Hire Power: Zooming in on Potential Staff

Just because we’re all connected via teleconferencing software these days doesn’t mean you have to put off hiring for your lab. Here are a few tips for how to effectively recruit star performers in a virtual world.

Just how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything about how we interact with each other this year, so has the traditional job interview and hiring process been turned upside down. Gone are the days of walking a prospective laboratory team member through the lab or introducing candidates to the entire team in the conference room. Welcome to staffing your lab by video.

While conducting interviews remotely, whether by phone or video, is not a new concept, many lab managers are just stepping into this arena as they adjust to COVID-19 travel and work-from-home restrictions. For many, if initial interviews were done by phone or video, final meetings were scheduled in-person whenever possible.

“I suspect that like many academic laboratories online interviews are nothing new. We have been doing this for many years given the international nature of laboratories and our desire to recruit the world’s best talent. We’ll continue to conduct remote interviews even once we’re back to normal, in-person interactions.” – Gregory Steinberg, MD, professor, Canada Research Chair in Metabolism and Obesity, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada

For Gregory Steinberg, MD, professor and Canada Research Chair in Metabolism and Obesity at McMaster University in Ontario, video recruiting by Zoom has been a long-time method to fulfill his laboratory team vacancies.

“I have done many interviews with students and postdoctoral fellows remotely and found the experience to be effective,” Steinberg says.

“I suspect that like many academic laboratories online interviews are nothing new,” he adds. “We have been doing this for many years given the international nature of laboratories and our desire to recruit the world’s best talent. We’ll continue to conduct remote interviews even once we’re back to normal, in-person interactions.”

Regardless of whether online recruiting is old hat for you or if you’re begrudgingly accepting the new way, conducting a successful video interview does not have to be difficult. In the past few months, Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangout Meet have become widely used platforms and millions of remote working professionals, college students, and kindergarten through 12th graders are logging on every day. We are all adapting.

Your virtual interview process should showcase your laboratory in its best light. The Association of American Medical Colleges has offered some of the following tips for making certain the experience is a successful one:

  • Choose the right environment. Find a private, quiet space that is free of possible distractions. Be sure enough light is available with a window or lamp so the candidate can see you clearly. Keep your background neat and also distraction-free.
  • Give candidates advance details. In communications before the interview date, make sure to share what platform you will be using. This allows time for the candidates to download software, if necessary, and familiarize themselves with using the technology. Each platform has its own nuances so be prepared for a learning curve adjustment. If you plan to record the interview, let the candidate know ahead of time and get their permission.
  • Check your technology before the call. Lower the chances of technical hiccups by doing a video test run before the interview starts. Check to see that your camera and microphone are working well and work consistently. Be sure the camera is positioned so the candidate can easily see and hear you. If you plan on sharing your screen, try that feature and make sure you can use it effortlessly. Also, be mindful of potential audio and/or video delays on the candidate’s end. Not all internet signals are created equal. Have the candidates phone number handy in case of a disconnection.
  • Treat a virtual interview just like an in-person one. Once you both are on screen, be personable and start the interview with something casual to break the ice. These are unusual times for all of us and starting of the conversation warmly is helpful. Do you normally greet candidates in your lab coat? Don the same attire for the video camera. Remember to smile and make and sustain eye contact (with the camera, not the screen). Think of it as a way of replacing the firm handshake that you’ve always used to greet candidates. Introduce yourself, giving your name and title.
  • Follow the typical interview protocol. Keep the questions the same as you would have asked in an in-person interview. Ask any required questions and/or optional questions if permitted. Take notes and allow the candidate to ask questions. Close the interview with providing guidelines on next steps in the process.

Fauntleroy Shaw is a freelance writer based in Carmel, Ind. She is a regular contributor to Endocrine News.

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