Poor candidate experience. Scheduling challenges. Siloed efforts of recruiters and hiring managers. Sound familiar? These are just a few issues faced when conducting face-to-face interviews with job candidates at your office.
Enter the video interview. Recent years have shown us that this technology supports pre-screen and interview processes rather well. And it’s both hiring organizations and candidates that reap the benefits.
Video interviews can be tailored to your needs. They can take place live with two-way communication. Or they can be asynchronous (pre-recorded). They afford you the opportunity to interview more candidates and include more interviewers. And they enhance the candidate experience by offering flexible interview times. While the benefits are numerous, conducting great video interviews still requires some mastery.
This article offers our top video interview tips for recruiters and employers.
According to an October 2021 Indeed survey, 82% of employers surveyed use virtual interviews, and 93% of employers plan to continue using them.
The benefits of conducting video interviews go beyond just meeting more quality candidates in a shorter amount of time while spending less money. The upside includes larger interview panel involvement, which can reduce bias. It includes the ability to tailor the type of interview to the type of position. And it facilitates your interview technology integration with applicant tracking systems (ATS) and recruitment management systems.
Differences between Live Video Interviews and On-Demand Interviewing
Digital interviews can take place in one of two ways. Synchronous interviewing happens in real-time. It’s a live interview with both the interviewer(s) and interviewee speaking back and forth while looking at each other using interview software. It is the closest experience to an in-person meeting of the online interview options.
Interview platforms also support on-demand (also referred to as one-way or asynchronous) interviewing. In this scenario, the hiring manager provides the candidate with a list of questions to answer. The questions may be provided beforehand, or the one-way interview software uses prompts. Candidates might also be asked to perform a task or exercise– activities that can test their ability to multitask or brainstorm on the fly. The candidate records their responses and submits the recording for review. There is no back-and-forth discussion using this method.
Live Vs One-Way Video Interviews
According to the survey cited above, among employers who do virtual interviewing, 74% reference speedier hiring and 79% say it’s easier to manage the process from start to finish and to incorporate hiring technologies, like online candidate assessments.
The live virtual interview closely matches the in-person interview experience. Interviewers have a set of interview questions prepared. All candidates answer this same set of interview questions. Candidates are given the same amount of time to address each question. This leads to an equitable candidate evaluation process.
During a live online interview, interviewers and interviewees can talk as if they were together in the same room. This does help a hiring team with reading non-verbal cues such as body language and eye contact, just like they would have in an in-person interview. In addition, a video interview can be recorded. If, for example, a hiring manager wants to get a manager’s take on the candidate, or wants to revisit a particular discussion point, the recording is far more insightful than any notes they could take.
The visual aspect of a video interview also sets it apart from a phone interview. The dynamic is far more akin to a face-to-face interview.
Although the benefit of meeting with someone anywhere in the world is huge, the scheduling of these synchronous online meetings is still limited to overlap between availability.
In asynchronous video interviewing, a potential employee records his or her answers to predetermined questions when it’s convenient for them. HR personnel and managers can then review these responses at any time, thereby removing the obstacle of scheduling a time to meet.
This is especially convenient for job seekers who would otherwise have had to take time off from a current job to be at an interview. They can simply make a recording and submit after hours. According to Spark Hire, “The less stress candidates feel during your hiring process, the more positive their candidate experience and the better your hiring outcomes.” Allowing a candidate to pre-record answers and select their best response to submit contributes to this stress reduction.
12 Tips for Preparing to Conduct a Video Interview
1. Decide Between Asynchronous or Real-Time Interviewing
Review the benefits of each type of virtual interview to determine what will help you achieve your hiring goal most efficiently. It may depend on the merits of the vacancy. If you’re hiring for a sales role, seeing how the person interacts in a real-time conversation is a priority. If the person is interviewing for a behind-the-scenes role, the way they communicate verbally is secondary to their technical knowledge.
For example, if you’re looking for a new accountant, using an asynchronous platform will allow you to incorporate a skills assessment or accounting-specific activity.
2. Research and Select One of the Best Video Interview Platforms
The same care you take with researching and selecting a candidate should be dedicated to selecting software. While video meeting tools like Zoom and Skype are useful, they are not specialized for conducting job interviews.
Tools that are optimized for this would integrate with your ATS, offer features like video sharing, and allow you to attach a resume or hiring team comments to the recording. For a guide to software vendors who do offer these specialized solutions, consult our buyer guide of the best video interview tools.
Your company may not have the budget for a high-end program offered by Willo or MyInterview, but you can also check out free video interview software. In some cases, you can use free services with these very same companies.
3. Familiarize Yourself with the Video Interview Software
Interviewing a potential employee is already stressful, often for both parties. You are in control of the meeting since it’s your software and you set up the meeting. Don’t let your first impression reveal a lack of care or planning.
Make sure you know your way around the interview platform’s features and settings. You may, for example, want to share your screen or present something to the candidate. You may even want them to present to you, in which case you must know how to guide them through the steps of doing so.
4. Test Your Speakers, Camera, and Microphone
"Can you hear me? Am I on mute? Is that better?”
Years into using video meeting software, people are becoming less forgiving with meetings starting this way. Test run your microphone, speakers, virtual background, lighting, ability to record, and any other settings that may be pertinent to the interview.
5. Tidy Up
Your background should be neutral and free of any clutter that may distract the candidate. Bear in mind, they are also judging your company as a potential employer based on the interview. If all they see is a messy office, you’ve not done the company’s employer brand a service.
6. Dress for Success
First impressions matter. It is important to represent the company, position, and yourself professionally. Dress business casual in neutral colors. An intricate pattern on your top may not translate well to video, especially if you also have a lot happening in the background.
Especially steer clear of bright colors and dizzying stripes.
7. Check Your Lighting
Before logging onto the interview, check what you and your environment look like on-screen. If you are directly in front of a light source or open window, it will make you appear silhouetted. If you have direct light on your face, it can create a glaring effect which the candidate will find distracting.
8. Use a Video Interview Tool That Integrates with Your Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
If your company is excited about enhancing their pre-screening and interviewing with video interviews, they are likely already set up with an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). To streamline and align, consider selecting a system that facilitates the integration of these systems.
As an example, SSR’s review of VidRecruiter indicates customers can “choose the modules they want and purchase them individually, or purchase the entire recruiting suite, inclusive of all modules, i.e. video interviewing, applicant tracking, skill assessments, scheduling, and more.” Don’t be afraid to let software enhance efficiency and compliance.
9. Avoid Background Bias
Those responsible for hiring in your organization likely have undergone diversity, equity and inclusion training. You may even have diversity hiring tools available. However, to ensure your virtual interviews are unbiased, interviewers should understand how background bias can show up here.
According to Everything Webinar, background bias influences hiring managers when they see into a candidate’s personal space, and notice things like dirty dishes, unmade beds, and unruly kids running around. Reinforce their “assess the message, not the mess” philosophy. Remember you are interviewing candidates for specific competencies. Unless their ability to wash dishes or tidy a bedroom is imperative to the job you’re hiring for, it’s none of your business.
10. Prepare Your Interview Questions
36% of candidates say well-prepared interviewers are a key to a positive candidate experience, according to Clovers. If you don’t have a set of competency-based questions for your open position, you can reference common interview questions from companies like Indeed.
Know what you want from the interview, and have a set list of questions that will cover it. It’s not the candidate’s job to lead the conversation.
11. Prepare Your Matrix and Scoring Regime
Similar to preparing your questions ahead of time, setting up a scoring matrix is important for candidate review. If you have multiple interviewers and/or rounds of interviewing, a scoring regime assists with more objective comparisons and avoiding bias.
According to Harvard Business Review, evaluators should score answers in real-time. “Evaluators who wait until the end of the interview to rate answers risk forgetting an early or less-vivid but high-quality answer or favoring candidates whose speaking style favors storytelling.”
If you haven’t developed a scoring sheet, reference one like Indeed’s. Templates are easy to customize for your specific vacancy. At the conclusion of interviewing candidates, tallying up the points will reveal if you have a strong front-runner or candidates that can be excluded from the next round of interviews immediately.
12. Set Expectations with Your Candidates
In an online interview, the candidate doesn’t need directions to your office. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t information to share ahead of time.
Share with your candidate the interview platform and whether they need to download anything prior to your meeting. Just like you, they will likely want to test the technology to ensure a great first impression. Also, let them know who they will be meeting with and provide a backup phone number in case there are technical issues on the meeting date.
7 Tips for Conducting a Great Video Interview
1. Be Compliant
If you will be recording the interview, get permission from the candidate
Different states have different requirements around video consent. But videotaping someone without their permission or knowledge is almost always illegal, according to Legal Beagle.
Resolve this by requesting a waiver. Or you can simply ask permission to record when you log on to meet your candidate. You likely won’t be distributing the video, but if you are, you should disclose this as well. Once the interviewee grants permission, you can press record and ask again so the consent is captured.
2. Ensure Your Virtual Interview Is Accessible
According to the Partnership of Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), accessibility-related challenges can impact the fairness and inclusiveness of digital interviews. People with disabilities may have a hard time hearing or seeing you online. Or they may need questions to be asked more than once and additional time to respond. When scheduling a virtual interview, the candidate should be asked if any accommodations are required.
When interviewing a person who is visually impaired, the image on their screen should be as clear as possible. Ensure you are sitting in a location with good lighting, a stable internet connection, and a neutral background that does not contain clutter. Also, ensure there is no distracting noise at your side of the conversation. A person with impaired sight may be highly dependent on the clarity of sound.
3. Avoid Compound Questions
Asking compound questions, or questions with more than one part, can make it hard for the candidate to respond. It can also make it hard for you to score the answer in your matrix.
For example, “tell me about a workplace challenge you faced, how you handled it, and why you handled it that way” is a lot to remember and respond to. Instead, consider asking about the challenge, and then follow up with the other inquiries as probing questions.
4. Give Candidates the Opportunity to Ask Questions
While you are interviewing to find your new employee, candidates are actually interviewing you as well. Is this the type of organization they want to work for? Is the position a good fit?
When mapping out the time allotted for your virtual interview, ensure you build in time for the candidate’s questions as well. They may want to know more about your company culture, what the day-to-day is like in this role, or what professional development looks like.
5. Continue to Set Expectations for the Candidate
You’ve set the expectations for the video interview. When the interview concludes, be clear about what the candidate can expect next.
Will your office contact them within a certain amount of time? Will there be a skills assessment? A second interview? What is the timeline for selection?
6. Don't Schedule Video Interviews Back-To-Back
Respect your candidate’s time and your own. Especially without having to commute, find parking, and navigate elevators and stairs, there is no great reason for being late to a video call. But it can easily happen if you log out of one as the next is about the start.
You can improve your chances of being on time if you do not schedule your interviews back-to-back. Allow yourself time to reset, use the restroom, and regroup before logging into the next meeting.
7. Look Professional
Your expectation of the candidate should also be your expectation of yourself. Be friendly, speak clearly, and maintain good posture and eye contact. Is what the candidate sees on their computer screen an impressive representation of the company? If you’ve not brought your A-game, you may lose out on great talent.
Tips for conducting video interviews from home
If you’re recruiting or working for a fully remote company, you’re likely interviewing candidates from your own house. Hard as it may be, the same professionalism you’d have in an in-person interview at an office must carry through.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings and Background
Think about your background and location when launching an online meeting. Is the background neutral to prevent “reverse” background bias?
Turn your camera on and look closely. Are there photos or reflections visible that could be considered inappropriate for work? Is the lighting good? Are the family members or a roommate at home you should remind not to walk around in their underwear?
Respect the Candidates’ Privacy
Your candidate may be guarded if they are concerned about other people within earshot, but offscreen. If there is someone else at home, use earphones to ensure only you can hear their responses.
Get Away From Background Noise
Sit in a part of your house where ambient noises, from the TV, the dog, or kitchen appliances, are not audible. Video interview software is fairly good at isolating sound, but a loud noise on your side can easily make the candidate lose their train of thought.
Tips for Hosting a Video Interview with Multiple Interviewers
It’s very common to have an interview panel of two or more people. You may want the direct manager for the role to be present, or another person from the hiring team there to give input. In a video call, it is always awkward when too many people share the mic. Here are some ways you can help the conversation run smoothly.
Assign Each Interviewer Questions They Are Responsible For
Collaborating with others who have a vested interest in or key knowledge about the open position can make for a fruitful interview and post-interview discussion. However, if you haven’t planned appropriately together, the conversation can be riddled with duplicative questions and confusion.
Prior to the interview, review the questions you each want to ask. Establish the order of questions and assign who will ask which question. Prioritize the list so you can honor each other’s most key questions you want to make sure are addressed.
Allow Time for Responses and Follow-up
You and your co-interviewer(s) should consider the length of the entire interview. And how many questions you have prioritized. What is the ideal amount of time allotted for each question to be answered? Does the math work so there is enough time for the candidate to answer the most key questions?
Assume your interview is set for 30 minutes. You are interviewing along with two colleagues. This would allow each of you 10 minutes to ask questions and receive responses. If the questions only allow for Yes/No answers, you may have the opportunity to ask more, but the answers you get may be less insightful. Alternatively, if one of you asks about a complicated scenario that requires a lengthy answer, time could expire.
It may be helpful to set a timer so that one person on the panel can’t inadvertently take up more than their share of the time.
One-way Video Interview Tips
Asynchronous interviews have an altogether different set of challenges to a live virtual meeting. These one-way video interview tips can help to ensure you get a valuable recording from each candidate.
Provide Clear Questions with the Time Length You Expect from an Answer
To ensure your candidates are successful, be clear about how much time they have to respond to each item.
Consider the popular question; “Tell me about yourself.” The response to this can range from their history since birth to a 40-second elevator speech. By indicating that the response should be no longer than two minutes, you are telling your candidate how much you want to know. Their ability to edit their story is also an opportunity for them to showcase their communication skills.
Include a Skills Test
Crafting your asynchronous interview questions so that you receive the information you need for scoring is important. So is testing their skills in this environment.
Review the role and whether Excel and Word proficiency testing would help you make a hiring decision. Does the employee need to think on their feet? If your video platform allows it, include an exercise or game that shows this. Do they need to be able to write and communicate well? Offer an assignment for them to complete that demonstrates this skill.
For more insight on conducting asynchronous interviews, have a look at our collection of one-way video interview tips.
The Best Video Interview Tools for Conducting Effective Virtual Interviews
To get the most out of video interviews, you need the right toolkit. Here are some essentials to consider:
Video Interview Software
Check out our buyer guide of the best interviewing platforms. Software perks to look out for include integration with your applicant tracking system (ATS), the ability to set up synchronous or asynchronous interviews, and affordable prices.
If you’re not ready to invest in a dedicated video interview tool, there are video conferencing apps like Zoom and Google Hangouts you can get for free. Keep the limitation of free software in consideration. Zoom, for example, puts a 40-minute time limit on calls for free users.
If you are using your laptop for doing in-person video interviews, you likely have a native webcam at your disposal. While this is fine, be sure the image is clear and focused. If you do a lot of video interviews, you may want to invest in a high-resolution webcam fit for purpose. The better you look, the more you support your company’s employer brand.
For the sake of the candidate’s privacy, and to limit distraction you may want to use headphones instead of speakers. Be mindful that large earphones will be highly visible to the candidate. Wireless earbuds are very discreet and effective. Just make sure they are charged before you log on.
Your internet connection can make or break the candidate’s experience of an in-person video interview. Make sure you are somewhere with a reliable, strong signal that won’t dip out on you and cause the video feed to freeze.
Video job interviews are convenient, efficient, and can create a better experience for both the hiring organization and the job seeker. There are certainly benefits to the different types of virtual interviews.
In the end, ensuring the process is equitable and that the benefits are applied evenly across the board is key. Tim Sackett, president of HRU Technical Resources, sums it up in this SHRM article. "I think if you are going to have virtual interviews, you have to put everyone through the same interview experience. If the first interview is virtual, all first interviews should be virtual. If you bring people in for an interview, all candidates should have the opportunity to have that in-person experience."
By leveraging technology correctly and fairly, we can ensure we have a great quality of hire walking into their new job each time we fill a role.