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Eight Tips to Make Video Interviews a Successful Part of Your Recruitment Strategy

Managers are under pressure during any interview. But their task is even more difficult when the conversation takes place on video—whether it’s through Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, or some other tool. 

When setting up video sessions, you have to be ready to direct the conversation, and you must consider things like where you’re sitting, your body language, and using a technology that is often simple to use, but can get cranky or crash just like any other.

Despite a few drawbacks, however, video offers employers real advantages. Among them, it can speed time to hire and allow companies to cast a wider net by connecting with candidates in distant locations. Even for local professionals, video offers the chance to have a conversation that feels more personal than a telephone interview, without having to invest a lot of time to coordinate an on-site visit.

To Make It Work, Plan Ahead

Conducting a successful video interview requires more than interviewing skills. Being prepared to handle the technical and “staging” issues make all the difference to the quality of the conversation you have, as well as to the candidate’s perception of your company. When a video conversation runs smoothly, your organization looks technically adept and forward-thinking.

If you’ve never conducted a video interview before, be sure to consider the following points. We’ll assume you’re using Skype, but they apply to many other services, as well.

• Think strategically about where you’ll sit during the interview. Ideally, book a conference room or private office where there will be a minimum of distractions for both you and the candidate. Don’t interview from your cubicle, where there’s bound to be background noise and people walking around behind you. Pick a space that will allow you to focus on the conversation.

• Get comfortable with the camera, the technology, and your surroundings. First and foremost, test everything ahead of time. Make sure you know how to set up the camera and connect with the candidate. Confirm that the lighting works—you want the candidate to clearly see your face, not a blurry silhouette. 

• Decide in advance how you’re going to arrange whatever supporting materials you’ll need—such as the candidate’s resume or work samples —and where you’re going to put them. Fumbling around to find something is magnified when it happens on screen.

• Rehearse. Go through the process of setting up, organizing yourself, and having a video conversation before the actual interview. Nothing looks worse than someone stumbling around trying to make their lighting work or framing their camera while the other person waits, and waits, for the interview to begin. 

• Prepare for the worst case. You and the candidate should connect your Skype IDs in advance and be sure you have each other’s telephone numbers so you can talk if the network fails or Skype crashes. Also have the phone numbers of your tech support people handy, in case you need help. If the video does fail, reach out to the candidate right away. Otherwise, you’ve essentially blown them off, which never speaks well of an employer.

• Leverage all of Skype’s features. Skype allows you to do more than just talk. For example, you can share links and screens to conduct live online tests and coding exercises to see how candidates work interactively. As a result, you expedite the recruiting process by avoiding the need to block out time for the candidate to visit the office and run through the exercises in person. 

• Be aware of how you appear on camera. For example, it's easy to slump when you're sitting in front of a computer, so focus on your body language. Make eye contact by looking at the webcam and not the monitor so candidates will see you looking at them directly. Lean forward and nod while you talk so the candidate can see that you’re engaged. You need to be much more aware of your body language on video than you would be during an in-person interview.

• Be creative. Skype can be used for more than one-on-one interviews. A team can conduct round robins, for example, by setting up webcams in multiple rooms and having hiring managers and team members rotate through to interview several candidates during the same time period. This is another way of streamlining the process and coming to hiring decisions more quickly. 

Companies offering video interviews set themselves apart. Besides demonstrating that a company is technically adept, video interviews send the message that the candidate’s experience matters. After all, speed, distance, and convenience are as important to your prospective hire as they are to you and providing these amenities to your candidates improves their experience and your company’s reputation.