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Video interviews: What you need to know (Hint: Lose the PJs, wear a suit)

11/14/2013

Video interviewingVideo interviews are becoming an increasingly popular and cost-effective method for recruiters to conduct interviews when face-to-face meetings aren’t feasible.

For students, video tools help them overcome distance barriers when interviewing for internships and post-graduation jobs. They can use video interviews with companies when travel isn’t feasible or when they are studying abroad during recruiting season.

Career experts estimate that 20 percent of people are being screened for jobs through video interviews, said Sharon Cannon, management communication professor at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Some companies use Skype or Google Hangouts to conduct interviews. Professional platforms like Adobe Connect and Cisco’s wall-to-wall Telepresence system are becoming increasingly common in business communication, so Cannon emphasizes the need to know the ins and outs of video conferencing technology for new graduates and working professionals alike.

One tactic used by firms is to distribute a list of questions and have candidates record their responses on a web platform that recruiters can return to later and share with colleagues.

Ryan Ramsey (BSBA ’14) underwent a video screening process last year for Nike Inc.’s 2013 summer internship program. During the first round of interviews, Nike used the platform HireVue, which presented Ramsey with a series of questions and gave him 15 to 30 seconds for each answer.

“For Nike, which would have had to fly me to Portland or send someone here, it’s a huge asset,” Ramsey said. “They can send this along to anyone in the company and rewind, fast-forward, see what they want to see and throw it to the next person.”

But not all employers are keen on adopting the technology just yet, said David Vogel (MBA ‘99), associate director for career development and employer relations for the Undergraduate Business Program. “I had two conversations just this week where employers were very interested in accessing our GLOBE students and when I asked the question of whether they were willing to use Skype, they said that they were not. Some companies are just not accustomed to it or the people who do the interviews themselves aren’t comfortable with it.”

Here are a few best practices to help ace a video interview.

Before the interview

Prepare your technology. “It can really throw things off if you’re already on-screen and you’re spending five to seven minutes adjusting the audio or fiddling with your headphones,” said Shawnice Meador, director of career management and leadership development for MBA@UNC.

Ensure the camera shows your upper body, including arms and hands if possible, to allow the interviewer to interpret your body language and non-verbal cues.

Also, if the technology doesn’t allow you to see the other person’s body language, be aware. “You can unintentionally cut someone off when you can’t see their body language,” Meador said. “It can be a bit of a turn off for an interviewer if you’re interrupting, even if you’re not doing it on purpose.”

Prepare for the worst. Establish a backup plan in advance of the interview, such as providing a contact phone number or setting up a chat room in the background, in the event of technical difficulties. Doing so could save the interview.

“If you run into issues – like losing video connectivity – keep going using audio only because you’re already in the interview mode,” Meador said. “Stay focused and calm and keep the process going.”

During the interview

Clear your environment. This is relatively simple when using a platform like UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Cisco Telepresence, which is designed to match every detail of the mirrored environments down to the wall and desk color. But when interviewing from home or a busy environment, make sure the room is well-lit and the background is as plain as possible, free of passing roommates, noisy pets and other distractions. 

Dress for the part. Actually wear a suit – an entire suit, for that matter, said Vogel. “This might sound funny, but some people feel they can just wear business attire on the top and pajamas or whatever on the bottom. It’s to help get in the mindset of a real interview, because that’s exactly what it is. It’s not something to be taken lightly.” 

“Do the dance.” Try to answer the question in an average time frame of two minutes, said Meador, and finish responses with phrases like, “I hope that answered your question. If you would like more details, please let me know.” Nerves often drive interviewees to go off on tangents, so use time wisely. Short answers keep the interview dynamic and allow the best opportunity to cover a number of topics with the interviewer.

Structure your answers. Keep a notebook out of the camera’s field of vision to aid with the organization of answers, said Meador, but be wary of looking away too frequently to avoid distracting the interviewer. In Ramsey’s experience, breaking responses into chunks using the STAR approach – situation, task, action and result – helps structure a thorough answer in a short period of time.

After the interview

Shut it down. Shut down the system as soon as you’re done with the interview to figuratively “leave the room.”

Give thanks. Thank each person via email or snail mail just as you would in a traditional interview. Formalities still apply.

Use campus resources. UNC Kenan-Flagler offers an assortment of resources to prepare students before and after video interviews.

  • The Undergraduate Business Program offers a career foundations class, “Interviewing and Action.” It plans to integrate video training into the curriculum in the future.
  • Tech support personnel at UNC Kenan-Flagler and University Career Services can loan students pre-configured rooms in which to conduct interviews. Save costs by using otherwise expensive resources like Adobe Connect directly through the University for free.
  • Download an app such as Skype and get acquainted with University platforms like Adobe Connect, which students in the MBA@UNC program use during live classes with professors, project discussion meetings with classmates, and one-on-one career management and leadership development sessions with staff.