How-to series: Video Interviews
Public places are closed in a way I’ve never seen before, but business still needs to get done, so whether you’re in the middle of your job-search or you need to hire people, this info will help you navigate the video interviewing process so you can accomplish what needs doing.
Video interviews can be intimidating if you’re not used to them, or if you’re simply a nervous interviewee. These tips for successful video interviews will help you feel more comfortable with the process and allow your awesomeness to shine through.
First of all, prepare your tech. This is probably the single biggest issue I see people struggle with, and the thing that sinks the most people. To prepare for your session, check your equipment and do a trial run of things a couple days before. That means you’ll set up your camera, earphones, and microphone, and make sure everything does what it’s supposed to do. Make sure your camera is set up so it’s right at your eye level, and center yourself in the frame so you can be the focal point.
As you test your equipment, look around you for what else is visible in the frame. Clean up anything that looks like clutter, any risqué posters, and other stuff you don’t especially want your potential employers to see. Also, look at your face (I know, I know, but you have to do it at least a couple of times) and make sure you’re well-lit. If you notice that your face is in shadow or just looks wrong, move your equipment around until you’re able to present yourself well.
Also be sure you try on the relevant parts of your outfit a few days in advance. Avoid busy patterns for the camera, but otherwise dress at least your visible half the way you would for an in-person interview. And remember, if you wear sweatpants or just your undies on the day of the interview, be sure you don’t stand up!
For the interview itself, make sure you’re in a quiet location, away from crying children and barking dogs. Before you turn your camera on, do some deep breathing, and put any notes you plan to use in front of you so you can find them easily. But make sure they’re not visible to the camera, since that can be distracting to the interviewers, too. Be aware of making “eye contact,” which, in this case, means looking at the camera, not the screen. (Bonus: if you’re not looking at the screen, you’re not distracted by the images of yourself.) You will naturally move your eyes around during the interview, looking at the people conducting it, looking off to the side as you think, etc., but make a mental note to look at the camera often so they’re seeing you make that eye contact.
Once the process has started, it’s really very much like a regular interview. You will want to be sure you’re listening carefully to the questions, and answering what they’ve asked instead of what you wish they’d asked. Whenever possible, answer questions with stories and examples that truly demonstrate what they’ve asked. Avoid generalities (“I don’t like conflict and try to avoid it, but when it’s not avoidable, I just listen to everyone’s point of view”) and answer concretely and specifically (“While I do try to avoid conflict whenever possible, sometimes it’s unavoidable. Just the other week, for instance….”) Make sure that the stories you tell have outcomes and speaks to what you’ve learned.
Take notes during the interview so that you can be sure you’re staying on topic and noting anything important. That could mean being sure you answer both parts of a two-part question, or that you remind yourself that you and Beverly share a passion for mountain biking, or it could be something the interviewers say that raises red flags for you. Also, note the names of the people conducting the interview so you can follow up with personalized thank-you notes. Jot this stuff down as you go, and your future self will thank you for it!
Finally, as you wrap up, smile and thank the people on the other end of the camera for their time. Ask any procedural questions you haven’t gotten to, like their timeline and next steps. After you’ve said your goodbyes, be sure the camera is off before you heave a sigh of relief or do your victory dance. And then congratulate yourself!
Although many employers conduct video interviews as part of the screening process, many are looking to use this format now because staff are working from home and offices are shut down. So you may very well be new to the process. If you are, don’t worry: you don’t need expensive software or fancy new equipment. You can use things you may already use for video conferencing, or you can opt for free software like Skype. (I generally prefer Skype to FaceTime because it can be downloaded regardless of operating systems.) If everyone on the interview committee can be in one room, you can also use Zoom for free, but if people are joining the call from home, be aware that the free version of Zoom limits you to 30 minutes with more than 2 participants. You can also choose an affordable platform if you don’t have one. GoToMeeting, Pexip, and RingCentral all have various pricing plans and are easy to use. And if your staff will be working from home for the next few weeks, it may be worthwhile to invest in one of these systems anyway!
Prepare in advance so you have breathing room for the actual interviews. If you’re using Skype, make sure you have all the contact info you need in advance. If you’re using video conferencing software, be sure everyone has the link, and your staff know how to operate their equipment. Also instruct them to turn on their cameras, and be sure they know how to mute and unmute themselves to minimize background noise and allow them to ask questions. Also make sure everyone knows the format. If you normally ask questions in a round-robin format, just be sure each person knows which questions to ask and when. You may want to do a couple practice rounds before you start your interviews so you can trouble-shoot things like lighting and sound issues.
Some video conferencing software allows you to record the session, but if you do that, be sure to get the consent of your interviewee first. I generally encourage employers to send the questions you will ask out to candidates the day before a phone or video interview. This really minimizes any issues with call clarity, so you are sure your candidates can answer the questions fully. (It’s also a very nice way to be sure you’re welcoming to people who process information visually.)
Beyond those basic concerns, conduct the interview just as you would if it were in person. Have your staff introduce themselves and describe their roles, determine the order of questions, and leave time at the end for your candidates to ask their questions. If you don’t have time between people, you will also want to schedule a follow-up time for your team to talk about the candidates you’ve seen and make your decisions about next steps.
Best of luck to everyone doing video interviews on both sides! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions.