As HR budgets are slashed and technology improves, more and more recruiters and hiring managers are turning to video interviews to conduct that first critical “face-to-face” encounter. Whether you are the interviewer or the interviewee, success or failure may very well hinge on preparation. Consider these tips before you cue Mr. DeMille:
1. Equip. First, if your computer does not come equipped with a high quality Webcam, select one that is designed for business purposes. Many of the high-end models come packed with extra features that are particularly desirable in an interview scenario such as stereo microphones and video recording capabilities. This is not the place to skimp, for whether you are conducting the interview or the one in the hot seat, first impressions matter, and poor audio or video quality will be strikes against you. Next, if you are the interviewer, invest in the premium version of the business video conferencing program of your choice. Both Skype and ooVoo, for example, have group conferencing capabilities that allow multiple participants to share screen time at once (think “Brady Bunch”). This feature comes in handy during a group or team interview, giving all participants a face with the name, and helping the interviewee distinguish whose voice is who.
2. Test. Ten minutes before show time is not the best time to make sure that all systems are go, on either side of the equation. If you are conducting the interview, conduct a practice run with a colleague to ensure that both your video and audio quality are projecting the type of professional image you desire. Additionally, as a courtesy to your interviewee, give him/her ample time to prepare, providing hardware and software requirements well in advance. Those being interviewed should test not only their equipment, but their interview setting, as well. Often interviewees will conduct their interviews from home, and forget that a mirror revealing their business attire is only from the waist up, a framed photo of that infamous 70’s streaking incident, or just a very messy office are right behind them for all to see. A blank wall is the best (and least incriminating) backdrop.
3. Practice. How do you come across on camera? Do you naturally sit up straight, speak clearly and eloquently, and know exactly where to position your Webcam to minimize your double chin? Again, a video interview is often the first visual impression, and a little practice beforehand can help you polish your act and put your best face forward. Video interview participants may forget that every move, gesture, and expression are picked up and transmitted. If you’re a gum chewer, a hair twirler, or possess some other less than desirable unconscious habit, a practice session is critical to your success on camera. Enlist the help of a colleague or friend to critique your appearance, your presentation, and the overall impression that comes out on the other side.
Personal note: I learned #2 the VERY hard way when I realized five minutes before a group call that my laptop did not support something or other, and I was expected to participate in a group video chat with a new client. Turns out they could see me, but I couldn't see them. For 45 solid minutes I stared at a blank screen and attempted to nod, smile, and look somewhat intelligent based on audio cues alone - it was not my finest hour!