When the pandemic began, businesses were focused on putting their heads down and weathering an uncertain economic environment. For many, this meant a temporary freeze on hiring. As things thawed, hiring came back, but this time, it was virtual.
A Gartner poll found that “86% of organizations were incorporating new virtual technology to interview candidates” by the second month of the COVID-19 pandemic. This mad scramble to integrate new interviewing tools was, for some, disorienting. In tech hiring, it’s been a godsend. While we still appreciate face-to-face interaction, the digital nature of remote interviews comes with so many benefits that we won’t be doing whiteboard coding challenges with candidates ever again. Here are three reasons why:
1. Less work, more data
I work in tech, and I love data. Tech companies evangelize harvesting data wherever possible, but before the pandemic, interviews were a data dark spot. Most of the information conveyed lived either in the mind of the interviewer or via their notes. Even if there were coding assessments that added a quantitative element to the interview, these were often done on whiteboards or pieces of paper that then needed to be digitally transferred. The result was that interviewers often spent an extra 30 minutes simply capturing what had already transpired.
Today, the entire process is digital, which means that so much more data is automatically captured, and it’s now being put to use. We have transcription tools and video recordings that make reviewing the interview that much easier.
According to HackerEarth’s State of Developer Recruiting 2020, 56.9% of recruiters said a major benefit of remote interviewing came from pair programming with a collaborative code editor, as this automatically captures and assesses a candidate’s coding skill in a collaborative, work-like environment. We even have automatic feedback generators that request performance input after specific questions. These are then compiled into an after-action report that simply needs to be edited rather than written from scratch.
This means that interviewers spend less time writing and more time carefully weighing a candidate’s skill. Starting digitally puts all the data at our fingertips and allows us to make the most informed decision. Instead of a data dark spot, remote interviews are now richer than a resume.
2. Geographic flexibility
There’s no question that tech has a talent shortage. Only 60% of all tech positions are filled. When we were dependent on in-person interviews, we constrained our talent pipeline even further. With tech roles only becoming more important over time, we can’t think locally about tech hiring anymore.
The pandemic opened up new talent reserves in geographically diverse locations. We can now hire anyone from anywhere. Analysis from the State of Developer Recruiting 2020 revealed that 50.6% of recruiters said that remote interviews are beneficial due to their logistical flexibility. A further 40.4% said they saved significant time. Remote interviews with built-in features like pair programming and real-time code editing—which now constitute 11.1% of all remote coding interviews conducted—have basically solved the problem of onboarding the most qualified candidates regardless of location.
There is now a bigger pool of tech talent that can work from anywhere, and assessing them remotely has never been easier. In fact, 30.7% of recruiters said that remote hiring had actually increased their talent funnel. As the global workforce becomes even more accustomed to remote work, this means that remote interviews will be a feature of the hiring process for years to come.
3. Reduced bias
More than half (57.6%) of enterprises have placed extra emphasis on hiring for diversity in 2020. As much as I love meeting candidates face-to-face, first impressions are often clouded by personal biases that can unintentionally limit diversity. Recruiters and hiring managers tend to prefer candidates that mirror their own backgrounds in what has been termed by researchers “Looking Glass Merit.” While interpersonal and other soft skills are absolutely important, face-to-face interviews sometimes overvalue them relative to hard skills.
Thankfully, remote interviews add a layer of separation that gives interviewers input on things like body language without placing undue influence on them. While 10.2% of recruiters at SMEs say that challenging unconscious bias is still a major pain point, and 13% of recruiters are specifically choosing assessment tools that help eliminate bias in the interviewing process.
One way to combat this problem is to mask personally identifiable information (PII) during remote interviews so a candidate’s skills can speak for themselves. This means that name, gender, academic background, etc. are hidden during the interview itself, so the interviewer’s impression of a candidate is solely based on their skills.
A remote interviewing future
Even after a vaccine is widely available and things start to return to “normal,” we won’t be looking back at how we used to hire. I may still meet candidates for in-person interviews from time to time but will certainly continue to use digital interviewing tools for a better interviewing experience.
Today, hiring—especially in tech—is more competitive and geographically untethered than ever, so we need to make the interviewing process as convenient and flexible for candidates as possible. In the end, remote interviewing saves the company and the candidate time, and more importantly, allows interviewers to limit bias significantly relative to in-person interviews. These more objective interviews are helping managers create the best teams where skills matter.
Sachin Gupta is the CEO and cofounder of HackerEarth. He was formerly a software developer at Google and Microsoft.