How to conduct a video interview

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The online video interview has always been part of the Barron Williams recruitment process, however, in 2020 it has become an integral part…

I recently found myself in a situation whereby a client and I were scheduled to conduct 3 socially distanced face-to-face final-stage interviews.

Under normal circumstances that would be relatively straightforward and, somebody unable to attend at short notice could potentially lead to them missing out on the role.

However, COVID-19 has changed the rules. 

As recruiters, we have to be more receptive to unforeseen circumstances. 

Clients and candidates unable to travel or attend a face to face interviews due to government restrictions or personal reasons, such as self-isolation or a child having to isolate from school, are part of the accepted new norm.

The latter was the case with one of the interviews where the clients’ interview panel were in the office ready to go. 

The candidate called us an hour or so before their time to say that whilst travelling to attend they’d received a call and had to return immediately to collect their child from school.

However, clients sometimes need to move quickly, and when you’re down to the final stage it is often very fine margins. 

In the past, that candidate may have simply missed out on the role with a client satisfied with those they did meet and keen for a resolution.

With this client, we all agreed to conduct that final stage interview over Zoom, arranged whilst the candidate was still on the train back I may add. 

An integral part of the final stage process was a presentation too, again conducted over Zoom in a professional manner, and without detriment to the candidate.

We are embracing the virtual video interview more than ever before

At Barron Williams, we have used video interview/conferencing/meeting software for many years now. 

For a long time Skype was the platform of choice but this year we’ve shifted dramatically to a myriad of different suppliers, from Microsoft Teams to Zoom. 

I have several different Apps installed on my laptop, I’ve familiarised myself with all the leading platforms so that I can connect via the client and/or candidates’ preferred video/meeting software of choice.

In recruitment, it has allowed us to greatly expedite much of the early stages of the search process, and supersede when face-to-face can’t be conducted.

We will often start a brief with a phone call, register a candidate’s interest in the role, notice periods, availability for first stage interview etc. 

Pre-COVID we would have often only utilised virtual video interviewing for primarily geographic reasons, for example, if a client or candidate was overseas and travel wasn’t feasible. 

Now, we are using it on almost a daily basis, at every stage of the recruitment process.

Of course, it has highlighted the significant efficiency savings, not just financially but time-wise. And not just in recruitment I may add… 

Day-to-day business across every sector is being conducted via these platforms, many simply couldn’t continue to function without I would argue. 

Many schools and universities have been required to continue to offer remote learning via the same platforms. Families are keeping in touch with friends and loved ones. 

They were our lifeline in lockdown and that has continued as we’ve seen a slight return to the workplace.

I recently read in Computer Weekly that: 

“As of 14 June, use of Microsoft Teams grew by 894% compared with its base useage during the week of 17 February. In the same period, Zoom use grew by 677%”.

Microsoft recently announced that they had recently topped 75M daily active users.

Jared Spataro, Microsoft 365 corporate vice president, stated in a blog post back in April:

“Some COVID-19-era habits will prove temporal — I know many parents who can’t wait for the return of in-person play dates, for instance. But we believe the habits we see in Teams are more durable and will persist well beyond the current crisis.”

Why use video interviewing in recruitment?

With the video interview here to stay, I wanted to share with you the benefit of my experience of conducting them from both a client and candidate perspective. 

A brief look at how to conduct, advantages, etiquette, expectations, disadvantages, limitations, etc. 

For clients new to video interviews hopefully, this guide will form a nice intro.

If you’re a candidate, then much of this applies to both, see it as a peek behind the curtain.

And I’m not saying that video conferencing and interviewing should replace face-to-face. 

Human interaction is critical and hopefully, it returns sooner rather than later. 

However, even when we can all meet again, like Jared at Microsoft, I feel there’s still a greater place for the Zooms and Teams of this world in recruitment.

Unlike a telephone interview, it is easier to read body language and facial cues for a start. 

You can get a better feel for one another without the time and expense of travel.

Certainly, in the earlier stages of the recruitment process, it means you can see a number of candidates without the need for them to take time off work. 

Trying to get diaries to align at the senior exec level is always a tricky one.

We’re finding that a video interview can be conducted at times that could have been seen as off-limits with a face-to-face in the past; early evening or first thing Saturday morning for example.

You can get the earlier stages of the process moving quickly too, meet a greater number of candidates more efficiently and significantly reduce the time to hire

If the candidate consents, you can easily record the interviews and replay them back at a later time/date too, and replay them for other colleagues who couldn’t be present. 

Never underestimate what you can learn from taking a second look at somebody or a second opinion from other members of the team.

The potential ‘challenges’ when conducting video interviews

I wouldn’t necessarily call these disadvantages, which is why I have suggested they are more ‘challenges’.

Both you as an interviewer and the candidate need a strong Wi-Fi connection, a good webcam, and a functioning microphone set to the correct levels for things to run without hitch. 

Unexpected connectivity problems are frustrating for all, and they make it difficult for a conversation/interview to flow.

However, we have to accept that they are sometimes unavoidable through no fault of our own.

There could be other issues such as bad lighting and the background noise but we should endeavour to do our best to eliminate them prior to any interviews. 

If you don’t solve issues like poor lighting and connectivity, a talented senior exec could be put off your organisation by the frustration of interruption and delay.

As a candidate, please be aware that backgrounds and noise will be noticed by those conducting the interview. 

If technical issues do arise, restart the camera, mic or meeting.

However, this is why we say it is vital for both those conducting and those attending the video interview to plan and prepare…

Our guide to preparing for a video interview:

1. Test Your Tech

It is vital that both client and candidate avoid potential technical glitches by testing all their equipment before the interview. 

If your video conferencing software produces glitchy visuals or muffled audio, it might be time to invest in a better-quality webcam or microphone. 

Nothing disrupts the flow of a video interview like a dropped connection, so you also need to secure your internet connection to help minimise the chances of it happening.

As an interviewer, you need to ensure your IT team has everything in place and functioning correctly.

As a candidate, if you are using your own equipment at home, then comparison site Faster Broadband have a great article – how to keep your wireless router secure – that tells you all you need to know about how to best protect yourself and improve your router security.

2. Keep Your Online Identity Professional

In the virtual world, our email address, username and the profile picture we assign to the likes of Zoom and Teams are often our first impressions. 

For many clients, this isn’t an issue, it’s set by their IT department, and will often just be the company email and logo. 

However, if not, make sure you know what those you are interviewing are seeing. 

You always want to follow brand guidelines and present a strong first impression of your organisation.

For candidates, you’re often using your personal email accounts etc, so don’t give a hiring manager reason to question your professionalism before they even meet you. 

Keep your email address and username simple. Profile pictures and bios are relevant and professional.

3. Know the dress code

Remember this is an interview but you are potentially interviewing from home. 

Dress accordingly! 

I would not expect clients or candidates to be sat in a full suit if they’re working from home.

A smart shirt or blouse/dress will often suffice. 

In our opinion it is important you look relaxed but professional.

4. Set the scene

Probably best to avoid virtual backdrops, at least until they function better.

They can be distracting, and look unprofessional, especially if they glitch as you move.

A blank wall, a tidy office, or a professional-looking bookcase is much better. 

Also, try and avoid sitting with bright lights shining on the screen/camera or your back to a window.

A nice picture window behind you can look great one minute, however, if the sun suddenly shines in, all that changes for those on the other end.

Make sure the room is well-lit but that it isn’t creating any glare.

5. Positive body language is important

Unfortunately, that confident handshake you’d typically greet a potential new employer or employee with won’t translate via video. 

However, first impressions still count. 

You must effuse that confidence via your on-screen body language and persona. 

Sit up straight, smile, and keep the camera at eye level to avoid looking up or down. 

A joint study between the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Stirling established that we are more likely to remember what people say if we maintain eye contact.

I appreciate it can be tricky to keep your eyes focused on the camera and not the person you’re talking to on the monitor or laptop screen.

I’ve even been advising clients and candidates to just practice a little before any important video calls.

Play around with the settings, and adjust your camera to get a good level of natural on-screen eye contact.

6. No distractions

We’ve all seen the memes/videos of journalists conducting interviews and their young children bursting into the room.

Virtual interviews can potentially come with a host of distractions you wouldn’t normally have to deal with in a face-to-face office environment.

Both clients and candidates need to ensure they do what they can to eliminate these potential interruptions prior to beginning the video call.

Block time off before each interview to ensure everything is set up/working correctly and signs are on closed doors to say meeting/interview in progress.

7. Practice your technique 

You don’t want to look and sound too stiff, regardless of whether you’re answering or asking the questions, or delivering a pitch/presentation. 

At the senior exec level, we have our interview game face but that needs to be supported by concise, professional responses when answering or a well-structured, probing line of questioning when doing the interviewing.

Practice with a friend. Strike a balance between confidence and comfortable. It is important we’re all well-versed in our video delivery techniques.

8. Make a personal connection

Establishing rapport is essential for both an interviewer and interviewee, regardless of whether you are conducting a face-to-face, telephone or video interview. 

This is what will ultimately help an organisation find the right candidate, and candidates for the right role. 

That personal connection goes both ways. 

When you’re conducting an interview in person, your enthusiasm for your organisation, body language, handshake and initial small talk will help to establish that vital connection with any potential hire. 

We need to transfer as much of that as we can to the virtual. 

We still need to sell the role and organisation.

Don’t jump straight into questions, you can still start on a lighter note, and find that common ground. 

When you’re conducting a number of interviews, it is often this connection that can make a candidate stand out.

It’s not easy to connect with everyone, just as the same is true when you interview face to face, however, I feel it is vital we still retain the ‘human’ element.

From a candidate’s perspective, a more personal connection will help you to separate yourself from the pack. 

You want the hiring firm to remember you for a personal story or a common interest you share. This will help make you stand out.

9. Be yourself

As an interviewer, you are representing your organisation. 

As a candidate, you need to best represent yourself…

A key task for us in the early stages of the recruitment process is to determine if a candidate is a good ‘fit’ for the organisation’s culture. 

This of course can be a little more tricky in virtual interviews as there’s that physical disconnect.

With recent briefs where there’s been a need for video interviews, we’ve been working closely with our clients to tailor the questions to establish enthusiasm for the role.

Clients need to be expressive when selling the role and their organisation.

Candidates need to still portray the best version of themselves, answering questions with honesty and enthusiasm.

10. Preparation is key!

Although you’re on a computer, you’re in a meeting.

Maintain focus on the other person and listen attentively.

As a candidate, you want to appear focused and ready to answer any questions having demonstrated that you’ve first understood.

Just as you would for an in-person interview, it is important as an interviewer that you research each candidate ahead of time. 

Check LinkedIn profiles, and have specific questions pre-prepared. Do your homework!

Have your notes and questions to hand without the need to use your laptop or PC.

Keep things flowing. No awkward silences. Instigate and facilitate good conversation.

Also have printed copies of important documents to hand so that you don’t miss any key talking points.

Always, have a glass of water to hand to keep your throat clear too (or coffee in my case).

All of the above are applicable to all attendees!

Video interviewing is part of our new reality 

Conducting interviews through video can be very valuable and insightful. 

It is enabling us to react quickly to a brief. 

It is opening up new opportunities. 

However, as with any interview style, there are of course pros and cons.

We are working closely with our clients to clearly define tailored video interviewing processes to ensure things run smoothly for each individual recruitment process.

Ultimately, we must still identify and deliver the right talent, regardless of how the interviews are conducted.

We are already utilising video more, including early in the process when discussions are more exploratory.

Video interviewing helps us to understand candidates’ interest more fully and to evaluate their communication style – often a key factor when assessing ‘fit’.

Get used to it, get good at it, it is here to stay!

If you’re looking for a senior executive for your organisation, please use our Client Upload Form or Call Us now.

If you’re looking for your next role, then please feel free to Upload Your CV or Call Us for an exploratory conversation. 

Barron Williams

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