Recruitment processes and attending job interviews during lockdown

A lot has happened in recent weeks. In terms of the third sector job market, some charities understandably decided to freeze existing recruitment processes or put plans on hold until the picture became clearer. However, this was not the case for all organisations including those with business-critical vacancies. A number have pressed ahead with recruitment processes, utilising video conferencing applications Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams to recruit.

These platforms are a great way to move processes forward at a time when we cannot safely meet face to face, but they present their own unique set of challenges for both the interviewer and interviewee. Below are some reflections and tips on interview etiquette and how to better prepare for an online interview.

Peridot's Zoom recruitment stats as of 01/05/2020

What to do when preparing for an interview as a candidate:

Eliminate the additional tech anxieties as much as you can – set up over an hour before and test everything: video, microphone, seat height, light levels. Make sure you know who to contact if there are issues and, if it’s a platform you haven’t used before, test it with a friend a few days before so you know how to use it.

‘Commute’ to the interview – if you can, after getting into your smart clothes continue to put on your smart shoes and go for a short walk. The fresh air will make you more alert, the movement will relax your body and the change of scenery will help you to move into the interview mindset. If you can’t leave your home, ‘commute’ within it – say goodbye to your partner or housemate and do a circuit of your hallway on the way to the interview room.

Just like a normal interview, imagine you can be seen as soon as you enter your interview room – this will stop you panic reading your notes just before the call and will give you a better posture, which will help to keep you calm and in control.

What to do during the interview as a candidate:

Don’t hesitate to flag if the tech isn’t working – difficulty hearing questions or panel members and not allowing video could throw you off and prevent you from giving the best account of yourself.

Ask more questions about the organisation, particularly culture – remote interviewing means it’s much harder to ‘get a feel’ for the charity and it’s important that you’re able to get enough information to know you’d be a good fit. Think about values, flexible working and their approach to keeping teams together during remote working.

Strike a balance between short-term, Covid-19 adaptations and longer-term, strategic thinking – unless it’s a temporary role, you need to convince the hiring manager that you’re right for this role overall, but you can’t ignore the elephant in the room. Make it clear you’re aware of the potential impact on fundraising, the organisation, the wider sector and that you’ve thought about how that will impact on this role.

As a recruiter during the interview, please:

Give as much detail about the practicalities of the interview as possible – it can be an unsettling process with lots of unknowns so the more you can give, the more likely you are to see candidates at their best. Give them as much notice as possible so they have time to test out the software and let them know who to contact on the day if there are issues.

Don’t just push on if there are technical issues – it is in your interest to see the candidates at their best and you won’t if they can’t see you or hear you properly.

Think about your scheduling – a day of back-to-back interviews is always exhausting but, with Zoom fatigue, will it be too much? Make sure to schedule breaks between interviews and spread them over two days if needed; whatever is required to ensure your last candidate gets as much attention from you as the first.

Allow more time for questions and make it more conversational – remember that you are now the only direct representation of the organisation a prospective employee is going to get. Be more expressive with your answers and invite follow-up questions.

Be open about the impact of Covid-19 – most charities are in crisis mode at the moment. Being open about the impact on the organisation will build trust with the prospective employee and ensure they’re able to meet the increased challenges ahead. For example, if the job description talked a lot about strategy but the reality is that the first few months will be reactive, be upfront about that.


This blog was co-authored by Katherine Bates, Senior Partnerships Manager at Fight for Peace International and Simon Callaghan, Director – Fundraising Appointments at Peridot Partners.