More than ever, companies are relying on video interviewing to assess and hire candidates. Although technology has advanced to the extent that video connections feel almost as personal as face-to-face connections, employers do need to learn some basics around how to conduct a video interview in order to ensure a seamless experience.
1. Do a Mic Check—Is This Thing On?
One of the more frequent and frustrating hiccups that occur when conducting video interviews is technology failure. While convenient, remote interviews can prove to be unpredictable when unstable Wi-Fi and audio issues are a factor. In order to avoid this, conduct a technology check at least 24 hours before the interview. Be sure to check the Wi-Fi connection in the location where the interview will be conducted and ensure that the audio is working properly.
If you are using a webcam, check that it’s working properly and is adjusted to a comfortable angle. You’ll want to plug in your device well before it’s showtime to avoid any unpleasant surprises in the middle of your interview.
If you are not familiar with the video platform, then download the appropriate apps, create a sign-in, and perform any in-app tech checks before the interview. This will save time, stress, and potential unexpected mishaps when it’s time to begin. Finally, turn off all notifications for apps that you do not wish to pop-up and send alerts while you are conducting the remote interview.
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2. Level the Playing Field
Since there are so many options for video software (Spark Hire, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams … the list goes on), you’ll need to make sure that your candidates are familiar with the software that you’re going to be using to conduct the interview. Provide any relevant information that your candidates will need to connect to the interview well before your meeting time (preferably at least three days, but at least within 48 hours before the interview).
Some of this information might include:
- Link to the meeting
- Passcode or meeting ID, if relevant
- Notice that the candidate will need to create a username or password in order join the meeting
- An alternate phone number, in case all else fails
To learn more about video conferencing software, read our guide on the 6 Best Video Conference Software by our Tech Expert, Rob Watts.
3. Choose an Appropriate Location
Making sure that any surroundings captured on video look professional can require a bit of creativity, but appearing ready for business is well worth a potential mini space adjustment. You’ll need to ensure that your backdrop is clean, free of clutter, and as close to looking like an office setting as possible.
Understandably, not everyone has additional workspaces to convert into an official office area. If you are forced to work out of a bedroom or another space where other furniture is visible in the background, consider rearranging your workspace so that you are facing the furniture and the camera is facing the wall.
Poor lighting during a remote interview can be very distracting for your candidates, so be sure that you’re in a well-lit space. Be mindful of where you are sitting in relation to a window—if the window is behind you, it may make your image dark and difficult to see on camera. If the window is in front of or parallel to you, then there is often enough light to project a clear image.
Finally, try to avoid high-traffic areas in your home where others can be seen walking around. Not only is this scenario highly distracting, but, also, the image of your family members carrying snacks is not the professional representation of your organization that you’d like for your candidates to remember.
4. Mind Your Manners
Making eye contact and avoiding interrupting others are traditionally the first rules of proper etiquette that are taught in how to interview. Unfortunately, video interviews can make both of these rules tricky.
Remember that although you will be tempted to look at the screen while interviewing, your candidate will feel like you’re making eye contact when you’re looking directly into the camera. Try to position the camera as close to your natural line of sight as possible, especially if you are using an external webcam.
Since there can often be a slight delay via video, be sure that the person you are interviewing is completely done with their thought before chiming in. Not much unlike an in-person interview, it is difficult to decipher what is being said if two people are talking at the same time, especially if there already is a delay.
5. Prepare Your Questions
Interviewing can be stressful—not only for the candidate but also for the interviewer. That stress can be increased when trying to create a connection when there is no face-to-face interaction, so being prepared is key. It is best to have thoroughly read over the job description so that you are familiar with the requirements of the position before interviewing a candidate. Similarly, be sure to thoroughly review the candidate’s resume and background so that you can focus on creating a connection versus reading through bullet points on the resume for the first time.
Prepare your questions ahead of time for the remote interview so that you’re not just winging it. One of the common frameworks for an interview involves asking questions about the candidate’s background, skills, and then a behavior-based assessment. Many organizations are establishing standardized interview questions to reduce hiring bias. If this is the case for you, become familiar with the questions that you will be asking and areas of the business that you are going to be focused on.
Many of the common ice breakers will be irrelevant during a video interview (asking about traffic, for example), so it is a good idea to come up with an icebreaker and a way to seamlessly transition into your interview questions. When you sound prepared and confident, it sets the correct tone for the interview and increases the candidate’s confidence as an interviewer.
If you need help managing candidate interviews, consider using HR software like Freshteam. You can use it to schedule each video interview, coordinating times that work for both candidates and hiring managers. You can also use the software to track interview notes and even make an offer. Try it out by signing up for a free plan today.
6. Set the Tone and Voice
What you say matters, and how you say it matters even more than what you’re saying. In a study published in the Journal of Psychological Science, MBA students from the University of Chicago were videotaped giving pitches on why they should be hired. Prospective employers and professional recruiters were then given three options: viewing the video, listening to the audio, or reading a transcript.
University of Chicago Study Conclusion:
“These evaluators rated a candidate as more competent, thoughtful, and intelligent when they heard a pitch rather than read it and, as a result, had a more favorable impression of the candidate and were more interested in hiring the candidate.”
Although this study focused primarily on the candidate vs the interviewer, the same rules apply when trying to keep the focus of a candidate. Remember that it is difficult for subtle cues to be picked up on video—even if we often use them in person. Therefore, the tone, language, and pitch of the conversation become the primary tool for engagement. Statistics have shown that people associate a high-pitched tone with nervousness. On a positive note, you can project confidence and maturity by being prepared for the remote interview, which will increase your comfort level and cause your vocal pitch to lower a bit.
Finally, avoid “filler” words on video, such as “ah,” “um,” “like,” or “you know.” Overusing words and phrases like these can make you appear as if you lack confidence. If you’re not sure whether or not you use filler words, record yourself for five minutes every day for two weeks, then listen to the playback. If you find yourself using lots of filler words, then deliberately practice not using them. When video interviewing, gaps in communication style become more apparent than when in person.
7. Dress the Part
One of the benefits of video interviewing is that it creates an opportunity to feel more physically comfortable. For example, for some, in-person necessities such as shoes, become irrelevant. However, it should always be remembered that you are a representative of the organization that you are interviewing on behalf of, and a professional presence is always appropriate, especially when conducting an interview.
During a video interview is not the time to model your favorite pair of pajamas, rather, you should wear what you would wear to the office. When in doubt, a business casual dress code is normally appropriate for most interviews—at least on your top half.
Your hair should be neat and clean. Be mindful that the candidate will be looking at a small video frame, mostly consisting of your face, so don’t skip the details and make the mistake of thinking the candidate will not notice.
8. Give Yourself Enough Time
Oftentimes, when trying to fill positions, it is tempting to schedule back-to-back interviews. In an office setting, this means that if your prior interview has run a bit long, another potential candidate might be in the reception area waiting to be welcomed back. During a video interview, though, this could mean that a potential new hire could be waiting alone on a call while you’re finishing up or, worst, could dial into a meeting that you’re already on. There are two important points to keep in mind in order to avoid these scenarios:
- Schedule meetings far enough apart to avoid overlap: Schedule interviews with, at bare minimum, a 15-minute gap between interviews.
- Use different links for different meetings: Although it takes more preparation, send out different meeting links to each candidate. This will prevent an embarrassing situation when the candidate joins early (during an interview or meeting that you’re already having).
Finally, log on to each video interview at least three minutes early. This will give you an opportunity to properly greet each candidate and prevent any awkward backlash that may come from a candidate sitting on video, awaiting your presence.
9. Fight the Fidget
Interviewing can be intimidating and, because of that, sometimes nervous habits can creep up. On video, however, these nervous habits can become an unwelcome distraction and should be avoided. Things like nail biting, tapping, incessantly checking the time, and moving back and forth will signal to your candidate that you are uncomfortable with the interviewing process.
Instead, decide ahead of time if you will sit or stand and, if you are prone to fidget, remove triggers and gadgets from your immediate purview. If you decide to sit, try not to constantly shift your weight around and remember to keep steady eye contact with your candidate. Again, preparation is key, so become familiar with the job description and the qualifications of the person you are interviewing so that your attention can remain on the person on the other side of the camera.
10. Follow Up
Whether in person or on video, you will still need to abide by proper interview etiquette, which should include following up with your candidate to communicate next steps. Even if you don’t yet have a decision, keeping candidates in the loop as to the status of their application can alleviate stress and anxiety. Especially during a worldwide pandemic, tensions are high, and even if you are communicating that your company will not be moving forward with an offer, candidates appreciate the extra step of letting them know in a timely manner.
Learning how to conduct a virtual interview can open up more opportunities to find the right new hire as it allows you to interview people beyond your company’s location. Many hiring managers are opting to interview this way as it simplifies the process and makes it easier on both the job seeker and the hiring manager. As with all interview styles, though, there are positive aspects and pitfalls to avoid, so it’s important to prepare well in order to get the most out of the process.