Are you ready for video interviews?

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It’s 2011 and I think we’ve all accepted the fact that the reality of the new millennium is significantly different from what science fiction films and novels promised us. “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” “The Jetsons” – all lies. Sure, we’ve made technological leaps that are quite stunning if you think about them (e.g., smartphones, cloud-based storage, GPS), but I haven’t defied gravity once. Believe me, I’ve tried.

However, E-mail and Internet access have made working remotely easier for many professions and significantly  changed our personal and professional lives. Video conferences and Skype have made virtual meetings possible for workers located throughout the globe. Now, that technology is showing up earlier in the workplace: during the job interview. Many organizations are now using video interviews to hire candidates in lieu of old-fashioned in-person meetings.

Why use video?
You might wonder, “Have we become so lazy that we can’t even get in a car and drive to an interview anymore?” But job interviewers aren’t turning to video out of laziness. They have come to realize that video interviews offer benefits for both the company and for the job seeker, and convenience is only one of them.

Recently, CareerBuilder began offering a tool for companies to use online video interviews. One primary advantage is that the interview makes it possible for both parties (the interviewer and the interviewee) to accommodate their own schedules. The company decides what questions to ask all job seekers and puts them in the video interview package. At the applicant’s convenience, he or she can open up the video interview module, record responses and submit them. They don’t need to wait for a meeting that suits both schedules.

Another positive side effect is that every interview is the same. This means that you don’t have to worry about an interviewer who is in a bad mood or who is preoccupied with a meeting she’s having in an hour. For an organization, this also means no interviewer is asking illegal questions that could get them in trouble.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 6 percent of employers used video interviews in 2010, but 11 percent plan to do so in 2011. In other words, this is a trend that’s finally taking off.

The basic of video interviews
Because video interviews are beginning to pop up in job searches and they’ll continue to grow in the coming years, we wanted to give you some tips that will put you ahead of other job seekers. To get insight on how a job seeker should approach a video interview, we talked to Jennifer Flaa, the CEO of Vettanna ToGo, an organization that teaches people how to present themselves comfortably on camera for interviews, video conferences and media appearances.

“Video communicates a whole lot more than you think, and it’s all subtle,” Flaa explains. “We’ve been educated by Hollywood that certain camera angles and certain lighting conditions communicate qualities: hero, villain, anxiety, confidence, confusion, intimacy and aloofness.  The majority of people believe that it’s their words that are communicating, but remember [that] a picture — in this case video frame — is worth a thousand words.”

According to Flaa, video interviewees make three common mistakes that are detrimental to their presentation:

1. Not knowing where to look
“If your eyes are darting around, the interviewer perceives that as ‘being shifty’ behavior or that you are unfocused; just as they would if you were doing that in an in person interview,” Flaa warns. “If you look at the computer screen, the interviewing manager is looking at your forehead, or up your nose, depending on the angle.”

Eye contact still matters, only now it’s between you and a lens instead of a pair of eyes.

“When you are talking, look directly into the camera lens — the little black dot on the computer,” Flaa explains. “Prop your camera up so that the camera lens is eye level, then you will look like you have good eye contact with your interviewer.”

If you’re on a live video interview and the interviewer begins talking, or you’re being asked a question through a prerecorded presentation, then you can look at the screen.

“It’s the eye contact that establishes the connection with your interviewer. It lets them really get an accurate sense of who you are and most importantly, it conveys confidence.”

2. Forgetting to clean up your space
“Video is visual, so everything in the frame communicates and the visuals are louder than your words,” she reminds. Flaa says that she has some seen some interested objects in the background of job applicants, including a table full of beer bottles, a pile of dirty laundry and a roommate enjoying a beer while watching TV. On the flip, she’s also seen the exact opposite background, which can be just as damaging.

“An executive [had] a huge, empty, white room behind him with no furniture or art on the walls. That was incongruous with the successful image he was trying to present,” she explains.”

3. Location, location, location
“If you are too close to the camera, that’s too intimate — or “Blair Witchy” — for the interviewer. If you are so far away from the camera that the interviewer can see all or most of your body (head to toe), that doesn’t work either [because that] is perceived as you being ‘closed off’, aloof or keeping people at arm’s length,” Flaa says.

The importance of practicing
Flaa suggests three simple ways to practice that improve your video performance and that anyone can do at home.

1. Find a way to relax
“Take a deep breath, sink into your seat, sit up straight then imagine talking to a good friend instead of an authority figure.”

2.  Skype your friends
“Get on Skype with a friend and use a recorder,” Flaa advises. “Have your friend ask you some sample questions (e.g., “Tell me about yourself,” “What’s your greatest accomplishment?”). Then review the video.”

3. Go it alone
“You can even work by yourself with the camera so that you get used to being yourself while looking at the camera and not getting any visual feedback cues from a viewer,” she says.

Some things never change

Video interviews are new to the hiring process, and there are a few differences, but ultimately the fundamentals are the same. Bad body language and careless presentation can wreck a traditional interview just as quickly as a video interview.

According to Flaa, you need to be yourself because you still want to project an authentic representation of you, a potential employee. No one wants to hire the fake applicant who is saying all the right things but doesn’t mean a single one of them.

“Being self conscious is your number one enemy,” she explains. “It makes you nervous and it makes you act fake. Think about the questions, think about the other person, or imagine you are talking to a good friend who is nodding and agreeing with everything you say.”

If you’ve been through a video interview, let us know how it went. Do you think video interviews are going to make interviewing easier and less stressful for job seekers?

29 Comments
  1. Are there any practices or recommendations to following up on a job at a new company when your resume was submitted internally by an existing employee?

    • Absolutely. I receive referrals all the time. I always request a resume so if you already have one in place then by all means, give the recruiter a call and express your interest in speaking at a convenient time regarding the position. Recruiters are happy to hire (usually) from a referral, that means the candidate is already favorably familiar with the company.

  2. Regarding the use of video in the interview process, I would like to take this one step further.
    Would it be an advantage when applying for a position on line to also attach a video clip of introduction and your executive summary?

    Thanks…..Jon

    • I would very much like to receive a video clip, but only if the candidate is qualified for the position. It seems to me that the only time I receive a photo of a candidate is when they are not qualified but feel their looks will get them an interview. I am here to tell you…I have received resumes from former beauty queens as well as former professional athletes. I’m not in the business of interviewing simply to see someone. If you don’t qualify for the job, don’t bother applying. But if you do…please feel free to attach a video clip or even a picture.

  3. The video interview is an efficient and cost effective way to meet perspective candidates. This tool is especially helpful when interviewing candidates that do not live in the area, for example, it would be very effective when meeting potential interns attending colleges throughout the midwest. It is a great resource to utilize for the interview process.

  4. I really appreciated being able to participate in a video online interview as a first step. I especially liked my ability to practice several questions and review them prior to beginning the actual recorded interview. Although I had never participated in one before, I did think favorably of the company that incorporated this new technology as I believe it’s an efficient means of narrowing down the field of candidates. I think online video interviewing will definitely become the norm in the future as companies and candidates both benefit.

  5. You mean, HR departments are going to stop using Starbucks and the Barnes and Noble cafe as a place to conduct their annoying interviews? I’m all for that.

    I think that this is dreadful. People should rebel and sit in a dark room with a flashlight shining in their face from below during the video interview.

    They should hire an actor who looks PERFECT and respectable to perform the interview. Then, when the real person shows up for the job, if HR says, “You look different from your video” the person should say, “It must have been the lighting.”

    An initial phone interview is the way to go. That way, it is based on the quality of what is said and not on if the person was standing in a white room with no furniture or if they are fat as Jabba The Hut. Seriously, this is like letting people rummage around your house just to get a job.

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  7. Personally, – that’s a word not found in the job interviewing process — nobody leaves a name when they send you an email letting you know they received your email application and resume — no, they make sure to tell you “Do Not Reply to this Email” — wouldn’t want human interaction now would we? Then I get a call from a recruiter asking me if I am still interested in the job and would I want to do a phone interview — sure, (I grab my folder with the job description, my resume, references,etc ..) and then she says “what would be a good time” and I’m like … now’s good…..”no no I’m leaving to go home and — how about next week at the end of the week (8 days later!) at 3pm? So I say sure – what am I supposed to say? The only thing personal was that I got her name and phone number (code for voicemail) … What has happened to the human element of being human resources???

    • LARock – I understand your frustration with the lack of “personal” communication you have received in your job search. However, as a corporate recruiter, I will defend the “do not reply” emails and appointment setting for phone interviews. I work on a high volume of open positions with each open position receiving at least 50 and sometimes up to 300 applications. While I would like to personally respond to every applicant, doing so is not feasible. Additionally, I respect a candidate’s and my own time enough to schedule a meeting time where each party is able to be properly prepared. We work as quickly and efficiently as possible to fill every position. However, this process does take time and necessitates that only the MOST qualified candidates are personally contacted.

      Next time you have to wait 8 days for a phone interview – please be as understanding as possible and grateful that you received a call at all. The competition is still out there in this economy and a negative attitude is easily detected, even over the phone.

  8. “The company decides what questions to ask all job seekers and puts them in the video interview package. At the applicant’s convenience, he or she can open up the video interview module, record responses and submit them”

    That part sounds pretty lame. How do you get a feel for someones personality, demeanor if they’re just answering a list of questions? So I send em questions then, after 3 hours of research, maybe four takes, with notes right in front of them, then send me a response?

    At least I can eliminate the fat people right away huh.

  9. I use video interviews quite often as I am interviewing potential sales reps all over the country. One of the basic things I see is the way the candidate dresses and acts. It seems that a few of the candidates feel more relaxed and might not act as professional as they would in a face to face. That is a detriment to the candidate. I never pre-interview them with a list of questions, however, when the video interview occurs they have already been through 2 telephone interviews with me. So I’m not interviewing at random, I’m video interviewing those candidates that have made the cut to face to face. I feel like it helps me to continue the interview process and keep the flow going, especially if we are going to be a week or more out prior to the face to faces. I also feel like it helps establish the connection between myself and my company and the candidate by showing them a person and being able to connect prior to the interviews for hire.

  10. I can definitely see video interviews becoming more prominent, especially since the ways in which employers are assessing the skills, talents, values, and environmental preferences of prospective employees are becoming more and more sophisticated.

    I’m delivering more and more coaching for clients via video, along with training. It’s a preference for clients, so I think many will feel more comfortable with this method of delivery during interviews in the time ahead.

    My latest (free) offering to clients and readers of my blog is an online video series looking at the best & worst ways of searching for a job: http://www.vitalvocation.com – I’m even getting video responses from viewers!

  11. “I never pre-interview them with a list of questions, however, when the video interview occurs they have already been through 2 telephone interviews with me. So I’m not interviewing at random, ”

    Seriously? 2 phone interviews, then a video? Then what? 2 on site interviews? Exploratory surgery?

  12. No question the future of the hiring process will involved video – it just makes sense. It will likely be video interviewing, but the technology won’t be right for a couple years. Remember whencell phones were new how many dropped calls (AT&T still does) you had? Same holds true for video interviewing. This technology needs time to mature, therefore I’d suggest creating a video interview (e.g. TalentRooster.com). Answer questions specific to the job for which you are interviewing. The hiring manager can still see and hear you, and no one has to worry about dropping the connection or pixelation. Good luck in your search!

  13. The drawback with video resumes often is that hiring managers don’t have time to look at them. They dedicate only a few minutes to each resume and probably less to a video resume. With video interviewing the hiring manager has already determined they have some interest in the candidate since they have already seen the resume and can then ask specific questions to that candidate. Since every candidate is answering the same question, the interviews are more structured. Products like: http://www.icandidatescreener.com allow the candidate to interview themselves on their own time so the hiring manager does not have to deal with scheduling hassles and dropped connections.

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