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Best Practices for Safely Conducting Job Interviews during a Pandemic

Image: insta_photos/Adobe Stock HR interview with face masks
COVID-19 cases are spiking and vaccines are still months away, but businesses are rebounding and need to be able to interview and hire safely. These guidelines can help.

We originally published a version of this column on May 25, 2020. Nearly eight months later, COVID-19 cases are spiking and vaccines are still months away, but businesses are rebounding and need to be able to interview and hire safely. Here is a timely reminder of how to do this by following a set of protocols.

Imagine having a face-to-face interview in the COVID era, where the hiring manager extends her hand to the candidate? Does he offer back a foot, perhaps bow, or just accept the handshake if he really wants the job? Maybe it’s a test?

As the economy begins to open back up, one thing we are realizing is that every industry is unique in deciding how best to proceed safely. Many essential industries never shut down, some industries are reopening in stages, and we are still trying to figure out the best way forward in other situations.

Interviewing professionals is a process that affects almost every corner of our economy — that is why we developed a set of guidelines for both employers and candidates to follow. Adherence to these guidelines can allow the interviewing process to continue, helping to get us back to normal — or a new normal — as safely and quickly as possible.

Here is a summary of the guidelines. You can expand on them or add others relevant to your specific situation or location. We have found that sending this to all parties involved can put everyone at ease. If you would like a copy of what we send out, just email me and I will gladly share it with you.

  • Interviews should be done by phone or video call as far into the process as everyone is comfortable with, including final interviews, if possible.
  • In-person interviews should be limited to finalist candidates.
  • Limit the touchpoints in traveling — by car if reasonable, direct flights if possible.
  • Masks are recommended for all parties, and they can be a requirement.
  • We recommend that the company have masks and hand sanitizer available, but we also advise the candidates to bring their own.
  • Limit the number of individuals the candidate will meet with in person.
  • Sanitize in advance any areas where meetings will take place, such as conference room tables and chairs.
  • Maintain social distance recommendations.
  • No physical contact — handshakes, for example.
  • No transfer of physical items. The resume and other items will be sent electronically in advance, and the company can print its own copies, if desired. No exchange of business cards.
  • Candidates may be subject to local requirements that apply to employees or visitors. For example, they may have their temperature taken at the entrance.
  • Either the company or the candidate should promptly notify all parties involved if they or someone in their household is ill.
  • The parties agree if an interview must be canceled or rescheduled because of illness, it will not be held against the other party, even if on short notice.


About the author

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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