Video interviews: coming to a screen near you, by Gail McManus, Founder and Managing Director

27 July 2020 | Gail McManus, Managing Director

After being a lockdown necessity, they are set to become an essential part of recruitment processes going forward. Are you getting the best out of screen time with candidates?  

Video Interview

Interviewing for a role can be a stressful experience on both sides of the table. In a competitive recruitment market it’s not just the candidate who needs to impress; firms need to grasp this opportunity to demonstrate the values, culture and ambition that set them apart. They also need to make sure they are making the right hiring decision, selecting someone with the right skills and personality to make an impact in their team. The stakes are high at the best of times, let alone during lockdown when interviews have been taking place on screen and from home.  

 As we emerge from lockdown and head back to the office, it’s likely that video interviewing will continue to be used in at least some stages of the recruitment process primarily because it’s been found to be convenient and efficient for all parties. As such, it’s important that firms get it right. To find out how to deliver the best video interview experience, we surveyed candidates who had been through the hiring process during the coronavirus crisis and used these findings to prompt a discussion with firms that have continued with recruitment.  

 The main differences candidates noticed between in-person interviews and video interviews centred around some of the less tangible aspects of the experience. For instance, 73% felt they were less able to build rapport with their interviewer, 65% felt less able to make a good impression and 54% felt that energy levels during the interview were lower. Experienced investor relations professional and speaker coach, Cat Kipling, who led our discussion, pointed out that important aspects of the interview process are lost when we are not physically present and recommended that interviewers make a conscious effort to replicate these elements virtually.  

 Firstly, Cat explained the importance of what she called the “lift chat”. As you welcome a candidate into the office and lead them out after the interview, there’s often a light-hearted discussion of weather, traffic, how far they’ve travelled and other interpersonal questions. This chit chat may seem less relevant than the core discussion of skills and experience that constitute the interview, but it’s key to creating a connection and learning more about the candidate’s personality. Cat noted that, when online, you’re likely to get to the business of the interview too quickly and log off too soon, neglecting these crucial moments of bonding.  

 The physical walk through the office is also an opportunity for the candidate to take in the sights and sounds of a firm. The ambiance and the décor of a firm’s office, often designed to reflect the firm’s culture and portfolio mission statement, are all touchpoints that let a candidate know whether they want to work for your organisation. Over video, these visual cues need to be articulated in order to set the scene; Cat recommended that interviewers take the time to let candidates know about the working culture and the overarching aims of the organisation.  

 It’s widely believed that only 7% of communication is what you say, while 38% is how you say it and a massive 55% is what people see. When you can only be seen from the chest up, it’s important to make the most of facial expressions and hand gestures. In fact, candidates we surveyed said their interview experience would have been better if their interviewers were framed properly or if their faces were better lit. Cat reminded us of the value of a smile, saying it’s the closest thing we have to a traditional serotonin-releasing handshake right now, and said gestures made with open palms are good for reassuring our interlocuter that there’s no threat.   

 Candidates also commented on their interviewers’ levels of engagement; some even said interviewers seemed to be checking emails at points! Many of our attendees said it was difficult to take notes, either handwritten or typed, and be seen to react to everything on screen. Cat advised interviewers to explain that they would take notes at the beginning of the meeting and, even better, to use a raised platform for note taking so that they didn’t have to lower their heads. One attendee reminded us that, when interviewing as a panel, it was important to look engaged when a colleague is talking as the candidate could be focussing on anyone in the meeting at any time.  

 Opinion is split among firms and candidates as to whether a final decision about hiring or accepting a role can be made solely on the basis of video interviews. Some London-based firms told us that they have been conducting “Hyde Park” interviews, where a candidate who has performed well over video and in the case studies is invited to take a socially distanced stroll around the park with a Senior Partner. In this relationship-based business, they said it was difficult to pull the trigger on an entirely digital process. While some agreed that a personal meeting was crucial in the final stages, others said they would prefer to meet in person for the initial interview as they felt first impressions would help to filter through a long list of candidates.  

 Whether video interviews take place at the beginning or end of a process, everyone agrees that they are here to stay. If you’re conducting video interviews, take a moment to look through the comments our candidates have made about their experiences. You may also enjoy Cat Kipling’s podcast on effective video presentation.  

 As ever, our expert consultants are always here to chat. Get in touch if you’d like help ensuring your digital recruitment process is leading the field in the war for talent. 

About the author

Gail is the Managing Director and founder of PER, setting up the business in the late 1990s after a career in private equity at 3i.

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