Last week, we discussed points to consider when you schedule your next job interview. One of the most important decisions is whether to interview in-person or virtually.
According to HireVue’s 2022 Global Trends Report, 37 percent of more than 1600 hiring leaders, or 592 managers surveyed said they have moved to a combination of both in-person and virtual interviews.
You won’t have a choice between an in-person and virtual interview most of the time because the company will decide how to conduct their hiring process. But you may have an option from time-to-time, and your decision will be important. The employer is assessing your business and professional acumen, so your choice could factor into their hiring decision.
Here are six issues to weigh when the choice is yours:
- What kind of interview is the employer scheduling?
- Does the employer seem to have a preference?
- Is this a remote or onsite role?
- Will technology pose a barrier for you?
- How difficult will it be for you to get to the interview?
- Will you be relocating for the job?
It’s worth thinking about these questions even if you do not have to make the choice yourself very often. You will be more prepared for whatever comes your way.
What kind of interview will this meeting be?
Virtual meetings are more common for screening and first-round interviews, while in-person interviews are more likely for final discussions.
Usually, you won’t have to guess about whether HR is scheduling you for a screening, first round, or final interview. For example, interviews for middle-level and senior-level positions almost always involve several layers of meetings and assessments, so the interview is probably for screening purposes if you have not spoken officially with anyone from the company since you applied for the job.
Your objective is to pass the screening interview and then have an opportunity to meet with the hiring manager. This means you are not deciding whether the job and company are right for you—you want to move forward and speak with the people that will help you figure this out.
Some years ago, I received a call from HR at a college across the street from my job at the time. I offered to walk across the street during a break for the 15-minute screening conversation. HR said no because “we don’t have time to do in-person screening.”
Does the employer seem to have a preference?
Most of the time, the company rep scheduling your interview will tell you whether their policy is to conduct in-person or virtual interviews. There could be occasions where the person arranging appointments offers you a chance to choose. Then, you may want to try discerning the hiring manager’s preference. You may get a clue from their tone of voice, or you could ask “what works better for you?”
Is this a remote or in-person role?
An important consideration is whether you will be working in your home office or in a company office.If the job is a work-from-home or hybrid position, a virtual interview may be the best choice to showcase you have the skills to work remotely. On the other hand, if you will be expected to work onsite, try to schedule an interview at the office. It’s important for you to see the physical space you will be working in and get a sense of the office culture.
Will technology pose a barrier for you?
Technology is great—when it works! You have probably been frustrated at one time or another by an incorrect or outdated Zoom link that delayed or even prevented you from attending a remote meeting. And some of us have old or slow computers that are not ready for the videoconference age. If technology may be a barrier (for example, your Internet connection isn’t always reliable or your interview environment has a lot of background noise or distractions), eliminate any potential glitches by interviewing in person when that option is offered.
How difficult will it be for you to get to the interview?
Another challenge can be taking enough time off to attend an in-person interview. How difficult will it be for you to get to the interview in person? If you’re taking time off from your job to interview, consider the time it will take you to get to and from the interview in addition to the time the interview itself takes. Also, will you have to change clothes if how you dress for the interview is substantially different than what you normally wear to your job? Factor in that time as well.
Remember that you will gain important benefits from an in-person interview. You’ll find out how long your commute will take, and learn something about the office environment and culture. Also, you will establish a deeper connection with the interviewers than you would through Zoom.
Our commuting tolerances differ. For example, I was offered two jobs on the same week at one point—one job would have required nearly 2.5 hours on buses and subways each way. The second offer was for a job about 45 minutes from home. I discovered the length and complexity of the commute for the job further away because I made the trip for my interview. As a result, I accepted the job that required a 45 minute trip using one subway line.
Will you be relocating for the job?
If you will be relocating for an onsite role, an in-person final interview is important. You want the opportunity to see where you will be working—and living—for yourself.
It’s a real challenge to attend interviews in-person prior to relocating. First, you have to get there, often at your own expense. Then you may find out the company is not serious about hiring yet, and interviewing candidates “just in case.” For example, one former client drove five hours to an interview only to be told at the interview that the organization was not hiring anytime soon—they just wanted a bank of candidates for future reference.
Situations such as this seem unfair. Unfortunately, they happen, and this adds to the job search challenge. While the interviewer will, in all likelihood, decide whether you will be interviewed in person or virtually, be prepared to make the choice if asked. An in-person interview will benefit you the most if you will be working onsite, unless you are having an initial screening. Remote interviews may work for you when the job assignment will be remote, too.