Video interviews: Technology presents advances and challenges

Nina Anderson

Many people who never used video conferencing software before the coronavirus pandemic have since become believers in the potential the technology offers for conducting business in a connected world.

Interviews, for example, constitute an ideal fit for video calls and have became more common as pandemic restrictions prevent in-person meetings. As with any technology, though, people face a bit of a learning curve in the beginning.

There’s plenty of common ground between video and in-person interviews. Most hiring managers are well-versed in the basics, like preparing a list of questions or turning off email notifications and text messages. With video interviews especially, there are a few tips to consider:

Give candidates plenty of time to prepare. Because of the immediacy of technology like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, it’s easy to start an impromptu video call with coworkers and colleagues any time you need to have a discussion. Once you decide you’d like to interview potential job candidates, set a specific date that allows them time to download any necessary technology, test their devices or make arrangements to conduct the interview from somewhere with more reliable internet. 

Have a plan B. No matter how much prep time is available, no technology is perfect. The potential for a breakdown is always there. Be sure to have a backup plan in case you get disconnected. Whether it’s a predetermined time to try again later or a phone number where you can be reached to continue the interview, let candidates know how to get back in touch if something happens.

Set a firm agenda. Video interviews can feel less formal than in-person interviews. It’s the nature of the medium. But don’t be tempted to just put it together on the fly. Set an agenda for the interview and what candidates can expect. The agenda can be simple, such as a bulleted list that includes such topics as introductions, job description and company overview. You could even email the agenda to candidates a few days in advance so you’ll all have a roadmap for navigating the video interview.

Remove distractions. Sure, distractions like email and texts apply just as much to video interviews as they do in-person interviews. But when you’re not in the office, there’s likely a whole new set of distractions to contend with you might not think about until it happens. One of the biggest is technology issues. If you’re having to pause the interview to adjust settings or figure out how to mute and unmute, it can not only be distracting, but also frustrating for candidates prepared to do their best. Surprise visits from kids and pets are always a possibility when interviewing by video from home, so be sure to find a place where you can lock yourself away from interruptions as best as possible.

Show some grace. Face-to-face interviews are stressful enough for candidates. Throw in the disadvantage of not physically being in the same room as the interviewer where it’s easier to read body language and facial expressions, and an interview becomes an even more awkward interaction. That’s especially true if the candidate has little experience with video conferencing. Take that into consideration, help them feel comfortable, let them know it’s just as awkward for you and to relax.