to bringing them in for an interview, now is the time to start!  The phone interview can be used to qualify candidates for a high-level fit for experience, pay expectations, availability for specific work schedules, and location.

2. Virtual Video Interviews

If you do not have the capacity to conduct a high volume of phone interviews, an effective and efficient option can be to conduct virtual (one-way) video interviews.  Virtual interview platforms allow you to screen candidates 24/7.  As an added bonus, candidates can complete the interviews at their convenience.  You simply choose the questions you want candidates to address, send out an interview invitation, and watch candidates’ recorded responses. For example, we use Outmatch, an on-demand and live video provider.

3. Live Video Interviews

After qualifying a candidate through either a phone or virtual on-demand interview, the next step could be to coordinate a live video interview.  There are several video conference platforms available, including Outmatch that we mentioned above. However, you can also consider using video platforms that may already be in use by your organization such as Skype, Amazon Chime, Zoom, BlueJeans, Google Hangouts, Facetime, etc.  This is a great way to include decision-makers in your organization who are working remotely and still allows you to engage with the candidate at a high level. Choose the platform that works best for you, keeping in mind that there are differences, including some that record the interview and can work seamlessly with your ATS.

Preparing for Live Video Interviews

Preparing Interviewers:

Although there are some differences in the steps to preparing for video interviews, good basic interviewing prep still applies. For example, all interviewers should still review the job description and candidate resume, have prepared interview questions, and follow a shared agenda for the interview. What’s different is the need to make sure that all interviewers have access to your video platform. They should also conduct the interview in a quiet, well-lit room where they can be seen and heard easily. We recommend testing this prior to the interview to ensure their cameras and microphones function well.

Preparing Candidates:

Prior to the interview, you should communicate with candidates to let them know you will be conducting a video interview and explain how they will access the video platform. You should ensure that they have access to a device that is compatible with your platform, and ideally, provide them an opportunity to test it out before the interview. Offer the same suggestions that you shared with your interviewers to find a quiet, well-lit room for the video and test their camera and microphone. Also, set the stage for what to expect in the interview, including start time, expected length, and provide a list of the interviewers and job titles. Be sure to allow candidates to ask questions in advance of the interview to alleviate any concerns that they have as this may be new to them.   

Conducting Safe On-site Interviews Amid COVID-19

When you have virtually vetted candidates as much as possible down to only those that are highly qualified, we recognize that it still may be necessary to invite candidates to an on-site interview.

Below are best, safe practices to ensure the safety of the candidate and interviewer(s) involved:

Set Clear Expectations

Be sure to clearly set expectations and provide specific day-of-interview instructions for candidates (and interviewers) before the on-site interview. These instructions should include:

  • Where to park. Have spaces identified specifically for visitors to use.
  • Where to enter the building. If possible, identify a specific entrance to be used only for visitors.
  • Instructions on who to call and reschedule if they are not feeling well. Refer to CDC’s list of symptoms of the coronavirus.

Maintain Social Distancing

Adhere to all social distancing guidelines as outlined by the CDC and your corresponding state and local government. Some suggestions include:

  • Avoid close contact. Ensure that you have an interview space where you can maintain at least 6 feet of separation between each person involved.
  • Wash your hands properly, and have hand sanitizer available. Although this likely breaks with your normal protocol, do not shake hands. Explain that in order to maintain social distancing, everyone will avoid shaking hands. To lighten the mood, consider coming up with a fun alternative (“air high-5”, “air fist pump”, etc.)
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, desks, phones, keyboards, etc.

Health Screen Prior to Interview

On the day of the interview, yet well in advance of its intended start time and expected arrival of the participants, call all participants (candidates and interviewers) to screen for potentially contaminated individuals by asking these questions:

  • Have you recently traveled to an area with known local spread of Covid-19?
  • Have you come into close contact (within 6 feet) with someone who has a laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis in the last 14 days?
  • Are you experiencing any of the COVID-19 symptoms identified by the CDC?
  • If they answer affirmatively to any of the above, then the interview should be postponed.

Health Screen On-site

Put in place a process to check the temperature of candidates and interviewers when they arrive.

  • Postpone the interview immediately if the candidate’s temperature is 100 degrees or higher.
  • If you only have a single interviewer and they have a fever, you will need to postpone the interview. If you have multiple interviewers, and one registers a fever, determine whether the interview can proceed without them.

Postpone When Sick

Hopefully, it goes without saying that you will need to postpone the interview if the candidate or any essential interviewers are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. Given the severity of this pandemic, this is not a moment to take any unnecessary risks.

We recognize that it is very challenging to conduct efficient and effective interviews for those in-demand essential positions that are needed to continue during this crisis.  Hopefully, these tips and best practices will help you to still successfully identify and hire the best candidates to meet your hiring needs.


If you need assistance in implementing any of these safe interviewing strategies, or if you need help finding qualified individuals that fit your culture and have the skills that you need, Contact Us