If you have an open position right now, you’ll likely find yourself conducting video interviews at some point during the hiring process.
Before the Coronavirus outbreak, the idea of hiring an executive without a face-to-face meeting was unfathomable for most organizations. For better or worse, virtual hiring is becoming the norm, and we’ve had several clients successfully fill positions this way.
Obviously, the stakes are a lot higher when you’re relying solely on video interviews, versus when video interviews were used as a screening tool earlier in the process. As a hiring manager, you need to ensure you’re conducting effective video interviews. If it doesn’t go well, it could reflect poorly on your organization and cost you a good hire.
While many of the same principles of face-to-face interviewing apply, there are important nuances to video interviews.
Your goal for conducting an interview is to get an honest assessment of a candidate’s capabilities to perform in the role. You also want to attract the candidate to your organization, persuading them that you’re the perfect fit for the next step in their career (if in fact, that’s true).
This may seem more challenging over a video conference, but it’s possible.
Here are some best practices for conducting video interviews effectively:
Select an optimal location for your interviews
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you have a professional set-up for the video meeting. Hold the video conference in a well-lit room (whether a conference room at your office, or an isolated room in your home if you’re conducting it remotely). Make sure the room has plenty of natural light or a lamp so that the interviewee can see you. Test your microphone and webcam prior to the meeting to ensure they work properly.
Also, make sure you have a work-appropriate backdrop. You want to convey a look of professionalism to your candidates, and that starts by having a clean, distraction-free site for your interview background.
Set your candidates up for success with instructions on your video interview technology
The number one problem we see on video interviews is technical issues that could have been prevented through proper equipment set-up and testing ahead of time. Wherever you can, use a platform that allows you to simply send a link to ensure easy meeting access. Though the impetus is on the candidate join the meeting on-time and ready to go, try to make it as easy as possible for them by:
- Giving them information about what video conferencing platform you’ll be using and whether any downloads are required ahead of time
- Sending them a troubleshooting link so they can fix issues if they arise
- Providing your phone number in case they have problems
Let candidates know what to expect by providing an agenda prior to their video interview
Send candidates a meeting invite with an agenda, information about the position, who the attendees will be (ideally with their bios), and any attachments they should review before their interview. Giving the candidate this information ahead of time shows them respect and ensures they’re able to join the meeting without issue.
At the start of the interview, put candidates at ease about the potential for disruptions
Unlike a face-to-face interview, video conferencing has the potential for multiple interruptions. One of your internet connections could be disrupted. There could be a lag in response time due to the wireless network. One of you could have noise in the background that you’re unable to drown out.
After you’ve had a chance to greet the candidate, inform they about the potential for technical difficulties during the call. Reassure them that it’s okay and that you can reconnect if this occurs. This allows the candidate to focus less on any technical issues they may experience and more on providing answers that reflect the kind of employee they’re going to be. You’ll want the candidate to be in a relaxed state of mind, thinking of nothing other than the interview at hand. This gives you the best opportunity to hear more about how they work, their experience, and other details that will help you come to an informed decision on whether to move forward with their candidacy.
Take the time to build rapport
When the two of you sign on, avoid the risk to dive right into describing the position or asking the candidate questions. Treat it as you would a face-to-face meeting by introducing yourself and engaging in light pleasantries.
You can quickly transition into rapport-building questions that strike a balance between small talk and substantive conversation. This will help you get more honest responses out of the candidate. They likely won’t fully have their guard up yet, and you’ll get more pertinent information than you would than asking them routine questions about the weather.
Some examples of rapport building questions you can use when conducting video interviews include:
- “I see on your resume you worked at [name of last company]. What was your favorite part about your role?”
- “It says you lived in [name of city]. What brought you there, and how did you like it?”
- “You attended [university/college]. What did you study there and what was it like attending school there?”
These types of questions are innocuous and help put the candidate at ease. At the same time, you’ll get a glimpse into their personality. Starting with rapport building questions gives you both a moment to settle in and puts everyone in a better frame of mind.
Optimize engagement with the candidate
Engaging with a candidate is critical during any type of interview, but there are some ways a video conference interview will differ slightly from a regular one. That means that engaging them effectively will require some different best practices, such as:
- Avoid cross-talk. Cross-talk on a video conference – particularly if there are more than two people on for an interview – can make the interview feel choppy and disjointed. Give your candidate plenty of time to respond to questions. After they’re done speaking, wait for an extra beat in case they have anything to add.
- Share your screen. If there are any accompanying documents, it may help to share your screen during the interview. That way the candidate can have a reference point on whatever you’re discussing. For example, it may be helpful to share the job’s roles and responsibilities so the candidate can refer to them.
- Leave time at the end for some “open discussion.” Obviously, you’ll want to give your candidate time to ask you questions. Build a little extra time into the process for some more informal discussion after they do. Once you get through the candidate’s questions and the topics you want to cover, you can have a free-flowing conversation about what it’s like to work for your company.
Final thoughts on conducting video interviews
By understanding your video conference software, preparing, and engaging your candidate effectively, you can conduct video interviews that gets the best result for everyone involved.