COVID-19 has transformed every facet of talent management. Nowhere is this more true than the interview process. Interviewing is now a virtual experience — whether or not you were ready to recruit candidates via video.

A successful video interview requires a combination of skills and knowledge.

  • A mix of stuff you already know — like the importance of proper preparation
  • Things you’ll probably have to learn — like how to make the technology work best for you
  • Skills you may need to develop quickly — like creating a rapport without the possibility of a handshake or informal elevator chit-chat with candidates
  • The ability to recognize and remove bias

We hope to fill in the gaps so your next video interview is your best video interview.

Choosing a Video Interviewing Platform

Video interviewing tools for recruiters fall into two broad categories.

  • Tools built specifically for the recruiting process, whether for internal assessment or presentation to the client
  • General telecommunications tools that simply facilitate face-to-face conversation

If you plan to make video interviewing a permanent part of your process — and there are some very good reasons to do so — you may want to consider investing in a recruiting-specific video tool that integrates with your ATS.

If, on the other hand, you see video interviewing as a temporary alternative until face-to-face interviews can happen again, the low price of a general video conference tool may be the better option.

With social distancing restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, video interviewing isn’t just for fully-remote tech workers anymore. Top recruiters often conduct retained searches outside of their home market, making phone and video interviewing a necessity. Staffing firms, especially high-volume ones, may already be driving efficiency through a video-assisted interview process. And that’s only accelerating as the current pandemic drives the need to evolve.

So consider your audience. How tech-savvy are the candidates you interview? Are they likely to have the ability (or the time) to download special software to a home computer to make the interview possible? Do they even have a home computer?

While there are dozens of video communication and interview services, we’re highlighting these three to give you a sense of the options you’ll be choosing from.

Spark Hire

spark hire screenshot

Spark Hire aims to facilitate a smoother hiring process with easy-to-use interview collaboration and evaluation tools. Importantly, it also integrates with ATSs including Crelate’s. The service supports live interviews and candidate-recorded interviews.

Vidcruiter

vidcruiter screenshot

Vidcruiter focuses on maximizing the predictive value of interviewing with structured interviews. These interviews are built ahead of time with measurable candidate scores and metrics in an effort to eliminate bias in the hiring process. Candidates can pre-record answers to interview questions, saving screeners valuable time.

Zoom

zoom screenshot

The video conferencing tool, Zoom, rocketed into general public consciousness during the coronavirus pandemic. As of July 2020, Zoom permits unlimited one-on-one calling, and calls of up to 40 minutes for groups. Recording video calls, or adding company branding requires a paid monthly membership. Zoom does require an app download for all participants.

Setup and Candidate Communication for Video Interviews

Clear communication about video interview details and expectations will give candidates the best chance to succeed and shine in front of a hiring authority. “Same as you want your candidates to feel completely comfortable and at ease when they come to your office for an in-person interview, you want them to feel equally as comfortable in the online interview format,” says Marina Byezhanova, Co-Founder of the Montreal-based sourcing and recruitment firm Pronexia.

Byezhanova suggests sending a best practices checklist to a candidate ahead of the call that includes everything they need to do to prepare for the interview. Many of the best external recruiters will do this already to set up a candidate for a successful in-person hiring manager interview, so parts of this list should look familiar. A video interview checklist would include information to ensure success, such as:

  • The time and planned duration of the interview
  • The names and titles of the interviewers
  • Details about any necessary downloads to make the call
  • Suggestions for setting up a professional video call space in their home (see below)
  • Information about how to test their setup ahead of time

Video platforms designed for recruiters also aim to be as simple as possible for candidates. Spark Hire, for instance, works right in a web browser. Candidates don’t need to download an app like they might for general services like Zoom or Skype.

How to Prepare for a Video Interview

The team at Abbey Placements, a staffing service based in Bloomington, Ill., has one firm rule for video interviewing. “Make sure you have an account established with the video service of choice for all of your recruiters and train them on how to use it,” they write in a recent blog post. “Your team should know what they’re using and how to use it, and be consistent.”

Details like testing your computer for compatibility, making sure you have your password at hand, and having the right audio technology, should be done well before you schedule any video interviews.

Other than that, prepare as you normally would. Make sure you anticipate what the candidate will want to know about the opportunity, and have a game plan for identifying factors that will make them successful in the role.

How to Conduct a Video Interview

A video interview will be successful if you use all of the interviewing best practices you’ve already learned from phone and in-person interviews, to both assess a candidate and get them excited about the job opportunities you have for them. Here’s how.

Make Sure You Appear Professional

A candidate’s impression of your video setup will be no less important than their impression of your office for an in-person interview.

However, our indoor spaces aren’t set up as video studios, so we sometimes have to do a little work to make them look professional.

“Strongly consider switching to a non-swivel chair and adjust your camera so your face is lower,” says office etiquette expert Jodi RR Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “The camera looking down at you is a better angle for most people.”

Video Interview Tips

Remove any potential distractions, such as kids, pets, and any notifications you might get on your screen or your phone.

Make sure the primary light source in the room is in front of you, not behind you. A lamp or bright window behind you will have the effect of washing out your face, making it difficult or even uncomfortable for the candidate to look at you.

If you can’t set up lamps or other lighting fixtures in front of you, you may want to consider investing in a ring light that mounts to your computer monitor.

If you are doing the video call from home, create a work-appropriate background for your call. Watch out for any mirrors in the screen that could show parts of the room you don’t want the candidate to see.

Dress professionally, from top to bottom. The temptation with work from home calls is to wear a professional upper half of your body, but more casual on the lower half. But what happens if you have to get up to deal with an unexpected knock on the door?

Facilitate and Encourage Nonverbal Communication

You may be wondering — do I even need to have my camera on? I’m the one assessing the candidate, not the other way around. The answer is an absolute yes, because of the importance of nonverbal communication.

The candidate needs to be able to see your reactions and body language as they speak. Seeing the nonverbal cues that we all rely on in conversation will give them a level of comfort they simply won’t have in a “one-way mirror” type of interaction.

“Do your best to occasionally look directly into the camera (as opposed to the screen) to mimic in-person eye contact,” says Rebecca Stusser, Recruiter for the San Francisco-based software company ClickTime. “If you plan to look away from the camera, do your best to explain why. For example, if you are using two monitors, or are taking notes at your desk, you may want to point that out. Otherwise, when you look away from the camera, you may give the impression that you’re tuning out.”

Pay Attention to Body Language

Why do we even have in-person interviews? One main reason is simply to gauge the energy that a candidate brings to personal and professional interactions as expressed through body language.

“We make a first impression judgment based upon the (candidate’s) body language and handshake while making small talk as we walk from the reception area to the interview space,” says Smith. “Now that handshake is nonexistent and we need to create a comfortable atmosphere to enhance rapport through the screen.”

For leadership positions, this is critical. If hired, the candidate is the embodiment of an entire company or large organization within a company. As they interact with internal and external stakeholders, their nonverbal cues will be noticed and reflect on the company as a whole.

So it may make sense to build in some unstructured time within the call to try to build that rapport. Have the candidate take you on a virtual tour of their home office, for instance, or spend time discussing common interests.

Use the Skills You’ve Already Developed on Phone Interviews

Some of you out there have conducted thousands of phone interviews, perfecting your ability to assess a candidate’s talents and interest while also enhancing their interest in the job opportunity. These skills are transferable to video interviews as well.

Active Listening

In some ways, being an active listener will be easier via video. You’ll be able to see nonverbal cues that help you see when a person is confused and needs clarification or is winding down their answer. However, you’ll also need to deliberately exhibit nonverbal cues yourself (like using open body language and showing attentiveness) when the candidate is speaking. And remember that there can be slight delays in video calls. Leave a little bit of breathing room for the candidate’s answers.

Targeted Questions and Key Follow-ups

Nothing changes in terms of the information you’re hoping to get from and give to candidates. You’ll still be developing questions to identify whether the candidate has the right skills, experience, and attitude for the position. Being able to see the candidate may give you a better sense for when a question confuses or surprises them. You may be able to help them get back on track.

Generating Enthusiasm in the Candidate

One of the hardest tasks for a recruiter can be getting a sought-after candidate interested in a specific opportunity. It’s not enough for you to show enthusiasm, you have to figure out a way to get them interested, too. Mostly it’s doing your homework and understanding the candidate’s situation and personality. The words (and how you say them) are the most important thing, and that doesn’t change from phone to video. But your body language will be telling a story, too. So will your surroundings. Do you have the company or client logo on a mug? Maybe set that on your desk as a subtle message about desirable culture.

Video: It’s Probably Here to Stay, So Experiment and Embrace It

Today’s top recruiters compete not just for requisitions, but in creating the best possible candidate experience. Wow your candidates with state-of-the-art technology, and they are more likely to seek you out during their next job search. Frustrate them with clunky or laggy experience, and they’re more likely to look elsewhere.

When you’re able to meet a candidate in person, you admittedly can do a lot more to make the experience unique, whether it’s ordering a nice spread of food, or a private tour of the office.

As we write this, the spread of the new coronavirus has made in-person interviewing downright dangerous. But the experience of holding video interviews by necessity may make some skeptical hiring authorities embrace the concept. And during the ensuing economic recovery, in-person interviews may be seen as cost prohibitive. Bottom line, it’s time to prepare for video interviewing as a long-term shift.

As you embark on more and more video interviews, consider what you can do to deliver a consistently fantastic candidate experience. Should you be thinking about creating a video-specific interview studio? Should you create on-screen branding or even adopt a private label service? What would it mean for your organization to have the absolute best video interviewing experience?

From our vantage point today, it’s entirely possible that video interviews will be the main contact point between recruiters or hiring managers and candidates before an offer. You’ll want to make sure that you’re ahead of the curve, not behind it.