Blog: Essential tips for a successful video interview
Wednesday, 6 May 2020
James Irwin is a Director at Irwin & Colton, a specialist health, safety and environment recruitment company. In this blog he shares his top tips for video interviews…
Businesses are currently having to adapt at lightning speed with many turning to technology and video calls like never before. Nowhere is this video technology more useful and fitting than with the interview process. Although there are many benefits from video interviews there are also pitfalls which need to be carefully navigated, by both candidates and interviewers for these to be successful.
We have outlined four key points which are critical to a successful video interview, allowing companies to avoid missing out on the most talented candidates and candidates missing out on the top jobs.
Test, test, & test again
Just as the train will no doubt be severely delayed on the way to the interview, video technology will likely play up on the morning of the video interview. Just as a last-minute run to the front door of an office will leave a late candidate hot, sweaty and likely not able to find their groove in the interview, technology issues will have the same effect.
The way to overcome this is simple. Test the technology, in an interview condition, as many times as possible. (It is essential you test this on the same device you will be using for the interview.) This testing will iron out as many of the foreseeable potential hiccups as possible. Being much more comfortable with the technology will also make sure you are much more likely to seamlessly create a solution if an unexpected problem does arise.
It is just as important for interviewers to make sure they are on top of this technology as candidates to ensure they portray a professional image of the organisation just as they would if it were a face to face meeting.
The most common mistakes are making sure the camera and microphone are on and pop ups are blocked. These are fairly simple to get right in the office however the homework environment is dynamic and is often under attack from pets, kids and life going on in the background!
Everyone is aware that getting presentation right is a fundamental requirement for a successful face to face interview and it goes without saying it is also critical for a video interview. However, with a video call this is more complex as you not only have your presentation to think about but also how you appear on camera and your background.
Personally, I feel it is best to take any variables out of the equation and I would recommend ‘blurring’ the background. This function is available on most video calls these days. However, if you feel this is not for you I would not recommend a completely blank wall as it looks very sterile and in the same vein I would steer away from anything too personal and too cluttered.
For candidates, what to wear in the video call is more difficult to judge as the rules for a face to face interview are fairly well known however on video calls most people tend to be slightly more informal. I would personally always err on the side of formality and generally dress as you would for a face to face interview. As tempting as it is to only dress formally from the waist up I would strongly recommend going the whole hog, if you dress smart you will feel smart and will interview well.
Lighting and positioning
Lighting is really important to get right. A simple rule of thumb is to have the lighting in front of you and not behind, cameras will often focus on the brightest light so if this is behind you it will focus on that and you will be out of focus. Keep the lighting at the same level as you and not from above as this will cause shadows. Most people don’t have the luxury of a professional home lighting set up! However, try and be creative with lighting and as mentioned above test and test again to get this right.
The position of the camera is also really important to get right. Try to avoid an iPhone on the table pointing directly up at you and always try and keep the camera just above your eye line. Regardless of the angle don’t sit too close to the camera.
Keep it structured yet personal
The goal for the interview is to measure the candidate against the criteria of the role and ultimately select the best person for the job. The use of video technology is still new to many people and as a result is likely to cause some level of anxiety and stress. It is important this is reduced as much as possible so the real work of assessment can take place.
One key way to achieve this is for the interviewer to clearly outline the structure of the interview prior to the video call. The more information the better, format of questions, how long this is expected to be and who will be on the video call. Full information on the format being used (EG Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and perhaps sharing hints and tips on overcoming any problems others have had with these formats). Reiterating the format and structure at the start of the interview will help to settle any nerves and allow candidates to perform well. It is also a good idea to have swapped phone numbers prior to the video call as a back-up.
It is also essential for both sides to keep the video call as personal as possible. Critical to this are eye contact, smiling and nodding. It is very tempting to look at your own face in the corner video or out of the window. However, even if this is a momentary glance it will likely cause a loss of personal connection. Smiling and nodding are also really important, as other visual clues as to how the interview is going are taken away there is much more emphasis on these.
Also, be aware of non-conscious habits such as touching your face as these will be magnified on a video call. Again, practice and testing will allow you to work on these.
Finally, most people are in an environment they did not plan for and expect. Interviewing from your spare bedroom for your dream job was not likely in your masterplan. Nor was conducting four consecutive 1st stage interviews from the living room with 3 kids in the house! As we all grapple with technology and the new norms things will go wrong, the 3-year-old will pop their head around the corner, the dog will bark and the wi-fi will go down.
One positive which seems to be emerging through this crisis is that we are all giving each other a break. Don’t get too worried if these things happen to you or the other person – we are all human and doing our best, laugh them off, smile and move on. Finally good luck, keep well and stay safe!
James Irwin is a Director at Irwin & Colton, a specialist health, safety and environment recruitment company.
This blog is part of our Do Something Great: Your Health and Safety Career series. Find out more about the campaign and download your free career guide today.