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Last updated on 17 September 2020
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Here's what you need to do differently to lead a remote recruitment round, and how to do it well.

Take extra precautions so the process runs smoothly

Plan for people being off sick

  • Use a shared drive for all recruitment documents. Make sure everyone who needs to has access 
  • At the end of each day, note down where you're at in the recruitment process and what the next steps are, so that others can pick it up 
  • Add extra buffer time into your process to account for any delays 
  • Have more than 1 recruitment panel member trained in safer recruitment. If you're a member of Safeguarding Training Centre from The Key, take our safer recruitment eLearning module

Make sure you over-communicate throughout the process 

  • Make sure panel members are clear on what the recruitment process will look like, who'll carry out each step and who'll be involved at each point
  • Let candidates know exactly what the entire process will look like - how many stages there'll be, how they'll be assessed and a rough timescale. This will help to reassure them

Decide what you need to adapt in your recruitment process and review any relevant policies 

Make sure you update your policies to reflect the changes - e.g. your safer recruitment policy and recruitment policy (if you have one).

Have an additional phone interview to screen candidates

This will give you another opportunity to get to know the candidates and assess them, making the process more robust. All the experts we spoke to suggested this extra step.

Treat this as a formal stage of the recruitment process - ask each candidate the same questions

Use this extra step to help build a relationship with candidates, to compensate for not meeting them in person, and exploit this opportunity to sell your school. Make a note of the 3 things you want candidates to go away thinking, and be sure to get those across.

Be clear on what you want to learn about candidates - set 5 or 6 questions. 

Wrap this call up in 30 minutes - that's more than enough time. 

Speak with referees before the interview

Once you've shortlisted candidates for the remote interview, follow your usual practice with seeking references, but:

  • Ask for 3 referees, instead of just 2
  • Ask to chat over the phone so you can probe and build up a more accurate picture of candidates

Set up remote interviewing and test it

You'll need: 

  • An account with a video-conferencing provider (Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc.) 
  • The right space and working technology - make sure panel members have a quiet space that's well lit, and that their camera and microphone work well
  • To test it out with panel members to make sure you're happy with the setup. You want it to feel just like a real interview

If your panel members are able to be in the same room together, check that you can set up a computer or camera so that:

  • The candidate can see everyone (while respecting social distancing guidelines)
  • The sound is clear

If your panel members can't be in a room together, or you can't make appropriate technical arrangements, each panel member can attend the interview by logging on from their own computer.

Organise a trial run with candidates

Many candidates will likely be comfortable using video-conferencing systems, but you should check with them just in case. 

If they haven't used video-conferencing before, or aren't familiar with the provider you use, ask whether they'd like a trial run. 

Use this trial conversation as an opportunity to:

  • Let them know how the interview will take place and ask them whether they need any reasonable adjustments for the interview itself
  • Continue to build up your relationship with candidates - they'll feel more at ease during the interview
  • Fix any issues with the setup 

Etiquette during the interview - get your panel members up to scratch

  • Give candidates your full attention
  • Nominate a chair to manage the interview process and invite panel members to speak - agree beforehand who'll ask what questions
  • Use physical cues - like putting your hand up - during discussions so the candidate knows who's about to speak
  • Keep microphones on mute unless you're talking

Prepare interview questions as you normally would

  • Give candidates extra time to answer questions and type each one into the chat function of the software so you're sure candidates have heard you right
  • Add more safeguarding questions if needed since you won't be meeting candidates face to face

Plan an alternative to traditional lesson observations

If your school is currently delivering remote lessons, ask candidates to deliver one remotely.

Otherwise, review the evidence you're normally looking for when observing a lesson and use this to set specific interview questions. For example, ask:

  • How do you try to establish appropriate relationships with pupils?
  • How do you make sure your lessons are:
    • Engaging for the class? 
    • Differentiated to support children of all abilities? 

Organise for a group of pupils, for example those on the student council, to meet candidates remotely. Have someone from the panel there to observe and make notes so you have something to refer back to when choosing your preferred candidate.

Most other interview tasks will probably be the same 

Decide whether you want candidates to complete tasks before, during or after the interview and make sure this is clear to them ahead of time - including how long they'll have to complete the task and how to submit it. For example, you might send them a task ahead of the interview and give them a set time to complete it and send it back. 

For tasks such as presentations, ask candidates to send a video of themselves delivering the task so that you can review them in your own time and not over video conference.

Get candidates for senior positions to meet staff remotely

If you're recruiting for a senior position, you'll likely want candidates to meet staff. 

Organise a timetable and send it to candidates and your staff:

  • Use a single video-conference link that candidates can stay on
  • Have specific times for members of staff or groups to log in and meet candidates

As you normally would, ask members of staff to feed back on their impression of the candidates.

Check ID documents remotely

For DBS checks, during coronavirus instead of having to see physical ID documents face to face, you'll be able to see them via scanned images and video link. 

The applicant will still need to present the original versions of these documents when they first attend in person.

All other pre-employment checks continue as normal


Thanks to the following who helped us write this article: 

  • Isabel Jacobs, Fitzgerald HR
  • Munir Mamujee, m2r Education
  • Andy Puttock, Nord Anglia Education
  • Tony Cook, an independent learning and development consultant. He has experience of teacher recruitment, developing training programmes and providing HR services to schools

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