How to Size Up a Candidate in 15 Minutes On Zoom

By Daniel Abramson, HRSource

How many times have you interviewed someone in person and realized in the first five minutes that the candidate was a no-go dud? And then spent the next half hour trying to excuse yourself from the interview?

Instead, you can invest just 15 minutes in a Zoom or other virtual-format interview and see if the candidate understands your business, meets your job specs, and has a reasonable salary expectation.

Most important, you can also get a good sense of the candidate’s chemistry, compatibility and culture fit.

During the 15-minute video chat, we recommend you avoid the standard interview question about “strengths and weaknesses.” Save that one for in-person meetings when you have more time.

Instead, follow these basic tips to improve your hiring process and make the video interview easier and less time-consuming. Knowing how to prepare for the call will help you quickly switch into interview mode and identify the best candidates possible.

Fact check. If a candidate mentions a specific salary requirement, write it down and ask for the figure again later in the interview. If they answer with the same number, you know it’s most likely accurate and not embellished. Candidates rarely remember the exact embellished number they throw out.

Speak less, listen more. The candidate should do most of the talking. As a general rule, you should talk for about a third of the conversation and listen during the rest.

Schedule 15-minute calls but allow an hour on your calendar. This way you can delve more deeply if you discover a great candidate. For less impressive applicants, you can end the call at 15 minutes.

Offer interview times outside normal business hours. Great candidates may need to speak after work.

Avoid burnout. Don’t conduct more than two total hours of video interviews in one day or you’ll get interview fatigue. Candidates pick up on this and it comes across as disinterest on your part.

Take detailed notes. Seems like an obvious tip, but worth mentioning. If you’ve got several candidates, it’ll help you keep things straight and remember their answers. If you decide to do an on-site interview, share your notes with all interviewers.

Now here’s a question we’re often asked: Should I conduct a scripted or freestyle or interview? Generally, we think it’s best to ask the same questions of every candidate during this virtual phase of the interview process. That does two things: Gives you a good way to compare the candidates and gives them all a level playing field.

It also means that you’re going into every one of your Zoom interviews prepared, at least where questions are concerned.

Of course, interviews will still take their own shape, and a particular answer may prompt a deeper dive. But it’s best to ask the same set of questions during each interview.

Finally, here are some red flags to watch for:

LinkedIn profile and resume don’t match. The skills listed on their resume don’t appear on LinkedIn, or vice versa; there are job or timeline discrepancies between the two; and the applicant gives a poor explanation for the inconsistency.  Also, check their social media presence for inappropriate pictures or comments!

They talk too much about money. You generally should not hire people motivated only by income.

Low energy. Most independent retailers want driven, self-motivated candidates. It’s hard to imagine someone who is low energy on a Zoom call possessing these qualities.

Unsure what role they want. If a candidate hasn’t decided on the position you’re offering and is looking into other possible roles, they won’t typically stay in their job very long.

Finally, always listen to your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right about a candidate, probably best to take a pass and hire someone else, 

Need more recruiting and hiring information? Refer to the HRSource Hiring Playbook or call me at the number below. Good luck!

Daniel Abramson is Managing Lead of HRSource, a comprehensive collection of customized employment tools and turnkey solutions exclusive to BrandSource members. For more information, contact Daniel at (540) 535-8484 or