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Job interviews: Getting the balance right between online and in person

Post pandemic, recruitment involves a blend of online and in-person interviews. What’s the best approach for candidates?

Because of Covid online interviews became a necessity and since the return of normality they have remained in the mix. The result is that companies now often use a blended approach – both online and in-person interviews. How can candidates best prepare for these? We hear from experts offering advice in landing your dream job throughout all interview stages and formats.

Lasting impact

The interview process changed dramatically during Covid; interviews which otherwise would have happened in person were conducted online via Teams or Zoom, says Áine Brolly, partner at Odgers Berndtson.

“Since then, people are more comfortable with online interviews and we are seeing a mix of both online and in person in executive recruitment processes now,” she says.

Brolly’s own preference is in-person interviews. “I like to shake someone’s hand and get a real sense of their presence and impact,” she says. “But that’s not always possible.


“Our experience at present is that some early interviews in a process might be conducted online. However, during the final stages companies are meeting candidates in person before they make the ultimate decision on whether they are the right fit.”

Getting the balance right

Most employers continue to use online interviewing as part of their interview processes, says Frank Farrelly, CEO of Sigmar Recruitment.

“Used correctly and tailored to the role, it is a powerful addition,” Farrelly adds. “For example, if the role is a customer-facing sales role, then in-person interviewing is best but for a specialist IT contractor remote is more beneficial.

“In general terms, online interviews are easier to arrange, can save both sides time and enable engagement with more stakeholders. Online interviews are great timesavers and do increase the potential pool of talent. They are a godsend for candidates relocating and avoid transport costs.

“Candidates are more willing to put themselves forward for a role if they know the initial interviews are online. It is easier for recruiters to get candidates into processes as more people are comfortable online than in person. Candidates who are caregivers or have busy lifestyles find it easier to do it online.”

Importance of in-person interviews

Farrelly says that, after an initial first round, if candidates are interested they will then be more inclined to do an in-person interview.

“Online interviews offer increased accessibility for candidates with disabilities or mobility issues,” he says. “Often overlooked is that, for roles in high demand the first-round interview can involve the client selling the role to the candidate and it is easier to get in front of them online.”

In-person interviews are still important, says Farrelly. “It is easier to assess a person’s attitude and motivations in person,” he says. “Interviewers are more comfortable probing further.

“The fit with the manager also emerges. This is important for both sides as, regardless of salary and the duties of the role, the relationship a person has with their immediate manager is the most important to their happiness in work. Companies tend to prioritise in-person interviews for more senior candidates and in later rounds.”

Interview prep

When preparing for interviews, whether online or in person, it’s important to really understand the role and the brief, says Brolly.

“Typically, interviews will consist of questions focused on the core competencies of a role: for example – leadership, strategy, financial management, commercial skills, operational management, technical capability and so on. Once you understand the core competencies and responsibilities you can start to think through your experience and expertise in those areas, ideally preparing specific examples so that you can demonstrate with evidence how you meet the various competencies.

“It’s also important to be able to talk through how your experience equips you with the necessary skills for the role – and always have the two-minute elevator pitch at the ready which should entail a quick synopsis of your career to date and how you believe it aligns with the role.”

Regardless if the interview is online or in person, candidates should prepare their examples in line with the job spec, says Farrelly.

Do the basics: eliminate distractions, regulate the temperature, have water and, ideally, have a headset which blocks out the doorbell

—  Frank Farrelly, Sigmar Recruitment

“Ideally they should practice these stories with others so that they become natural. Candidates should treat answers as a story; they will be more comfortable in doing so. While using models like Star can help, they can backfire as it is not reflective of the way most people communicate. The best way to perform is to practice.”

Presentation prep

In terms of preparing a presentation, Brolly says less is more with regard to slides.

“The slides should operate as a guide only, with just headlines and key talking points which you can then talk through in more detail. Slick visuals can add to the overall sense of professionalism you are bringing to the role and demonstrate good communication and marketing skills.”

Setting the scene online

Environment plays a big part in a successful online interview, says Farrelly. “Candidates can control this, which is great for lessening nerves. It is one less ‘unknown’ to fear. So do the basics: eliminate distractions, regulate the temperature, have water and, ideally, have a headset which blocks out the doorbell.

“Many candidates like to have notes on their screen. My advice if doing this is just have prompters or a list of questions you can refer to at the end of the interview. You need to focus on the people interviewing you and not have your eyes darting around.”

Future of interviewing

“I believe that hiring decisions still very much come down to culture fit,” says Brolly. “So, to determine fit I believe it is really essential to meet people in person.

“It’s important to note, however, that I am speaking from the perspective of recruiting at a leadership level so at lower levels it is probably quite feasible to recruit people through a completely online process which is certainly a relatively new innovation.”