COVID-19 has forced us to find new ways of doing all sorts of different things. Some are problematic. For example, interviewing virtually is paralyzing some organizations that need to fill open executive positions. But they and the people they are hiring are afraid to move forward without a live interaction. The good news is that all the needed virtual technology is already in place. You can make executive-level interviewing work well virtually if you:

1.    Leverage the existing technology to work for you,

2.    Pull some parts of a normal interview forward,

3.    Make the interviews themselves as comfortable and fluid as possible.

Leverage the existing technology to work for you

You don’t have to reinvent the technology. Your organization is likely already using Microsoft Teams, Google hang-outs, Zoom or the like for video conferences. And, with COVID-19, you and your teams have gotten a lot more comfortable with those technologies.

There are other options. For example, Harqen, specializes in video, voice, and SMS interviewing with tools that increase candidate engagement and compress the hiring timeline. They also have a live video interviewing tool that requires no software downloads.

In any case, don’t let the technology get in the way. Haren’s President and CEO, Tim Ihlefeld suggests having someone get the candidate (and you) comfortable with the technology in advance. Be clear which you’re going to use, so they can download the app or program in advance. “Level set the expectations early and often – time, specific directions, software download – and how to do it.”

Pull some parts of a normal interview forward

Ihlefeld suggests that the best executive interviews are more like conversations. And “good conversations evolve into other conversations.” Enabling those virtually requires pulling some things forward so the hiring manager and candidate can digest them in advance.

Louis Hipp at DHR International makes the case to:

“Consider at least a part of your ‘interview’ process as the attraction part. Employed candidates will very likely be at least as uneasy as you are about making a career decision as you are in hiring them without meeting face to face? How do you get past this? You put in extra effort in the form of pre-work before each step in the process. You may have to write about the culture you are building, explain some of your history, detail your vision, make a compelling case why you must act now to hire this person, etc.” 

Ultimately, there are only three interview questions, ever: Can you do the job? (Strengths) Will you love the job? (Motivation) Can we tolerate working with you? (Fit) Set up the conversations by sharing:


  • Strengths required for the job.
  • Other interviewers’ ratings of the candidate’s strengths.
  • Strengths, cognitive ability, sales ability, judgement, assessments done.


  • The ideal balance of job motivation across good for others, good at it, good for me.
  • Other interviewers’ perspective on why they think the candidate wants the job.
  • Any psychological, motivation, assessments done.


  • BRAVE cultural dimensions for the organization – current and aspirational (Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, Environment)
  • The candidate’s individual preferences across those dimensions.
  • Any psychological, personality, cultural fit, values, assessments done.

Make the interviews themselves as comfortable and fluid as possible

Start with motivation. Ask “Why would you want this job?” or “Hipp’s starter question, “Tell me how this role might fit into your life right now.” Have a conversation comparing what the candidate says with what you’ve learned in your pre-reading. Discuss any differences. Probe for what really matters together. As Ihlefeld suggested, “It’s not about having alignment in particular. You want people to have different points of view. But all need to see goals and objectives the same way.”

Then move to fit, with a focus on how they are going to do this particular job and relate to the culture and expectations. This is a great place to think through how to move forward together, looking at the pre-reading together to figure out where the candidate can adapt to the culture and where the candidate can help evolve the culture.

Ideally, others will have confirmed strengths in the pre-reads. Probe any lingering doubts.

Finally, put aside the assessments; look each in the eye (through the cameras;) and have as open, honest and transparent conversation as you can about whether or not you two believe you can be successful together.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #631) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.