Our guide to successful video conference interviews

Coronavirus has impacted many areas of our lives, both personally and professionally, and those changes continue to emerge on a daily basis. For recruiters, social distancing has given rise to a number of challenges as the industry strives to overcome the fact that it is now impossible to interview or meet with candidates in person. The solution? Strictly online recruitment via virtual assessments, email, phone and video conferencing. They perhaps can never fully replace a face-to-face interview but offer a good alternative and, crucially, a way for recruiters to continue to recruit, keep people safe and keep the industry going. 

Although it can sometimes be harder to connect with a candidate via video conferencing and other online methods, there are possible advantages too. The process can be shortened by taking it wholly online – crucial for sectors such as health and nursing, logistics, wholesale, warehouse and IT that find themselves in urgent need of hires. There is no travel required and, given the lockdown, many candidates will be working from home therefore easily contactable at any time of day. 

Ultimately, with the government’s tightening of measures in an effort to slow the spread of Coronavirus, recruiters have no choice but to turn to online methods to continue to recruit. With the advancement in digital technology, video conferencing using apps such as Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams is now a brilliant alternative to a face-to-face interview. Much of the preparation and process of a video interview is the same as an in-person one but there are some differences it’s helpful to be aware of and prepare for.  

Preparation is key

You would ensure you were fully prepared for a face-to-face interview and the same applies to those carried out via video conference. The only difference is that as well as reading through a candidate’s CV, making notes of questions you want to ask and so on, you also need to check your computer, the software being used, the internet connection, and camera and sound quality. Connection or quality issues can be very distracting for both the candidate and the recruiter and could result in a bad candidate experience. Visual cues including body language and responsiveness, as well as the ability to communicate effectively, are key to a successful interview but will be made far more difficult to ascertain if there are problems with the quality. It’s not always possible to ensure there are no delays or sound/video quality issues, especially at a time when video conferencing tools and the internet are both being used by an unprecedented number of people, but you can be as prepared as possible. 

Equip the candidate will all necessary information

Being in possession of everything they need to know about the video interview, how it works, and what’s expected of them will help candidates feel more at ease. Remember, this is a strange situation for jobseekers too. Send the meeting link and clear instructions, including which software they need to download, far in advance of the interview so that the candidate knows exactly what to do. It’s also a good idea to let a candidate know that in the event of a tech fail, you will phone them to continue the interview that way or email to rearrange.  

Create the right setting 

When interviewing via video, especially when working from home, it is helpful to create the right interview space and consider video conferencing best practices. Dress professionally, keeping in mind that dark colours work best on camera. Create a distraction-free background with the right lighting – ideally, you should have your back to a neutral backdrop such as a plain wall and be facing a window or other form of lighting so that your face is highlighted but not whited out. Also, ensure that you position the camera correctly so that the candidate can clearly see you. Don’t be afraid to ask them to do the same – it is vital that you can see their body language and reactions just as you would in person. Any programmes running in the background should be terminated to prevent them from hampering the connection or distracting you. In these unusual times, it is also important to ensure that there are no distractions from other members of your household who are also at home – make everyone aware that you can’t be disturbed and close the door.  

Video conference interview techniques

In many ways, your interview style shouldn’t change but there are some things to keep in mind when interviewing online via video conference. Leave a few seconds before asking the next question to ensure the candidate has finished as this will allow for any delay in the connection. It’s easier to get distracted when the candidate isn’t in front of you in the flesh so ensure you focus on what they are saying and take notes.

Maintain communication

Without being able to meet face to face at any stage of the application process it is more important than ever to keep communicating with candidates so that they know where they stand and what the next step is. Be very clear about what happens after the video interview and how you will contact them. A candidate management and applicant tracking system will make this part of the process far easier, allowing you to utilise email templates for faster contact with candidates and keep up to date with each candidate’s status throughout the recruitment process.  

And don’t forget the myriad ways of online recruiting that you may already use. Ensure your recruitment website is working hard for you, utilise social media platforms to strengthen your brand and engage with passive candidates, and use a data-driven multi-poster to post jobs quickly and more efficiently, taking note of recommendations on where and when to post. This is a challenging time for us all but moving fully to digital recruitment during the course of the pandemic will allow the industry to keep running.