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Many municipal and county organizations are still in pandemic-related lockdown and following stay-at-home orders, but the need remains to fill key executive vacancies, especially at the city or county manager or administrator level. To move these recruitment processes forward, many employers are utilizing virtual in lieu of in-person interviews.

Successful virtual interviews are feasible as long as some realities and sensitivities are recognized with requisite planning, and there is the application of the right technology. The following best practices can help ensure a successful virtual interview.

  • Moving interviews to a virtual platform must be done with grace. Be prepared to deal with occasional video and audio issues. Recognize that children and pets may make unplanned cameo appearances and treat these interruptions cordially as part of the new normal.
  • Conduct a brief practice interview with the candidate to ensure their comfort with the process. Consider having a welcoming staff member contact the individual candidates to set up an introductory conversation.
  • Planning for a virtual interview is essential. Be aware of how the interview panel appears on the screen. Make sure the audio level is working well and that no one can hear potentially distracting background sounds. Allow at least five to 10 minutes before the virtual interview starts to make sure the technology is working properly.
  • Ensure that all participants are familiar with muting and unmuting their microphones to avoid unnecessary static and distractions.
  • Designate a technical assistant. Some people are more comfortable with technology than others. If you are managing the interview process and are not well-versed in virtual platforms, identify another person who can take responsibility for the technical aspects of a virtual interview, such as admitting candidates into the interview.
  • Assign roles. Be clear on who will convene the interview and the format you will use for conducting the interview. For example, determine if one member of the interview panel will be asking questions or if questions will be asked by multiple members. Share this information with the candidates so they know what to expect.
  • Be intentional. In the virtual space, make sure the interview panel is attentive and ready to go when the candidate is admitted to the interview. Candidates report that it is awkward to enter a video space where interview panel members are talking but fall quiet when the candidate appears.
  • Have a contingency plan. If there are technical problems, be prepared to pivot to an audio-only interview as a backup. Keep telephone numbers available to call or text participants if necessary.
  • Anticipate public records requirements. In some states, open meeting laws require that interviews for certain positions, such as city and county administrators and managers, be recorded or conducted in a manner that the public can be present to observe. Many virtual platforms can accommodate recording interviews and providing access to the public. Some platforms offer options for virtual town hall meetings that give the public a chance to meet the candidates. Baker Tilly recommends that the hiring organization consult with their attorney in advance of the interview(s) to ensure compliance with statutory requirements.
  • Ensure compliance. Establish that all participants are aware that the same rules and legal standards apply to virtual interviews as they do for in-person interviews.

Baker Tilly’s public sector executive recruitment team has successfully facilitated final virtual interview processes in recent weeks. In some situations, the final selection is made based on relevant written and virtual interview data. In others, the decision-makers have been able to reduce the interview pool to a final candidate who can then be brought to the community for a follow-up interview and opportunity for mutual familiarization.

While these measures have been largely forced upon decision-makers during the current public health crisis to avoid delays in critical hires, there is long-term potential for cost cutting to minimize candidate travel costs, another reality of the post-pandemic operating environment.

For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly public sector executive recruitment specialists can help your organization, contact our team.

Sharon G. Klumpp
Director
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