Not Ideal, But…
In-person interviews are almost always preferred, particularly in the final stages of recruitment. Only when you meet someone face-to-face can you pick up on subtle cues illustrated by body language, tone and intonation, and mannerisms. It’s amazing how many details of a person’s personality, attitude, ambitions, and more come together in the context of a personal meeting. You give up a lot when you do everything over the phone, text, or social media.
All is not lost, however. In this digital world, we have all become accustomed to doing business virtually to some degree. Many times, in-person interviews simply can’t happen. Perhaps the hiring manager is in a different city from the candidate. Maybe one of the parties is traveling or is caring for a sick child or parent. And who would have expected an event like COVID-19 would force everyone to cancel appointments and work from home?
We live in a fortunate time where many businesses can continue, or at least for the most part, even when people can’t be together physically. If you are a hiring manager or a candidate looking for a job, we want to offer up our best tips for making the most out of a video interview. There is an art to it and as an expert in IT & digital recruiting, we have learned that if virtual interviews are done right, they can be just as effective as an in-person interview.
Related: 4 Tips for Reducing Time to Hire
Video Interview Tips: For The Candidate
If you’re a job seeker and are faced with a video interview, you have to get it right. You’re at a disadvantage to some extent because in-person interviews offer you a better opportunity to convey who you really are, shake hands, and make personal contact with your interviewer(s) and potential colleagues. Typically, you don’t have much of a say as to where or how the interview is conducted, so you have to be flexible and do what you can to make sure that at the end of the video interview, the interviewer gets an accurate picture of who you are and why you would be an asset to the business.
Stage the interview
It’s critical that no matter where you are doing the interview, you appear professional, focused, and ready. Find a quiet, private, well-lit place that is free from possible interruptions. That means you need to silence your devices, square away the kids and pets, and dress for the occasion. Take a few minutes before the scheduled interview to check your lighting on the screen. Make sure you aren’t sitting with a window behind you where the interviewer can’t see your face well. We recommend having a blank wall behind you that limits distractions for the interviewer as well. No busy wall displays or art work in the background. Keeping it simple is best. Sit at a desk that is clear of clutter and personal items.
Check your connection
The virtual interview will depend solely on your internet connection. You can prepare all you want for the interview questions, but if your internet connection isn’t stable or strong enough, the interview is over. If needed, change locations to find a better connection, invest in a WiFi extender or mesh network, or talk to your internet provider
Download the video app
You want to be ready before the interview begins, so take the time to make sure you have the appropriate video app already downloaded and open well in advance. Your interviewer likely has only a set block of time to talk with you and you don’t want to waste that precious time working on technical issues. If you have any issues downloading or opening the app, you may need to call someone at the hiring company to ask for instructions or switch to a separate app your system will support.
Check the mic
The video app is just one step in setting up your connection. You want to be certain the interviewer can hear you. If possible, test the system for any issues and check that the audio is unmuted.
Check the video cam
In the same sense, you want to make sure your video is working on your device. Can you see yourself clearly on the screen? This is a good time to check your lighting and how your space looks. If you were the one doing the interviewing, would your space reflect a professional, well-prepared person?
The interviewer may be able to see your computer screen, so you want to close out any unnecessary web browser tabs and applications. This will not only ensure your privacy but it will also keep your desktop looking clean.
Dress for the position you want
There’s an old adage that you should always dress for the job you want. Nothing could be more accurate during a job interview. You may be able to dress down once you’re part of the team, but even in a video interview, you need to come across as professional and confident. What is considered appropriate will depend on the position, but you can never go wrong with a tailored shirt, clean hair that is out of your face, and simple jewelry (if any).
While your desk shouldn’t be cluttered, you do want to have pen and paper available, as well as your resume. You can bet the interviewer will refer to it during the interview. You should also have their website pulled up in case you need to reference it, any notes you may have on the company and the interviewer (know their title and role ahead of time), and questions you have for them.
Verify the connection
Once your interview begins, it’s a good idea to check with the interviewer that they can see and hear you well without any delay or connection interruptions. If you’re having any difficulty seeing or hearing them, speak up before the interview gets going.
Act as though you’re there
Virtual interviews don’t give you a pass when it comes to social norms. You want to look directly into the camera (not the screen) so the interviewer feels like you are making eye contact. Nod, smile, use hand gestures, and make brief affirmations as you would in an in-person interaction. It may feel awkward at first, but your goal is to make the interview feel as natural as possible and you want to look engaged from start to finish.
Video Interview Tips: For The Interviewer
We always remind hiring managers that a job interview is a two-way street. The candidate is interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them. It’s important to put your best foot forward and represent your company in a way that attracts the best. If you’re hiring for IT, this is even more critical because your technical candidates likely expect your company has modern technology to support virtual interviews. Follow these tips and your video interview will go as well as an in-person interview.
Set the stage
In a virtual interview, you’re no different from the candidate when it comes to appearances. You need to find a quiet, private, well-lit place that is free from possible interruptions. If you’re in the office, you may need to reserve a conference room. If you’re in a hotel, sit at the desk. If you’re at home, sit at a table or desk and make sure dogs and kids won’t cause any disruptions. Silence your devices, declutter your workspace, and check your internet connection, lighting and audio.
Do your homework
You don’t want to be shuffling papers during the interview. Have their resume and interview questions front and center, even writing them beside specific resume entries you’re interested in hearing more about. Review their resume thoroughly before the interview and have as many questions prepared as possible. Then, let the conversation flow naturally and address additional questions as they arise.
Don’t forget the small talk
You want to put the candidate at ease, just as you would in any physical conversation. Look directly into the camera (not the screen) to make “eye contact” as much as possible. Start with the niceties, like asking how their day is going or referencing anything you have in common. Be sure to introduce yourself and your position in the company before you jump into your questions.
Market the position
Just as you would in person, show enthusiasm about your organization and the role you’re hiring for. You need to market and sell the role because the candidate is also interviewing the company and may have other job opportunities. Don’t sugar coat it, falsely advertise, or set the wrong expectations, either. You may get them to sign on the dotted line, but you’ll pay for it later when they leave because they didn’t understand the role. Remember to continually look into the camera so they know you’re engaged and interested in what they’re saying.
Paint the picture
If your candidate can’t be in the physical office, take a moment to describe it to them. You can talk about any pluses about the location (like it’s an easy commute with plenty of free parking), how the offices are set up (cubicles, rooms, or open office space), breakroom perks, etc. Don’t forget to tell them about the office culture. You want them to fit into the culture as much as the role.
Ask for questions
As the interviewer, it’s easy to ask all of the questions, but you want to make sure your candidate gets all of their questions answered, too. Before you end the interview, ask them if there’s anything else they’d like to know about your company, the job position, or the culture. Again, look directly into the camera, use hand gestures, and affirmations.
Guide them in the journey
The final step is to give them an idea of what they can expect next. End with clear follow-up steps and a timeline. If you expect anything from them, remind them of what you discussed. Be sure to give them contact information should they have any questions after the conclusion of the interview.
Virtual interviews may not be the preferred way to screen a candidate or a company, but it may be the best or only option you have. Do what you can to create a natural, professional environment and engage with as much virtual eye contact as possible. Speak as you would in person and don’t be afraid to show your personality. The more you can convey your true self, your goals, and your expectations, the better (and more accurate) impression you’ll make.