Most hiring managers or Human Resources teams screen candidates over the phone prior to an in-person interview. But it’s now commonplace for employment discussions to occur on video platforms such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet. Chances are good that if you’re filling a position, you’ll probably conduct some portion of the interview remotely, and likely through video.
While tips for presenting yourself well are similar regardless of whether the conversation is over the phone, in person, or through video, online meetings present specific challenges. Here are our top suggestions for how employers can conduct successful remote interviews.
1. Set the stage
Communicate clearly with the candidate about the time the interview will take place, what meeting platform you’ll use, and who will be joining the interview, including each person’s name and title. Plan on setting up a few minutes early, keep your attire more businesslike than casual, and despite the familiar surroundings, gear up a professional mindset.
2. Choose a quiet place
If you’re conducting the meeting from a home office, make sure it’s free of distractions where no roommates, pets, or children will interrupt you.
Plan to hold the interview seated (or at least standing in one place) using a desktop or laptop computer and not a smartphone. Online talks via smartphones, especially if someone is walking around, can be very distracting for the other person.
3. Test your technology
Technological glitches are all too common using conferencing platforms, so much so that there are frequent memes on the topic, including hilarious examples, such as accidental cat filters.
To avoid these mishaps, thoroughly test the video conferencing platform you’ll use a day or so beforehand. Likewise, make a dry run with your camera and the headphones or microphone you’ll be using. Also, check the videoconferencing app you’ve selected to make sure it’s free of unintended filters.
On the day of the interview, recheck all of these items 15 minutes or so before the start time. You don’t want to be caught off guard by a poor connection or technical glitch that’s cropped up in the meantime.
4. Expect the unexpected
It’s not uncommon for your video or Wi-Fi connection — or the candidate’s — to fail during the interview. Anyone working remotely knows how limited bandwidth can cause connectively delays or video freezing.
Have the candidate’s email and phone number nearby in case you encounter technical issues. If there’s a technical problem, you can quickly call the candidate to shift the interview from video to phone or reschedule the meeting for another time. If you’re experiencing delays or freezing, you might try turning off the video on the conferencing platform. You should still be able to talk to each other as though you’re on a phone call.
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5. Make eye contact
It’s tempting, and almost unconscious, to look at the image of yourself on a video call instead of at the person you’re interviewing. Do your best to instead look into the camera, so you appear to be making eye contact. And if you’re using a laptop, prop it up so the camera is eye level. You don’t want to seem like you’re looking down on the other person.
Try to make the interview as much like an in-person conversation as you can. Make eye contact, be animated, and smile. Also, be aware of talking over the other person. Allow time for the other person to answer the question — often there can be a second or two delay before they respond. Also, when people are nervous, they often don’t leave enough space in the conversation, so be sure to pause and allow the other person to speak.
6. Know group meeting etiquette
Panel or group interviews add increased potential for chaos to remote interviews.
For panel interviews, where multiple people interview one candidate, let the candidate know what to expect and talk to the panel members beforehand to decide how you’ll ask the candidate questions — one at a time or in a free-flowing conversation.
For group interviews, where you’ll be speaking to multiple candidates simultaneously, clearly explain to all interviewees how the video call will work. Perhaps you’ll ask a question and then ask each one of them to answer it in a specific order, for example.
No matter what approach you use, simple things like muting yourself when you’re not talking can help the interview be more focused.
Setting the stage for a successful video interview isn’t just about preventing technical fails. Communicating with the candidate and creating a comfortable online experience means you’ll have a more genuine conversation and be better equipped to assess their fit for the job — even when you don’t meet in person.
For hiring and employment solutions, contact Nelson today.
Clea Badion is a copywriter, social media manager, and corporate blogger from the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s been writing about career and workplace trends for over a decade, specializing in blogging, website content, ghostwriting, thought leadership pieces, executive speeches, and presentations.