Video interview tips for employers
Companies around the world are making adjustments to keep their employees and customers safe and slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). From a hiring standpoint, this means that many recruiters and hiring managers are changing the way they conduct job interviews.
While video interviews surely aren’t a new concept, some recruiters and hiring managers may not be as familiar with video conferencing technology and conducting video interviews remotely. Technical difficulties can be all-too-common, not to mention behavioral cues can be harder to read a la video.
Perform a video interview test run
It can reflect poorly on you and your company if you’re unable to connect or struggle to use the video conferencing platform. “To conduct the most successful video interview possible, interviewers should familiarize themselves with the technology in advance,” says Peter Baskin, chief product officer of enterprise hiring software Modern Hire. “This way, [you] can troubleshoot and solve any potential difficulties before the conversation takes place.”
Additionally, be sure to check that your computer’s audio is working, test your computer’s webcam, and ensure that your internet connection is stable and that the device you’re using to conduct the interview is fully charged. If you’ll need to share your screen with the candidate, make sure you understand how to do so before the interview.
Provide instructions for using the video conferencing platform
Whether you use Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, or any other video conferencing platform like SparkHire, keep in mind that the candidate may not be familiar with your platform of choice.
Will the candidate need to download any software? Create a username and password? Provide step-by-step instructions for accessing the platform, so the candidate can seamlessly connect to the interview.
Jason Patel, founder of Transizion, a college and career prep company based in Washington, D.C., recommends testing the interview software from the interviewee’s perspective. “You want to make sure they have all the relevant information to arrive at the interview without unnecessary delays. This means providing them with passwords, dial-in information, and links at least three business days ahead of time.”
Additionally, you might consider giving the candidate a backup phone number in case they experience any problems connecting to the video conference, and ask them to share the same with you.
Jennifer Walden, director of operations at Wikilawn, a national lawn care and maintenance company, also recommends that employers should, “Ask the interviewee to show up a few minutes early to ensure everything is working properly. There’s nothing more stressful than spending the first few minutes of an interview fussing with technology.”
Schedule separate meetings and budget time accordingly
Consider scheduling more time on your calendar for a video interview than you typically would for an in-person interview. Between technical difficulties that may arise and candidates who provide long-winded answers to your questions, the video interview can go longer than anticipated.
If conducting back-to-back interviews, Biron Clark, an executive recruiter for multiple Fortune 500 firms, recommends setting up separate meeting rooms for each candidate. “I’ve heard multiple horror stories of employers using the same meeting room and access code for multiple job seekers,” he says. “This results in a potentially awkward situation if one job seeker decides to load up the video software 10 minutes early while you’re still interviewing another candidate.”
Set up a professional, well-lit space to conduct the video interview
Even though you might not be in a traditional office setting, it’s important to set an appropriate scene for the video interview. This means that the space should be well-lit, clean, and free from background distractions.
“Make sure the environment behind you is professional,” says Ronald Magas, founder of Magas Media Consultants, a public relations agency based in New York City. “Actually take a picture of what the other person would see when they are looking behind you through the computer. Make sure you have appropriate pictures, awards, etc., behind you. If you would not put it in a corporate office, move it outside of the camera view.”
Magas also stresses the importance of good lighting. “Since most people don’t have professional lighting in their house, most of the time if you are facing an outside window, you will cast enough light on your face that you can be seen clearly,” he says. “If there is direct sunlight, close the shades so that you are not blinded. Do not put the window to your back because you will probably show up very dark on the screen.”
Prepare your video interview questions ahead of time
As with any interview, don’t try to wing it. It’s important to have the interview questions you’d like to ask planned ahead of time. Have those questions in front of you to help keep the interview on track and ensure all your questions get answered.
During the video interview, consider starting with some icebreaker questions to help put the candidate at ease. Keep in mind that video interviews can be just as unusual for the job seeker as they are for you.
From there, you can move on to asking more in-depth interview questions. For example, you might ask some general questions about the candidate’s skills and prior work history, as well as a few behavioral-based interview questions that delve deeper into the way the job seeker has used critical skills in past positions.
Patel also recommends having an intro script prepared to help you start the interview off on the right note. “Write down a few lines so that you can speak almost verbatim when the video interview starts,” he says. “This ensures a smooth start and that the optics are good.”
Try to control background noise
Find a quiet location for your interview. When conducting video interviews from home, it’s best practice to give everyone in your household a heads up to prevent children and spouses from interrupting. You’ll also want to mute any notifications on your computer and phone and close out of any apps to help ensure a quiet setting.
Sometimes background noises are going to be inevitable or out of your control when you’re conducting a video interview from home. Your neighbor might decide to mow the lawn, your dog might start barking, and your efforts to create a quiet, professional environment might seem thwarted.
Since you’re the one conducting the interview, it’s up to you to keep a level head. “As an interviewer, if you’re going to have background noise, acknowledge it from the start so that it looks like you’re in control,” Patel says. “No one likes surprises in a professional setting. By establishing that there might be noise, you’re controlling the dialogue and ensuring the interviewee doesn’t need to feel awkward.”
Appear as professional and personable as you would in person
From what you wear to what you say to how you act, there shouldn’t be much difference in how you would conduct a video interview versus one that’s face-to-face. Even if it’s just your top half, dress appropriately like you would if you were meeting the candidate in person. When listening, smile, nod, and sit up straight to show the candidate that you are engaged in the conversation.
Eye contact is key here, too. When making eye contact during a video interview, you should look directly into the webcam, not at the candidate on your screen.
Baskin also recommends, “Pausing to ensure the candidate has finished his or her response before moving on to the next question is also crucial when remote since the same cues that a candidate uses to show he or she has answered a question aren’t often available during a video interview.”
Additionally, Walden says it’s important to realize that you won’t be communicating as freely via video as you would in person. “There are subtle gestures we do in person and a certain presence we carry that doesn’t translate to a camera,” she says. “Because of this, your tone can easily be misconstrued. Choose your words even more carefully, and keep jokes to a minimum. The last thing you want is for a prospective hire to interpret [you] in a way you didn’t intend.”
Follow up with next steps
Whether your interview is in person or over video, it’s best practice to follow up with candidates afterward. Especially amid the coronavirus pandemic, job seekers are more stressed than ever before, and not hearing back from an interview can amplify that stress.
“Even if you don’t have a decision yet, a quick email letting people know where you are in the process can alleviate this anxiety,” says Jill Panté, director of the Lerner Career Services Center at the University of Delaware. “Even if you are emailing that they aren’t being hired, at least they know. You don’t want to brand yourself or the company as someone who ghosts candidates.”