Seven Things Employers Should NOT Do in a Zoom Interview

In the good old days (12 months ago), when lawyers interviewed for jobs, they dressed up in suits, maybe flew across the country, met with numerous people – sometimes sequentially and sometimes together – shook hands, ate a meal, and had a glass of wine. In other words, they exchanged germs in as many ways as possible. Chances are good they even wore shoes. 

Think about your early 2020 self. You likely had minimal experience with Zoom or Microsoft Teams, and meeting a candidate or an interviewer was a pedestrian process. We all had to adapt to pandemic restrictions since then and find creative ways of “meeting” one another for interviews.  

The interview format changed, but the expectations of interviewing attorneys have not. As before, with good candidates, it is sometimes necessary to “woo” him or her. Yet, seemingly, many interviewers lost their common sense about how to conduct an interview. Employers, you still need to impress the candidates. 

Over the past few months, as a legal recruiter, I have seen these mistakes firsthand. Everything you read below really happened. So, if you want someone to join your firm or company, do not do any of the following: 

Require candidates to have their videos on, while you are only on audio: In the movie “Contact,” Jodie Foster’s character was aggressively interviewed by a three-member panel until she realized that the panelists were just placeholders, and the real interviewer was a mysterious billionaire behind a camera. That same effect has been playing out with interviewers who do not activate their cameras on video calls. Ask yourself – is that fair? Or does it create the impression of an unequal playing field? If a candidate cannot be on equal footing with you, he or she will distrust you from the outset.   

Type while you are interviewing: Even if it is a tag-team interview, you should be giving the candidate your full attention for the entire time that you committed for the interview. Most of the time, it’s only half an hour. Some people do not realize it but, yes, people on the other side of your call usually can see and definitely can hear when you are typing away. It comes across as rude and disrespectful and implies that what you are typing is more important than the person in front of you. Emergencies do arise and, if that happens, be sure to let the candidate know about it and apologize. Otherwise, you agreed to the time slot, so block it off like you would if you were talking to a client. 

Continue to be distracted: Along the same lines, continuing to check email on your phone, reading something else on your screen, or responding to texts comes across as distracted.  Candidates want to feel important, but if you are not paying attention, the message you are sending is that you do not really care.  

No show/late arrivals: We all have lost track of time, gotten distracted, or been tied up with something else. But there is someone on the other side of the screen who has never met you and is waiting for you. Put yourself in their shoes: they probably are questioning whether you forgot, whether an emergency arose, and how long they should wait. Again, it communicates that the candidate is not important to you. So, be on time.   

Underdress: One interviewer was in sweaty exercise clothes. Another was wearing a hoodie. I know that we all are working from home, but would you wear a hoodie to an interview if you were at the office?  No one is expecting formal attire, but a clean shirt or top should be the bare minimum.  If you cannot do that, then schedule a phone interview instead.    

Schedule sporadic/drawn out interviews: One candidate had interviews with a firm at 9:00a.m. on a Monday, 2:00p.m. later that week, and then another meeting the following week – and that was just the first round!  If this candidate were interviewing in person, there would have been one sit-down meeting with attorneys interviewing sequentially. Keep up that routine. It saves time for you and it frees the candidate from needing to hold openings on multiple days.   

Spend too much time trying to get technology to work: In a perfect world, technology is easy and seamless and communication online goes off without a hitch. But, as we well know, that doesn’t always happen. Maybe the video or the sound aren’t working, or you cannot connect, or any host of problems occurs that none of us can anticipate.  If you have tech issues, just go low-tech and make a phone call. Do not spend long blocks of time trying to get technology to work perfectly.  

When it comes down to it, everyone wants to “feel the love”.  You used to be able to impress a candidate by showing them your fancy office with the great view and art, and wine and dine them. Obviously, you cannot do that anymore. So, give candidates the respect they deserve by focusing your undivided attention on them and respecting their time. Remember, you may want this candidate to work with you.  


Amber Handman is a legal recruiter with SeltzerFontaine, focusing on the placement of partners, counsel, and associates at law firms and corporations throughout California. She can be reached at 310-842-6989 [email protected].

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