How You Can Provide a Great Candidate Experience When Everyone’s Working Remotely

March 23, 2020

woman sitting on sofa at home with her computer

As companies around the globe are asking their employees to work from home, recruiters and talent acquisition teams are quickly adapting to an all-virtual world. Many elements of the hiring process are relatively easy to move online — face-to-face candidate meetings have been replaced with video interviews and online assessment tools can help evaluate candidates’ skills.

But one potentially challenging part of an online hiring process is providing a top-notch candidate experience. With office tours, team lunches, and other in-person touches likely off the table, recruiters are looking for creative ways to improve their candidates’ experience and show why their company is an incredible place to work — all from their home office. Now more than ever, candidates also want to feel valued and heard, as they too are feeling the anxieties and challenges of the constantly changing coronavirus situation.

Here are seven steps to help smooth your company’s transition to an online candidate experience. 

1. Communicate with candidates about what the hiring process will look like

Given the current circumstance and how fast everything is changing, it’s critical to keep candidates informed about every step of the hiring process. 

This can start as early as the job post. For example, some companies are adding a few lines to their job descriptions to keep candidates informed from day one:

Understandably, candidates are likely to have a lot of questions right now. You can help them find immediate answers by adding some frequently asked questions to your website. 

Although many companies already have an FAQ section about their hiring process, updating with some additional material reflecting your coronavirus policy will go a long way in improving your candidates’ experience and putting their minds at ease. Professional services firm EY, for example, added this:

  • Drop down menu in EY’s FAQ section on their website (has been updated more recently):  What is your policy relating to the Coronavirus outbreak?  To protect our people’s health and wellbeing, as well as to assist in the containment of the Coronavirus, all EY travel to and from Mainland Chine, Hong Kong, Macau, and Northern Italy, has been postponed until further notice.  If you have travelled from Mainland Chine, Hong Kong, Macau, and Northern Italy within the last 14 days you should immediately follow the advice provided by the UK government. If you are due to attend an EY Experience Day or EY Final Interview you must allow a 14 day period of self-imposed quarantine before visiting an EY office.

If you don’t have a dedicated FAQ section, consider adding a note or banner at the top of your career site to let candidates know your company’s official policy and how it will affect them. Keep in mind that you’ll likely have to update this information regularly as the situation unfolds. Another option is to create a living document, like a Google doc, and send candidates a link so that they can view it for up-to-date information.

You should also send email updates to candidates already in the process to keep them posted about any changes. Recruiters at Google, for example, sent out the following email when the coronavirus situation made on-site interviews a health risk: 

“In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and to protect our candidates’ and interviewers’ health and wellbeing, we will be conducting all Google interviews globally virtually via Google Hangout (or BlueJeans for applicable countries) for the foreseeable future.”

Proactively communicating changes to your hiring process and any hiring delays will help you avoid confusion and dramatically improve the candidate experience. 

2. Give candidates resources to help them prepare for their video interview

For some candidates, video interviewing may be unfamiliar, so it’s important to share advice or resources to help them put their best foot forward.

This can be as simple as sending an email with a few pointers like:

  • What equipment they’ll need (e.g. a laptop with webcam enabled, or a smartphone or tablet on a stand if they don’t have a computer at home)
  • A link to your preferred video platform’s FAQ or help section that gives directions on how to download and best use the product
  • What to wear (e.g. a suit vs. business casual, depending on your company’s style)
  • Where to take the interview (e.g. a quiet room with a neutral background and lots of natural light if possible) and a reminder that candidates can always use the mute button when they’re not speaking (especially if they’re at home with kids or pets)
  • What kind of questions they will be asked

You can also link to some useful resources, like this ultimate guide to video interviews from the G2 Learning Hub. Offering some tips like these can make your interviews go more smoothly — and shows candidates that you’re invested in their success.

3. Give your interview panel a crash course on video interviews

It’s not just candidates who may need pointers on conducting video interviews. Since some recruiters and hiring managers will be more familiar with this process than others, take the time to give your entire interviewing team a refresher or a quick 101 course to ensure they give candidates a good experience. 

Working remotely, you could do this via conference call, talking your team through how to use the technology and providing some useful tips, such as what to do if the video lags. You could also run some practice interviews, giving the other person some pointers — like remembering to nod and smile — to help them come across as natural and personable on video. Record the call or share a written summary so everyone has something to refer back to.

For more tips about conducting a seamless video interview, read our post.

4. Get creative to show candidates your company culture 

While it’s often easier to show candidates your company’s culture when you’re able to bring them onsite, this situation offers an opportunity to get creative. 

Start by gathering all the materials you have about your company culture, including any videos, podcasts, or culture decks that you’ve already created. If you don’t have anything pre-made or just want to strengthen what you have, put a call out to employees to send you any pictures or videos they’ve taken of team events or activities. 

At Target, for example, there’s a wealth of employee-generated content with a shared hashtag on Instagram about company-wide volunteering efforts:

Once you have the material, think about the best way to share it with candidates. This could involve sharing a presentation and photos during your video call as well as attaching pictures and including links in your emails.

You should also make time for informal conversations. If you were taking candidates on a tour of your location, you might leave them to chat to the people they would be working with everyday, so consider setting up a group video call with the rest of the team. And if the team would usually take them out for lunch, you could replicate this virtually by arranging a call and sending everyone vouchers to order food delivery. This gives candidates a chance to get to know their team, and shows them your company thinks outside the box.

5. Provide feedback to candidates who don’t get the job 

Every candidate deserves a great experience with your company, whether they get the job or not. One way to provide it is to offer constructive feedback to candidates that you don’t hire

LinkedIn research shows that 94% of candidates want to receive feedback after an interview. If you’re able to do that at your company, let them know what they did well and give some actionable tips to help them do better next time, like suggesting some skills they could benefit from developing. That way, candidates get something valuable from the experience, and they’ll appreciate that you took the time.

6. If the candidate gets the job, make the welcome feel special

Once you’ve extended an offer, it’s time to make your new hire feel welcome. Luckily, there are lots of ways to do this online and examples from other companies that you can draw inspiration from. 

At Spotify, recruiters have sent job offers in the form of playlists to invite candidates to join the team. Encourage the whole team to get involved in building welcome playlists to send to new hires, with songs related to your culture and values. 

  • Screenshot of Spotify playlist sent to candidate. Songs include "You, You're Awesome" by Do Make Say Think and "We Need You" by J.R.

At Lever, the team has established a tradition of sending personalized GIFs to new hires to welcome them to the team. While you won’t be able to gather the team in person to do this, you could encourage them to create GIFs in their own home to send to their new coworker. (Here’s a how-to guide to creating GIFs in case they need a hand!)

  • Gif of employees doing synchronized dance with rolling chairs and a white board that says "Welcome Hannah!"

You can also publicly celebrate your new hires on social media. While you might normally snap a picture of them on their first day in the office, you can invite them to send you a photo instead — like a picture at their desk at home. This is a nice way to make your new hire feel valued and to maintain a sense of normalcy in the face of challenging circumstances. 

7. Make the virtual onboarding experience as smooth as possible and ensure new hires are set up to work remotely

If your company is temporarily working remotely, you’ll also have to onboard new hires remotely. This stage is critical, since it can make or break a new hire’s confidence in your company. 

Focus on communicating openly and often to set the right expectations. Clearly outline what the first week will look like and how essential learnings will be shared (e.g. using a mix of pre-recorded webinars, employee handbooks, and one-on-one video training sessions). You should also make sure your new hire has all the equipment they need to work remotely, ordering anything they require as soon as possible to account for any delivery delays. If your company is offering a stipend or additional support to help employees get set up at home — like subsidizing home broadband, WiFi extenders, keyboards, and other equipment — make sure they know how to access this to get what they need.  

While the logistics may be complex to manage, don’t forget about the exciting parts of onboarding — helping your new hire to build relationships and feel at home. Remote work can sometimes feel isolating, so these steps are incredibly important during this challenging and delicate time. 

Consider adding your new hire to group communication channels before their start date so they can start chatting to their coworkers right away, and encourage team members to set up brief get-to-know-you calls. Make sure that their manager knows to check in on a regular basis, and assign a buddy to answer any questions they might have as they get the lay of the land. Since many employees have probably had to adjust to working remotely, they’re likely to have some tips and insights that they can share to help your new hire settle in. 

You can also learn from how other companies engage their remote workers. At GitLab, the world’s largest 100% remote company, employees organize virtual coffee breaks to take a breather and catch up. The CleverTech team, on the other hand, plays video games together to de-stress and build camaraderie. 

Final thoughts: Learn from others, because we’re all in this together

The coronavirus has caused a lot of major changes to happen very fast. But while it certainly poses challenges, this global experiment in working and hiring remotely has its upsides — like helping your company better prepare for what the future holds. 

This situation is new to everyone, so some trial and error will be involved. Some companies, such as Coinbase and Snyk, are even sharing their learnings publicly to help other companies get up to speed faster. Self-isolation might be advisable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with and learn from your peers to benefit everyone. 

A few small stumbles are inevitable, so be kind to yourself and your teams about them. More than anything, try to be patient and accommodating. Many candidates are dealing with new circumstances and anxieties that were unimaginable just a few short months ago. Showing them that you understand and care will speak volumes about what it’s like to work at your company. 

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Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash