Remote work photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

With the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) introduced in the U.S., it is top of mind for all of us in the business community here in Seattle. We are seeing the global shift in how we do business on a local level. Several major companies have announced fundamental changes in how they operate. To name a few: Bank of America, F5 Networks, and Amazon have all encouraged working remotely and in many cases, moved interviews to be entirely virtual as well.

With this forcing function, companies are investing in building out supporting infrastructure that has long-term implications. Though the remote work trend is nothing new, what we’re seeing is a catalyzing event unfold in real-time.

Now, more than ever before, it is crucial for companies to understand people before they hire them.

In solidarity with our fellow professionals, we would like to offer our product for free for two months to any company in the midst of this shift. We get that costs are a moving target right now and having a means to reduce risk in hiring may be water in the desert. (Send us a message at the bottom of our home page.)

For hiring managers and in-house recruiters, you may already know the importance of identifying and evaluating soft skills. At WholeStory, we define soft skills as character strengths, leadership traits, and people skills. These are the qualities possessed by people who are life-long learners, collaborative decision makers, and creative problem solvers.

Whether an interview is in-person or virtual, identifying and evaluating these qualities is a challenge. However, virtual interviewing presents additional hurdles:

  • Much of our communication is non-verbal, less of which comes across on video and even less so via phone.
  • For people who are underrepresented in the workplace, virtual interviews may present more obstacles in communicating their unique value. How will they know who I am if they can’t meet me in person?
  • Finally, virtual interviewing makes it more difficult to build trust and rapport due to the removed nature of phone or video.

Here’s what we recommend:

#1: Put them at ease — Share a little bit of your own story in advance of the interview to humanize yourself

During the interview, candidates are asked to share a lot about themselves, whereas the interviewer does not (in most cases). This creates an imbalanced power dynamic. Offering a little bit about yourself beforehand—not just as a professional but as a person—is a powerful gesture.

Consider sharing 2-3 stories about your life, like what drives you and where that drive comes from? What challenges or setbacks that helped you become a better person/professional? Or, what books or mentors shaped how you see the world?

(By the way, this is exactly what our product helps candidates do in a relevant, consistent, and structured way.)

#2: Get the right info — Encourage your candidates to think about how they came to have the soft skills the role requires

A few days before the interview, ask your candidates to think of a few stories from their life that highlight how they came to have the top three soft skills related to the role.

This is purposefully open ended. We are so conditioned to separate the person from the professional that we end up communicating/receiving only a small fraction of the critical information needed. The scientific research that forms the foundation of our product at WholeStory, connects life experiences to soft skills development. Explicitly inviting your candidates to share from their life surfaces the right data points for you to make a more informed decision.

#3: Build trust and rapport — Start with their story at the beginning of the interview

Finally, at the top of the interview, ask them to share the stories that came to mind. Starting here helps them feel seen as a human being, has a relaxing effect, and allows them to open up with you. This generates a positive experience in the interview and boosts your employer brand ta boot.

One wonderful reminder this pandemic gives us is that we are interconnected, together in our humanity. Hiring is an innately human process—we meet, evaluate, and work with people. Keeping this in mind as we approach virtual interviews goes beyond altruism. Humanized hiring makes for better humans hired!

May your people and organizations be resilient and healthy.

If you would like to learn more about hiring for soft skills, we’re hosting a free online workshop on March 24th and would love to have you join us: Hiring for Soft Skills: People and Skills that Boost Culture and Innovation.


In the comments, share with us: What insights do you have on virtual interviewing? How does your company approach it?