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How to Conduct Great Video Interviews

A man is using a laptop to make a video call.

​As workplaces reopen, many companies continue to utilize video interviews during the hiring process. That could be because hiring managers discovered the benefits of such interviews—such as saving on travel costs and allowing early screening that wasn't just over the phone—throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Job seekers often see benefits to video interviewing as well. According to a survey by iCIMS, the vast majority of job seekers (94 percent) like video interviews, and 83 percent perceive companies using video interviews as being more innovative than companies that don't.

As the move toward video interviews continues, jobs site Indeed recently announced that companies posting jobs (both free and sponsored) to its site can now access a free video interviewing platform.  

Just like during in-person interviews, hiring managers conducting video interviews must promote their company to the prospect while also assessing if the candidate is the best fit for the open position. However, the technology and unique dynamics of video interviews mean there are pitfalls to navigate that don't happen during in-person interviews.

When Mark Coster, co-founder and lead SEO specialist at Australian digital agency FairyDigital, interviews prospective team members, he often encounters candidates who don't turn on their video camera—or don't know how to—which eliminates many of the benefits of video interviews.

These five tips can help hiring managers proactively plan and prepare for video interview challenges.

1.      Communicate expectations and processes before the interview.

Perry Zheng, who conducts about 10 video interviews a month as CEO of Cash Flow Portal, a real estate software syndication company based in Seattle, noticed that many candidates are confused about expectations and what criteria a hiring manager uses to evaluate them during the video interview.

"Some candidates are too caught up in the dressing, others are confused about the [visual] background, while some are constantly worried about the background noises in their homes," Zheng said.

Sending the candidate an e-mail at least 24 hours before the interview with the link to the meeting and detailed instructions allows the interviewee to be more confident and prepared.

Clearly state in the e-mail that the candidate will need to use a device with a camera—and have the camera turned on for the entire interview. Consider giving candidates tips to improve their performance, such as putting pets in another room, turning off cell phones and closing e-mail applications to prevent notification sounds.

2.      Keep the structure similar to an in-person interview.

While the medium may be different, Coster said the video interview should be treated like a face-to-face interview.

"Just because the means have changed, doesn't mean that the 'how' must change as well," Coster noted.

However, it's easy to become focused on the video aspect and forget key parts of the interview process, such as providing background on the company in the beginning of the interaction and giving the candidate a chance to ask questions at the end. A little planning can help you stay focused.

Before the interview, write out a quick outline of the conversation to keep you on track during the meeting. If you typically show applicants work samples or software during interviews, you can use the screen-sharing function to help them gain more insight into the job responsibilities.

3.      Give the candidate feedback on video and audio quality.

Zheng interviewed a candidate who used a background for the video call to hide the damaged walls in his home. However, the distracting images of cats and parrots combined with bright colors made it hard for Zheng to focus on the candidate.

Instead of judging the candidate, Zheng explained the issue, assuring that there was no need for embarrassment about the wall, and the interview continued smoothly without the background.

If an issue is interfering with the interview, whether it's a tech problem or noise in the interviewee's home, give the candidate a chance to correct the issue. Often, the person may not be aware of the problem, and you could potentially lose your next best employee because of a barking dog.

When you give feedback and show compassion, the applicant can get a glimpse of what it would be like to work for you and may be more willing to accept an offer from your company.

4.      Break the ice.

Christen da Costa, founder of Gadget Review, a California-based online product and services guide, notices that people are more awkward and nervous during video interviews than in-person interviews.

Because candidates tend to be less sure of themselves when using this medium, he spends more time breaking the ice during video interviews and asks about the candidate as a person, not just as a potential employee.

"This tends to disrupt whatever nerves they're feeling, and they relax a little," da Costa said. "I let them know when I'm switching gears and try to keep the interview concise, but I also give them verbal and visual cues to let them know I'm listening and absorbing what they're telling me."

5.      Keep the video challenges in mind when evaluating candidates.

Sophie Parker, who has been video interviewed for several positions, said it's challenging to establish a good rapport with an interviewer because of communication barriers such as maintaining eye contact and reading body language.

"Not everyone is accustomed to speaking in front of a camera," Parker said. "I am extremely self-conscious when I speak during a formal video call. I feel like someone is filming me and I can't make a mistake."

If you think a strong candidate may not have performed well during their interview because of technical challenges or nerves, consider giving them a second chance. If possible, bring them in for an in-person interview or follow up with a phone call to gather more information without the pressure of the video camera.

Video interviews are likely one of the many permanent changes that the pandemic brought to the workplace. By learning to conduct a great video interview, you can find the right person for your position.

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a freelance writer based in Wake Forest, N.C. 


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