In the process of helping to fill five different engineer, manager, and product manager positions at New Relic right now, I’ve been conducting a lot of interviews with eager candidates.

Since our team can’t meet the candidates in person due to COVID-19, all my screenings are conducted over video chat.

This method is a big adjustment for our team, and I’m sure it also is for those looking to join New Relic. Before COVID-19, we’d invite the candidate to our office to have a face-to-face conversation. If they were in the final stages of the interview process, they’d meet their potential new team—both through the interview questions as well as spending casual time over lunch focusing on meeting them as people instead of coworkers. Now, we’re all operating under very different circumstances, and the only way we’re interviewing candidates is through the rectangular glass of our computer screens. And that has altered communication for all of us, and in ways some may not have anticipated.

Early on, I was feeling very uncomfortable without the normal body language signals (which some theorize accounts for the majority of interpersonal communication) that come during a face-to-face interview. The candidate was probably feeling the same way about this new way of interviewing, and wasn’t getting to practice several times a week like I was. For all I know, it could be their first video interview ever.

Job interviews are already stressful endeavors. So to assist those going through this process, here are some best practices that are helping to reduce interview stress for both myself and my candidates.

1. Clear introductions

First, I introduce myself and state the position for which I’m hiring. Many candidates are coming to us from difficult layoff or furlough situations and may have applied for several positions at New Relic alone. This helps to make sure the candidate and I are on the same page to start and reduces the chance for confusion later in the interview. And, I’ve generally decided to put my interviews on ultra-verbose mode to make sure everything is clear without needing additional context.

2. Acknowledge the situation

Next, I acknowledge the unusual interview circumstances. I’m remotely interviewing candidates for the first time right now, and it’s not comfortable for me, even after weeks of daily practice.

I state upfront that video interviewing is not normal for everyone, share my discomfort, and let them know it’s OK if they are also not comfortable (and that it won’t count against them).

I also let the candidate know that not everyone has an ideal working situation right now. They may have a partner, kids, or pets in the house, so it’s OK if someone walks through the background, or we get interrupted. That’s just how life is right now.

To help demonstrate it’s truly OK, I let them know that my dogs are sleeping in a bed next to my desk, and tell them the dogs have interrupted with a bark or snore in the past.

3. Full disclosure of my setup

Then, I describe my physical setup to them. I am using a laptop for video and audio. I have the candidate’s resume pulled up on a monitor located just a little higher than my laptop screen. I have a notebook down and to the right where I take notes on our interview. I let them know if I seem to be looking all over the place, that’s what’s going on. Then I invite them to share their setup, which helps me understand their body language a little better.

4. Reveal potential pitfalls

I also let candidates know that my home internet has been unstable at the worst times. If I drop off the call (or they do), we should try to reconnect as quickly as possible. If I can’t reconnect using my internet, I will connect using the app on my phone and keep going. If they have any technical issues, we will work through them together.

5. Schedule buffer time

At the end of my interview, I like to leave time for the candidate to ask questions. I intend to give them the floor because they’re interviewing New Relic just as much as we’re interviewing them. Nothing feels worse than having to cut a candidate off because I have to jump to another call. Leaving a small buffer of just 10 or 15 minutes allows me the flexibility to let our conversation end naturally and write down any final thoughts before moving on to the next meeting.

I’ve been getting great feedback from candidates about starting my interviews this way. It takes a little longer to get started, but being honest and up-front initially seems to put people at ease and remove some of the pressure of performing in a maybe-first-ever video interview. To those job seekers and hiring committees going through this process, good luck and know you’re not alone.

Interested in applying to New Relic? While our interviews are still being conducted remotely as of now, check out our open positions.

Jen Hammond is an engineering manager for New Relic's Product and Subscription Services and Data Management teams. She has over 15 years of experience as a software engineer and engineering manager. She loves building happy, healthy, and stable teams, as well as defeating legacy code bases. View posts by .

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