Though the ability to conduct online interviews have been available for quite some time, in-person meetings have remained the norm because of the benefits of meeting someone face-to-face can bring. Meeting candidates in person rather than by phone or an email has long allowed the interviewer to gauge more easily their personality, cultural fit and values – and though the same information can be gleaned via a video chat, adapting to an entirely online system comes with its own set of challenges.
According to Yuji Nozaki, Senior Director of the Japan Desk for RGF Executive Search Singapore, hiring managers can have a more productive interview, by asking candidates to prepare questions or presentations that highlight their skills and talent in advance. “However, it is also important to set clear expectations with the candidates by confidently elaborating about the company, as well as clearly lay out job expectations,” Nozaki said.
If you are new to conducting online interviews, here are some general tips to help you better prepare for engaging with and evaluating potential candidates when you’re working remotely:
1. Find the right spot to have the interview:
Just like at the office, it’s important to conduct the interview in a place that is free of any distractions, such as unwanted noise or cluttered home office and bedroom space. Choose a neat space with good lighting, and do your best to reduce the possibility of interruptions by family members or pets. It’s important to make sure you are in a place where the WiFi connection is stable — a laggy video call can be highly disruptive for both you and the candidate.
2. Practise speaking in front of the camera:
Speaking in front of a camera is different from a face-to-face interview, so it can be helpful to practise what you intend to say. Remember not to rush, and to articulate your words clearly, just in case there is a video or audio lag. You can choose to record yourself so you can refer to your practise sessions later, or have a trusted friend or colleague watch you and give you feedback. Watch closely for nonverbal cues, facial experessions, gestures and movements as they may appear exaggerated on video. Getting accustomed to presenting yourself on camera will take time.
Keep in mind that during the interview, it will likely be distracting for the candidate if you continually look away from the screen to check your questions or notes. Though you should have the information you prepared handy, try to have a solid sense of the questions you want to ask so that the conversation feels natural rather than stilted.
3. Get dressed for the occasion:
This may seem obvious, but though you may be in an environment that feels casual, you should still dress the way you would when conducting an interview in the office. Even if only for a short while during the day, ditch your loungewear and put on work-appropriate clothes – you’d expect the candidate to do it, so you should, too. Go for solid, conventional colours such as black, white, or navy – avoid anything too flashy such as stripes or complex patterns as it may look gaudy on camera.
4. Use appropriate software and equipment:
Make sure you know how the online video software works prior to the interview, so you are not rushing to figure it out during the actual event. Update all software and operating systems to the latest versions, and ensure your audio and video systems are functioning properly. Test the sound and camera settings before the interview to be assured you will be heard and seen properly, and, if need be, adjust your microphone and camera to make sure there is no static sound or grainy picture quality. If you are having issues with sound, a good tip is to use headphones instead of the laptop’s built-in speakers can also ensure better sound quality.
If your WiFi tends to be unsteady, plug in to an Ethernet cable for a solid connection. Video conferencing usually takes up a lot of bandwidth, and an unstable WiFi connection might cause lags during the session.
During the interview, use a desktop or laptop instead of your phone as the reception might not always be the strongest. Mute any notifications so neither you nor the candidate are distracted by them during the interview. Additionally, holding your phone for a long time might cause your arm to shake, which would be annoying to the viewer.
5. Have the right body language and make your interviewee comfortable:
Just because you are behind the camera does not mean the other person cannot gauge your body language. It may be even more important in a video-chat setting to be aware of your body language than it is in-person since the person – sit up straight, make appropriate eye contact, and smile. It is tempting to slouch or get too comfortable as you are doing the interview in a familiar place, such as your bedroom or home. Be energetic and enthusiastic during the interview – just like you are gauging and evaluating the candidate, they will also gauge and evaluate your energy levels, even through a screen.
“During the video call, get to know the candidate better by creating an atmosphere where they are willing to open up and share more,” Nozaki said. “You can get creative with Zoom’s virtual backgrounds – think of it as a form of branding or use it as a conversation starter. Another good tip is to think of the interview as a meeting with the candidate in a more relaxed scenario, such as a café or a hotel lounge.”
Apply these five tips and you will find that any sort of online interview — be it with potential talent or even team meetings will become much more pleasant and conducive over time.