Rayanne Thorn’s first recruiting job was as an executive recruiter for a health care company, where she was responsible for filling senior level positions.
“We flew candidates in to LAX or Orange County Airport from all over the county for face-to-face interviews,” says Thorn, now Vice President of Product Marketing and Strategy for Technomedia (technomedia.com), an integrated global talent management solutions organization. “Of course, this was an expense that quickly added up when a search became protracted.”
It wasn’t long before Internet-based recruiting aggressively using email and online engagement took over the phone as a better and quicker way to connect with potential candidates, says Thorn. Then, as a result of the Internet explosion, digitally-streamed video conferencing at Fed-Ex centers replaced those frequent flyer miles. But that too became costly and prohibitive as many candidates did not reside near a FedEx video conferencing center.
Thorn vividly remembers that first video interview she conducted. “I was nervous and the candidate was even more nervous,” she says.
But now video interviewing through Skype (and other video interviewing tools such as Hire Vue, Jobvite, GreenJob Interview and Async Interview, among many others), have helped HR professionals, hiring managers and small businesses more easily – and professionally – conduct video interviews.
“Today, it’s very easy to use and reliable,” says Thorn. “If you like a casual video call to break the ice, it is the perfect way to make a preliminary decision as to whether or not a candidate should move forward in the hiring process.”
That being said, there are still challenges – not all job seekers have access to or are familiar with video technology, and those who are camera-shy may feel more pressure with this format, says Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam (officeteam.com).
“Employers should prepare for Skype interviews like they would for in-person meetings, but there are some additional considerations,” says Hosking. “For example, interviewers should ensure that they have the video equipment and software set up well in advance of the actual interview and do a test-drive. Also, the candidate’s username should be obtained ahead of time.”
Thorn says preliminary interactions with the candidate should set the tone for the video interview you schedule.
“Because Skype is a very casual and modern application, it is important that you, as the interviewer, set expectations by being frank about what you expect and the process the candidate should follow,” says Thorn. “Determine who will place the call, prepare and present an outline to the candidate for the video interview which includes a timeline and the names and titles of anyone else who may be on the call. This simple set-up allows the candidate an opportunity to put their best foot forward. Either party going into a video interview unprepared is a recipe for disaster.”
Tony B. Nelson, President of TBN Consulting, LLC (tbnconsulting.biz), a Twin Cities-based search firm for direct-hire, contract and freelance professionals within the marketing profession, agrees.
“If things don’t go smoothly it will reflect poorly on the hiring company,” says Nelson. “Ultimately you want the candidate to leave with a good impression of your company.
That being said, sometimes technical problems are unavoidable, says Hosking.
“It’s a good idea to keep the applicant’s phone number on hand in case you need to contact him or her in the event of technical issues,” says Hosking.
When interviewing via video, employers may not be able to pick up on certain things that are apparent during face-to-face meetings. For example, there isn’t a way to shake the applicant’s hand or get a full sense of his or her body language. Also, with video interviews, hiring managers don’t have an opportunity to check if the individual made a good impression on the receptionist or anyone else he or she encountered while waiting.
Hosking offered these additional tips for successful video interview experience:
Avoid background distractions: Distracting background noises should be limited, and if an interviewer is conducting the meeting from his or her office, it’s best to direct all incoming calls to voice mail to avoid disruptions.
Dress for success: Interviewers may think they’re only visible from the waist up during video interviews, but you should always dress appropriately from head to toe. And be mindful of the background that’s within view. Lighting and windows can cast shadows. You also want to make sure there isn’t anything distracting or inappropriate in the background.
On the flip side, employers may also draw some conclusions about a candidate based on how that person is dressed or what is visible in his or her background. Red flags may be raised if someone isn’t dressed professionally or has questionable items in their recording space.
Check your eye contact: It’s tempting to check yourself out on the screen during video interviews, but remember to look at the camera instead so it appears you’re talking directly to the individual. And don’t forget to speak loudly and clearly into the microphone.
Test: Test your voice/microphone prior to the call if you can. If you can record a practice call try to view your body language too, and tone of your voice to see how you present yourself. This is the impression the candidate will get.
Because there is so much concern on technology preparation prior to a video interview one thing that is often overlooked in preparation for a video interview is how to conduct the actual interview – asking the questions and focusing on getting to know the candidate, which is different when done via video technology, says Nelson, who offered these additional tips:
Prepare questions: At this stage you should have a pretty good idea of what your primary interests/concerns are for the candidate. Prepare appropriate questions prior (behavioral, situational). Consider providing a case study or a specific open-ended question to the candidate prior to the interview with the expectation of the candidate presenting the answer during the remote interview process.
Plan and practice presentation: Remember, you are also selling the candidate on your company. They are judging you, and this is a different type of interview than most hiring managers and candidates are accustomed to. If you plan to screen share a presentation, job description or resume during the interview make sure you are familiar with the process. Consider recording a practice session. You will notice subtle things that will make a difference in your presentation, such as eye contact – where it’s best to look directly at the camera as opposed to your computer screen.
“Practicing to make sure you’re comfortable with the format will ultimately make you appear comfortable and professional during the interview,” says Nelson.
Be aware of your environment: Try to conduct interview in a clean and quiet location with little or no distractions in the background. Consider the lighting in the room. If you have a window in the background consider closing the shade to prevent backlighting that would put your face in a shadow and make it difficult for the candidate see you, so test prior to the interview.
Be Professional: Don’t allow a remote interview to cause you to relax in the way you conduct the interview. Conduct this interview with the same level of professionalism and importance as you would a face-to-face interview. The candidate may already have concerns of being at a disadvantage due to conducting a remote interview as opposed to a face-to-face interview. Attempt to put those concerns to rest by showing the candidate that you are taking this interview seriously. Dress professionally. Actively listen to the candidate. Remove yourself from any distractions – most face-to-face interviews are conducted in a conference room, consider doing the same for your remote interview.
Remember to smile: Put the candidate at ease by smiling early and often, says Nelson. “Remember, the interview process is a two way street. You’re interviewing the candidate with the intent of making a hiring decision. The candidate is also interviewing you with the intent of making an employment decision. Have the candidate leave with a positive experience.
At the close of the call, let the candidate know next steps – this should be part of your goodbye.
“Leaving a candidate hanging is just another notch in the candidate experience coffin,” says Thorn. “Technology, like video interviewing, should make the hiring process better, not make it worse.”