How to conduct a successful remote technical interview


7 tips for software engineers, technical recruiters, and hiring managers

Will your team ever go back to the office? For many, the answer is “no.” This seismic shift means many business processes must go completely virtual, including interviewing and hiring software engineers. Karat has conducted over 80k technical interviews—all remotely— and established the following best practices on how to conduct remote technical interviews for software engineers.

Here are 7 tips for conducting a successful remote technical interview:

  1. Define the interviewer’s role and interview guidelines
  2. Clarify competencies relevant to the role and train interviewers on interview rubrics
  3. Be mindful of verbal and non-verbal communication
  4. Schedule remote technical interviews 24/7
  5. Conduct the final remote interview loop over two or three days
  6. Use a code editor in remote technical interviews
  7. Check your tech before the remote technical interview

#1 Define the interviewer’s role and interview guidelines

Develop interviewer guidelines for interview length, content, communication, and write-ups. Support training and improvement by recording interviews and having more experienced interviewers review and provide feedback. 57% of companies that are satisfied with their engineering hires track interviewer performance —compared to just 43% of those who are not satisfied.

Dedicating specific engineers to interviewing creates a core group that can focus on improving signal and candidate experience. Plus, this creates shared accountability for the outcome of the hiring process. Each interviewer can gain empathy by experiencing an interview with your team as part of a mock interview process, especially if they are more tenured.

#2 Clarify competencies relevant to the role and train interviewers how to use interview rubrics

Successful remote technical interviewing processes align competencies to roles, are transparent with the candidate about competencies required for the job, assess one competency at a time, avoid ambiguity, and share this information with all interviewers. Use structured interview rubrics to create a shared vocabulary for interview write-ups. This will align your hiring bar around concrete observations that interviewers can make on each competency. The impact is better hiring signal and less bias.

#3 Be mindful of verbal and non-verbal communication in the remote technical interview

Use clear and kind verbal communication to build rapport with candidates by expressing empathy and providing verbal support. Ask if there are follow-up questions, and clearly articulate what competencies are being tested.

Non-verbal communication matters in a remote interview. Making eye contact is just as important in a remote technical interview as an in-person interview. This means looking at the camera. Low or high camera angles might make it look like the candidate (or interviewer) is standing above or below the person they are speaking to.

#4 Schedule remote technical interviews 24/7 

Consider your global footprint — and the locations of your candidates — when scheduling interviews. Open up availability 24/7 if you can.

Remote technical interviewing presents an opportunity to schedule interviews on a candidate’s time, potentially outside of normal business hours, which is especially critical in a world where people are working from home with children out of school.

#5 Conduct the final remote interview loop over two or three days

A typical onsite interview loop could take six to eight hours in a single block of time. Taking onsite interviews remote means you can break it up into segments over two or three days, keeping both candidates and interviewers fresh.

#6 Use a code editor in remote technical interviews

Consider your interactive developer environment (IDE). If you don’t have a proper code editor, consider other options to simulate a coding interview, but avoid a standard text editor like Google docs. Ensure that you have features like testing, auto brackets, and clarifications.

#7 Check your tech before the remote technical interview

Encourage both candidates and interviewers to do the following before the interview:

  • Test the microphones. Reduce as much background noise as possible and verify that the other can hear them easily. Give candidates access to your IDE in advance of the interview so they can familiarize themselves with the setup. Finally, beware of clunky keyboards or microphone placement that might pick up unexpected sounds.
  • Adjust lighting. Good lighting will help you pick up on body language and facial cues. Use a desk lamp or window facing you to avoid backlighting. Be mindful of glare on glasses if you wear them and ensure the room isn’t too dark.
  • Be sure your internet connection is stable. Candidates and interviewers should test connectivity to ensure little to no pauses. Disruptions are distracting and waste precious time. A strong internet connection keeps the conversation flowing naturally.

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