29 May 2020

The QA Team’s Experience of Recruiting Virtually

On Wednesday 1st and Thursday 2nd April the Quality Assurance team followed in the footsteps of the QI team in conducting our first set of virtual assessment centre and virtual interviews for 3 new staff members. We took a slightly different approach with Quality Assurance Manager Selina testing Webex and Quality Assurance Manager Ellie testing Zoom.

Our predictionwas that we would be able to successfully conduct a virtual assessment centre and interview for pre-existing candidates scheduled for interview and appoint a successful candidate using both platforms but would learn which of the two would be our preferred method going for the future. We started our journey by having a virtual meeting with Head of Analytics- Forid Alom, to discuss the learning QI had gained through testing. Using QI’s learning and recommendations table we designed and prepared for our own virtual assessments and interviews.

How did we do this?

We used a PDSA to test interviewing virtually.

Plan: Plan the test, including the plan for collecting data

We want to conduct assessment and interviews virtually and tested for one-episode assessments for seven candidates and interviews for three candidates. We predict that candidates would accept invitation and that method would be well received. In addition, that the interviewers would find it an effective way conduct the recruitment process.

  • Who: Ellie and Selina (Quality Assurance Managers), Duncan (Head of QA), Sarah (Deputy Head of QA), and Sally (Service User Lead for QA) and candidates
  • What: Inform, prepare and invite the nine candidates for the QA Administrator post and four candidates for the QA Facilitator post; conduct assessment for all candidates and shortlist at least two for interview. Using WebEx as the virtual platform for the QA Facilitator interviews, and Zoom for the QA Administrator interviews
  • When: 1st and 2nd April 2020 for 5 hours
  • Data: Number of candidates accepting invitation; feedback from both interviewers and candidates; review of technical issues; successful appointment of candidate.

Do:  Run both virtual tests


What happened?

  • All candidates were asked to complete an exercise and to return before the assessment centre. This was marked and scored by the hiring team.
  • The day before the assessment centre each candidate was invited to meet with 1 member of the QA team (who was not on the hiring panel) to test Zoom/Webex, get familiar with the technology and have a informal chat.
  • For ADMIN SELECTION:  10 out of 13 (77%) candidates accepted the opportunity to attend the assessment centre. Reasons for not accepting the invite included 1 candidate who did not own a laptop. Second candidate was confident with the technology but was unable to take time off work.  Another candidate expressed anxieties around the technology, the candidate did not answer phone calls or attempts to support for the test support set up.
  • For FACILITATOR SELECTION: 100% / 4 accepted virtual assessment invitation
  • The hiring team began the assessment centre with an introductory ice breaker to test connectivity and use of the technology and to put candidates at ease.  All candidates were then asked to complete an online test.
  • The interviewers realised that the interviews took less time and therefore adjusted their timings half way through.

Study:  Analyse the results and compare to the predictions

  • We had the following tech issues with Zoom:
  • Hotmail accounts were not receiving links to join the assessment centre or receive online tasks
  • Links and assessments had to be sent via an alternative email address or WhatsApp
  • We had the following tech issues with WebEx:
  • Audio for 1 candidate was temperamental and we called her mobile a couple times but this was quickly resolved
  • We appointed 3 successful candidates
  • The tech testing with an allocated person reassured all candidates
  • Both managers kept mobile contact details to communicate with candidates to reassure and deal with any issues
  • Emails were drafted beforehand to save time
  • We designed summary and score sheets that were helpful to keep all virtual notes in one place and make decisions with ease.

Act:  We can adapt, abandon, adopt – plan for your next test

  • We will adopt the use of both platforms for future virtual interviews and use the learning to plan.  
  • We will also adopt the use of completing work before the assessment centre and informally meet team members not on the interview panel. Both these exercises provided valuable insight of candidate’s skills and personality, which would not have been gained by the assessment centre alone. It also ensured that those who had technical difficulties on the day of the assessment centre and joined late, were not disadvantaged as we still had enough information about them to form judgements on their suitability.
  • There was reflection amongst the hiring managers that some aspects of formality that you would expect in face to face interview were lost. For example, the hiring team would not be able to ‘invite’ the candidate into a interview room and instead were waiting for the person to log on. There was a risk that they would join the call mid-conversation amongst the hiring team, or even when someone else was interviewing if it had run over.  In future we would adapt the process to see if the ‘waiting room’ function in Zoom could be used so candidates could be invited into the call.  Professionalism – Agree to use chat functions to communicate internally?
  • Similarly, when issues arose during the assessment centres it was hard to be discreet when discussing, as none of the hiring managers were together. In future, to maintain professionalism, the team would utilise the chat functions/whatsapp to have this communication.

Feedback from Candidates:

Feedback on the different Web Conferencing Systems:

The hosts need to have accounts – we were able to use our personal room to create the interview space. An account is not needed for candidates, however all candidates set themselves up with a free account to feel confident.If you have never used it before you will need a guide for basic information
Can mirror PC screen to share content and still see everyone 
Little to no issues when using 
Candidates do not need a Zoom account to access to access the meetingZoom usually has 40 minutes time limit on meetings.  
Zoom removed 40 minute time limit on meetings during the COVID19 outbreak. 
When sharing your screen in Zoom, you are still able to see the candidates 

Personal account from Selina:

This was my first experience of designing and conducting interviews at this level within the organisation, so to have to do it virtually and with only 2 days to design and conduct the whole thing I felt an immense amount of pressure to get it right. It really helped to have Forid on hand to answer any questions, but my advice would be to get organised from the very beginning, write out a process map and detail all steps necessary and keep in contact with candidates.

I’m fortunate to have basic working knowledge of Webex, but there are some great guides QI have created and are worth a read. If not, I found playing around with it is very useful and testing with a colleague for confidence also pays off. All in all, valuable lessons learned, and I would use Webex again for virtual recruitment.

Personal account from Ellie:

I wouldn’t describe myself as tech savvy, which made the prospect of interviewing virtually a challenging one. Ultimately my lack of experience with Webex was what led me to decide to try Zoom instead – I didn’t feel confident to support the candidates with any technical Webex issues, so it felt sensible to switch to something I knew I could help them with.

The QI Data team’s advice from their experience was invaluable and gave us a good understanding of what to think about and issues that may arise that we could try to prevent.

For anyone virtually interviewing in future, I would prepare to have phone numbers on hand so you can call any candidates who are having technical issues and be open to using non-conventional methods to ensure they get all the communication they need. For those candidates having issues with hotmail accounts, we ended up sending them the online test on Whatsapp! And make sure you are confident in how to use the software so issues can be resolved quickly.