Recruitment Tips for Video Interviews

Whether you love it or loathe it, it would be hard to argue that the prevalence of video communication as an alternative to face-to-face meetings, hasn’t become more commonplace over the past 12 months. From staying in touch with loved ones, to conducting business during times of lockdown, it has enabled us to adapt our lives in countless ways when our usual channels are drastically reduced. For some companies, they were already using the likes of Zoom and Google Meet as standard, but for others, it was a learning curve, and a very steep learning curve at that.

Someone who has witnessed first-hand how much businesses have had to change their daily operations to include video calls, is Virginia Sharpe, Recruitment Manager, CBC Staff Selection. To help others avoid some of the seemingly obvious, yet all too common mistakes when recruiting via video, Virginia shared some of her expert advice.

Do you think video interviews have increased in popularity as a COVID-led catalyst, and are they here to stay?

The end of COVID won’t signal the end of video interviews or even client meetings, but what I do think will happen, is that people will be more selective as to when to use it. For example, the CBC team had meetings via Zoom when we were working remotely but as soon as it was safe to return to the office, our weekly get togethers went back to face to face.

You miss out on so much when you are talking to someone on a screen compared to in person. Body language being the most noticeable absence and in particular, facial expressions which are easy to miss when you’re not physically in the same room. You can build empathy and establish a relationship far more effectively in real life as opposed to any other form of communication.

In the recruitment business, video interviews are going to continue to be a big component of the hiring process. Certainly, when it’s done well, technology is highly effective in this respect. Systems are more sophisticated now and Zoom is more the norm compared to a year ago. Businesses are a lot more open to it, as are candidates. It widens the talent pool and also, increases opportunities for people to spread their wings and apply for a role which they perhaps wouldn’t otherwise have considered.

What tips do you have for candidates preparing for a video interview?

Dress as you would for a face-to-face interview and don’t be tempted to replace professionalism with comfort. Even if you are only seen from the waist up on screen, preparing for a video interview in this way, will put you in a positive mindset and help you focus.

Make sure you’re looking directly at the camera and not at yourself – it’s really obvious when you’re doing this and also, can be distracting. Find a quiet place, charge your laptop and check your internet connection well in advance. Having a professional background is also important. If you’re at home and there are your personal items behind you, this won’t give a good first impression. Whilst digital backgrounds are an option, you can opt for a plain or minimalist wall instead. Good lighting is also a must, as is your camera angle. Make sure you are sitting front-on rather than looking up or down at the camera.

It’s also wise to select mute when you’re not speaking in case of unexpected noises such as a dog barking or a delivery driver arriving. Perhaps most importantly, don’t be late. You would be surprised how many people don’t consider the time difference before a video call – attention to detail is vital.

Are there are any extra considerations you should make if you’re the interviewer?

A lot of the same rules apply regardless of whether you are the interviewer, or the interviewee. There are a few extra areas you will need to focus on though. Make sure you’re always online before the candidate. You can control when you admit them to the call so don’t worry if they are early, they will just remain in the online waiting room. As a rule of thumb, make sure you’re online at least ten minutes before the interview is scheduled to begin.

Have a backup plan in case technology fails. Make sure you have the candidate’s phone number should you need to switch to a phone call due to loss of reception. I was part of an interview where we had video only but used the phone on speaker for the audio. This worked fine.

Don’t wing it. Prepare your interview questions and manage your time. Set the restrictions of the meeting to ‘private’ so you can avoid ‘Zoom Bombing’ which is basically, a gate crasher who hacks the call. Privacy and confidentiality are very important.

Always be the one who opens and closes the meeting. This is the same as a face-to-face interview but again, it’s easy to forget that these rules still apply to video interviews.

Make sure you always have your camera on. Even if you aren’t the lead interviewer, that doesn’t mean you can go off camera. Making a good first impression is as important for the business as it is for the candidate as it promotes a positive work culture. Keep in mind that the usual experience of the candidate gauging this from visiting the office, will be lost. If you do have to turn your camera off for an unavoidable reason, make sure you also mute your audio. We’ve all no doubt seen those awkward videos doing the rounds on social media where people haven’t been as careful as they should have been in this respect.

Another piece of advice I always give when helping candidates and clients to prepare, is to pause often. This allows technology to catch up should there be lags. Zoom tends to focus on who is speaking most which can make it hard for a meeting to be balanced. A lot of visual cues will be lost so the usual rules of conversational turn taking won’t all apply. Speak slower than you usually would too and make pauses deliberate.

What will be the next recruitment trend in your opinion?

Pre-recorded pre-screening interviews are definitely becoming popular, but mainly for a variety of senior management roles. The company hiring will present a series of questions either as a video recording, or written out in an email, and send the candidate a link where they can view them. They then record their responses and upload them. In my opinion, there is no substitute for a face-to-face interview however, video calls save time, money, allow access to more job opportunities and candidates and eliminates bias as everyone is being assessed in the same way.