Approximately one year ago, the way in which we worked changed overnight. Companies who resisted allowing their employees to work remotely found that it was now the only way they could operate. Suddenly, entire corporate networks were being tested by how well they could function while working from home. Coworkers, suppliers, and customers were all forced to adapt their processes to this new reality. While it’s obviously introduced a fair share of problems, there have been excellent learning opportunities for the motivated companies to dramatically improve office infrastructure well after the pandemic has subsided. 

One of these significant opportunities is the video interview. While some companies had already experimented with this format before the pandemic, they were by no means a standard option in most industries. Of course, right now, they are essentially the only way to conduct an “in-person” interview, and they’ve proved to be associated with several benefits. The most significant being time and place; it’s now possible to interview people from across the country or around the world without the need for travel or making drastic changes to their schedule. With the shift to Zoom meetings or Microsoft Teams being ubiquitous, most applicants don’t hesitate at pursuing a job interview the same way they would with almost every other interaction throughout their day. 

Of course, like anything else, it’s possible to conduct video interviews poorly and with most candidates now expecting a methodical video interview process, the time for amateur-hour has definitely passed. To ensure you master doing interviews over a video feed, we’ve put together this list of ten tips to help turn you into a bonafide video interview pro. 

1. Be Prepared

It should go without saying that you should be prepared for any interview, whether via phone, in person or, over Zoom. However, with the instant switch to remote working, there has been a pervasive casualness that has swept through many corporate cultures. In some ways, it’s helped alleviate stress and remove unnecessary redundancy, but in others, it’s resulted in abandoned policies and procedures. When it comes to video interviews, it’s essential that you have a well thought out script and use it to keep the conversation on track. It’s ok if a candidate’s response digresses a little, but know when and how to redirect the conversation by being well-prepared.   

2. Test Your Connection

Technology issues have become the norm these days. One of the more significant struggles is people working from home on internet connections without the bandwidth to do everything simultaneously the way they would at work. This makes it more critical than ever to know your situation and test your technology ahead of time. It’s also a great idea to run through any potential problems and ensure you understand some key troubleshooting solutions. For example, suppose your home connection is not powerful enough to support multiple video screens running concurrently. In that case, you may need to ask your kids or your partner to stay off the WiFi during interviews

If the problem is a continuous struggle, you may want to inquire if your company offers any financial support to offset the costs of increasing your streaming speed. Sometimes you may find that restarting your modem can help restore your internet speed. However, using an online speed test in the hour leading up to the interview can be a great way to know if you need to do a restart or ask family to get off the line.

3. Have a Back-Up Plan

Sometimes no matter what you do, the technology just doesn’t work. Zoom goes down, Microsoft is adding a patch, the local ISP is having an outage, whatever it is, it’s good to have a back-up. Often enough if there are issues with the video component, having all participants switch to audio-only can lighten the load and solve the problem. However, it might be that you need to transition to a phone line or reschedule the interview altogether. In these instances, it’s best to have thought out the solution ahead of time. 

When setting up the interview, be sure to include the company conference line in the invitation and notify  the applicant that this is just in case a tech problem arises with the video platform. It’s also a great idea, especially if multiple internal team members need to be part of the conversation, that you book a second “back-up” time. If the problems become insurmountable, you can simply ask everyone to come back at the prearranged alternate time. These easy contingencies can go a long way to putting everyone at ease in the event of a tech problem.

4. Know the Platform

One benefit of everyone working remotely is that we have all become familiar with navigating one video platform or another. When it’s time to conduct a remote interview, most people don’t need to be coached through the process of signing on. That said, as the hiring manager, you want to have a solid grasp of the platform you select for your interviews and understand its functions before the meeting begins. Be sure to conduct a series of mock interviews using the platform to determine what you need to know. Do you want to allow instant access to all participants or admit them in a controlled fashion? Would you prefer everyone to come in muted with video off? Do you need to use a virtual background? Knowing the answers to each of these questions before the interview will help you look much more professional when the candidate signs on. With your upfront learning, you can also create a simplified step-by-step guide to share with candidates before the interview. Let them know if they need to download the application or if it’s better to join through a browser. You can also help them troubleshoot any issues that need to be addressed with their control panel or system preferences, so they can get that sorted in advance. 

5. Look the Part

For many professionals, working remotely has meant that their day-to-day attire has become considerably more casual. Without the need to leave the house, most people rarely find an occasion to put on a blazer or even style their hair. However, when it comes to presenting your corporate brand to potential employees, it’s essential that you put your best foot forward. Even if you’ve spent most of the last year working in a tracksuit, an interview is the occasion where you’ll want to dust off your office wardrobe and bring your sartorial A-game. Not only will it help reorient you in the company culture, but it also tells the applicant that you care enough about the interview to show up as a professional. 

6. Build a Studio

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all have professionally built home studios where we could conduct all of our meetings with perfect audio and video resolution? Of course, it’s not necessary to call your contractor and take on the expense. However, you do want to modify your space, as best you can, to reflect a home studio. First and foremost, you want to have a door that you can close and a sign that you can hang up to tell the other people in your home that you are conducting an interview. Cutting out the distractions helps you focus, and it prevents the applicant from becoming  distracted by the disruptions in your home. Next, you want to have the best possible audio you can. 

You don’t have to go overboard with mixers and soundproofing, but a good quality microphone from Amazon or your local tech store will help you sound like a pro and cut out that tinny built-in mic sound. You may also want to invest in some decent stereo speakers while you’re at it to ensure you don’t miss a response. Finally, make sure your camera is up to the task. In most instances, your built-in laptop camera will do just fine. However, if it doesn’t seem clear enough or you plan to film any stand-alone video messages, upgrading to a high-quality webcam is a straightforward and affordable option.  

7. Pay Attention to Subtle Cues

One thing that becomes increasingly difficult in video interviews is picking up on subtle non-verbal cues. When you’re sitting across the desk from a candidate, it’s easier to notice body posture, fidgeting, and head movements than if you’re looking at them through a screen. When you consider that most experts believe non-verbal communication makes up between 70 and 93-percent of our messaging, noticing these cues becomes pretty critical in your ability to decide on the right candidate to hire. 

Of course, it’s not impossible to read body language through a video interface, but it does take a more concerted effort. You may find it helpful to make quick notes about anything noticeable to prevent yourself from becoming fixated on something but ensure to revisit it  in your evaluation process.

8. Schedule Enough Time

While most of us look forward to getting back to working with other people, one of the greatest aspects about remote working is joining any meeting without having to travel. Of course, this also meant we could schedule ourselves in back-to-back meetings throughout the day and jump from one Zoom call to the next. However, when it comes to interviews, you want to leave yourself with some extra time. While it’s a good idea to schedule the call for a specific duration, allowing some additional time means you won’t have to cut the applicant off if you find yourselves exploring an exciting topic. You also want to be sure that you have time when the interview concludes to record your thoughts and give their answers time to sit.

By scheduling one interview immediately after another, you risk the possibility of confusing the candidate’s answers with one another. Even planning an internal meeting right after an interview can cause you to forget critical points of consideration. Try to give yourself at least fifteen minutes between an interview and any other engagement, but if possible, block off the following half-hour as part of the interview process.

9. Record (with permission)

Another way that a video interview is superior to a face-to-face meeting is the abundance of technology that it puts right at your figure tips. The most significant component is the ability to easily record your conversation and play it back later. This simple innovation means that if you wanted to relisten to a response, it’s right there on your computer. If you find yourself confusing two candidates’ answers, you have the option to review both for clarity. If you need to get a second opinion, you can share the videos internally to gain a different perspective. Of course, you need to take a couple of steps to protect yourself. 

First, always ask the candidate’s permission to record their session. Ideally, you want to ask them when you set up the meeting to avoid surprising them when the interview starts. You also need to maintain control of the video. While it’s perfectly ok to get a colleague’s opinion, you want to avoid emailing the footage around to prevent it from being distributed publicly and damaging your reputation.         

10. Make Use of Video Submission Interviews

One of the best ways to ease the tension of initial interviews is to take yourself right out of the equation. A video submission or one-way interview is where you provide the candidates with a list of questions, ask them to record it, and send you their video response by a specific date. Not only does this mean you don’t have to figure out schedule arrangements for meetings, but you can review the submissions when it’s convenient for you and share the top performers internally to receive additional feedback. 

The benefit for the applicant is that it reduces the stress of the first interview, and they can put their best foot forward, even if they have to record it several times to get a version they’re happy with. Sometimes the right candidate for the job isn’t the person that’s best in a spontaneous situation. After you’ve narrowed down your top choices, you can then go about setting up a dynamic video interview as a next step.

At LRO Staffing, we’ve worked with companies for 15 years to help them perfect their hiring processes. As the world of work has shifted to remote, we’ve been a part of ensuring our clients can still source and secure the talent they need to respond to the changes in the marketplace. If your team needs support in refining your human resource strategy, video, or otherwise, we’re here to help improve these processes.     

Deborah Montgomery

Author Deborah Montgomery

Deborah Montgomery currently serves as the Director of LRO Staffing's Government division. Specializing in the placement of consulting and temporary help professionals within various levels of government - primarily in the Ottawa region, Deborah is a strong believer in transparency and honesty and is committed to excellence in the staffing industry.

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