Equity Online: 9 Tips on Navigating Virtual Interviews

From virtual happy hours to online interviews, COVID-19 has rapidly shifted the way we work—from how we interact with our colleagues to how we hire new ones. While coping with these changes, let’s keep equity firmly in mind and at practice.

For a deep dive into virtual interviews, check out our in-depth guide into equitable practices for online interviews. 

Due to the current crisis, virtual interviews are more than the new norm; in many cases, they’re necessary to keep people safe. However, being interviewed online under a pandemic-induced lockdown comes with unique challenges, particularly for historically marginalized communities. 

Candidates may be caregivers, persons with disabilities, struggling with health and finances, or have difficult living situations. Being aware that each person’s interview may be affected by these factors is the first step in being equitable online. 

Here are some quick tips on creating a fair and equitable hiring process online:

1. Keep your process respectful, consistent and clear. 

What you do for one candidate, you must do for all candidates. This means using the same set of questions and format (e.g. virtual) regardless of whether in person meetings are possible later. If you send out information or instructions in advance, make sure that everyone gets them.

2. Do your best to accommodate. 

Depending on their situations, candidates may need to have their interview broken up into small chunks, carried over several days or rescheduled. Provide an estimated running time and schedule beforehand and ask all candidates if they require accommodations.

3. Plan ahead. 

Meet with your search committee early on to coordinate and familiarize yourselves with the technology you plan to use. Build a general consensus on the interview process (e.g. how you will ask questions, indicate follow up questions, etc.)

4. Be accessible.

Choose the most accessible remote technology possible and inform all candidates on how to use it ahead of time. If there are specific gestures you plan to use within the online environment (e.g. ‘raising your hand’ in Zoom), tell the candidates in advance.

5. Privacy matters.

Consider privacy issues and whether it is necessary to record interviews/presentations. Not all interview segments require video; in some cases, using the phone or teleconferencing may work better.

6. Bypass bias, adopt awareness. 

Review content on bias with your committee beforehand and be aware that what you see onscreen may create unfair judgements on a candidate’s appearance, family or living situation. Be conscious of stereotypes; hold yourself and your colleagues accountable when evaluating.

7. Focus on content over style. 

Factors like cultural differences, comfort with technology, and physical settings may impact a candidate’s ‘style’ and how they are viewed. Remember to assess primarily for content and challenge comments that over-emphasize style during deliberation.

8. Assign an Equity Monitor.

Consider assigning an Equity Monitor leadership role to someone on the search committee that can monitor the interviews and deliberations for possible bias. Resist assigning this role to a junior colleague or someone who may identify as marginalized – having to call in their colleagues can be risky.

10. Be inclusive. 

During uncertain times, we gravitate toward what we know; this tends to decrease diversity and creates a ‘culture of sameness’ in the workplace. Look for a candidate who aligns with your department’s values and can also enrich your unit with a different perspective. 

If you run into problems or could use a consultation on a specific selection process, please contact us at the Equity & Inclusion Office and we will do our best to help. 

Other resources: 

Equity Considerations In Virtual Interviews

UBC HR’s memo on adjustments to the recruitment and hiring process in response to COVID-19

UBC IT’s Zoom Video Conferencing Guidelines and Response to Zoom Privacy Concerns