Hiring 6 min

How to Conduct a Video Job Interview

June 19, 2020

Why Offer a How-to on Conducting Video Interviews?

Interviews are two-way street. Employers use them to gauge a candidate’s less-quantifiable traits, such as culture fit, people skills, adaptive problem-solving, and general attitude; meanwhile, candidates use the interview experience to evaluate their prospective employer. They’re as interested as you are to find out whether or not they fit your organization and the people in it, meaning how the employer conducts an interview is just as important as how the candidate conducts themselves.

But there’s much less out there on how to conduct a video interview compared to the countless articles on how to prepare and present yourself as a candidate. And while it’s important to help applicants––we’ve even provided video interviewing advice for candidates as far back as 2015––we also believe knowing how to conduct a video interview is just as critical a skill for employers, because the interview experience can have a huge influence on a candidate’s decision to join your team.

10 Tips for Great Video Interviews [Video]

Why Video Interviews Are the New Norm

While video interviews were already becoming more common in recent years thanks to a number of factors, including broader access to video technology and an increase in telecommuting-friendly workplaces, nothing comes close to the impact created by the arrival of COVID-19. Social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders turned the traditional office environment upside-down, forcing any business that could do so to pivot to work-from-home arrangements for their employees. The result was that remote work has practically doubled, from an average of 27 percent of internet-connected employees working from home on weekdays to over half in March of 2020. With no clear return to a traditional office environment in sight and with hiring freezes beginning to thaw, everyone from recruiters and hiring managers to executives and collaborating team members needs to get used to video interviews and how to conduct them the right way.

What Gives Interviews So Much Weight?

Unless they’re in the talent acquisition business, many people probably think of an interview as a sort of final test employers give to applicants. And from that perspective, knowing how to conduct a video interview shouldn’t be any different than conducting an in-office interview, because it’s all about that one-on-one interaction, and mostly about how good the candidate looks to the employer.

The problem, however, is that from the candidate’s side an interview is about much more than getting to know a recruiter or manager; it’s about getting to know the entire company and its culture—measurements that are impossible to take from a website, a job description, or review sites, but that become easier when you’re exposed to a workspace and the people in it.

Likewise, on the employer’s side, while an interview is indeed a kind of test, there’s much more to it than just a series of questions and answers. Interviews are a way for the employer to see if the candidate matches their culture and to gauge those intangible or hard-to-measure traits that aren’t visible on a resume or in responses to screening questions.

The Challenges of Video Interviews

In an in-office interview, there are a lot of environmental cues a candidate takes away from their interview. They start from the moment a candidate arrives and notices everything from where your office is located and the size of the building to what kinds of cars are parked in the parking lot. As they walk through your office, they’re asking themselves: Do the other employees look happy? Would I be happy here?

And they continue gathering information throughout the interview, absorbing details like the way they’re treated by reception staff, the mood of various departments, and the general attention that has been paid to creating a collaborative and thoughtful workspace. That’s all on top of the interview itself, and if your organization has a strong culture and a decent office space, the environment they create can do a lot of heavy lifting to convince candidates they’re making the right choice.

None of that heavy lifting can happen in a video interview. A video interview narrows the view of a workplace down to a single person and the background behind them. And while they may not be coming to an office any time soon, candidates still want to know they’re joining an organization that cares for its people and their work, and they will still look through the now-limited scope of their interview to get their cultural cues.

On the employer side, video interviews can have the same distorting effect, because they are doing the opposite: by virtually inviting an interviewer into their homes, candidates are actually broadening the scope by which they are being evaluated. Just as a candidate notices things about the office space and the people in an organization, interviewers notice things like the visible and audible backdrop behind a candidate.

This can create unintended consequences due to bias; in other words, an interviewer may make positive or negative judgments about a candidate based on factors they can’t control or that have no bearing on their ability to perform the job. Employers may interpret something as a deliberate choice when it wasn’t. They may even view a poor choice of background as a lack of preparation or a cultural red flag.

How to Conduct a Video Job Interview

Now that you have an idea of how video interviews alter the ways in which employers and candidates form and receive first impressions, you need to know how to conduct a video interview that accomplishes two key goals:

  1. Communicates your organization’s culture to candidates to the best of your abilities. On the candidates’ end, you want them to have a consistent experience from interviewer to interviewer and one that represents the image and culture your organization is trying to project.
  2. Minimizes the opportunities for bias on the part of the interviewer. Meanwhile, on the interviewer’s side, you want the interviewer to see and hear the candidate with as few outside distractions as possible while still allowing the candidate to feel free to express their individuality.

While you may not be able to guarantee both, you can increase the chances of good outcomes by creating guidelines for interviewers and candidates and by communicating the reasoning behind your strategy.

Video Interview Instructions (for Employers)

Assuming you have capable and willing collaborators to help you conduct interviews, the rest of your job is to make sure candidates have positive, consistent experiences during their interviews. You can do this by creating a checklist for your hiring collaborators on how to conduct video interviews, including guidelines such as:

  • Required equipment
    • Webcam, speakers, and microphone or a smartphone with video calling ability
    • Up-to-date operating system and internet browser
    • Adequate RAM and processor speed
  • Internet connection
    • One-on-one calls: Zoom recommends a minimum of 600kbps up/down for one-on-one calls, and 1.2mbps up/down for 720p HD quality
    • Group calls: Zoom recommends an 800kbps/1.0Mbps (up/down) connection for high-quality group calls, and a minimum 1.5mbps up/down for 720p HD quality or gallery view
    • (You can check your internet connection speed here)
  • Dress code & appearance
    • Business professional, business casual, or casual, or a company-branded item of clothing
    • Present a well-kempt image, i.e., wear clean, unwrinkled clothing and appear hygienic
    • No hats or other items that conceal or cast shadows on interviewers’ faces
  • Background & lighting
    • A quiet place to conduct the interview
    • Guidelines for selecting or creating a backdrop (Link)
    • Virtual background––some software lets you use a virtual background, but be sure interviewers’ computers have adequate memory and processing speed for this
    • Instructions for placement and type of lighting
  • Conduct
    • Remind interviewers to smile and speak clearly and that they should prepare just as they would for an in-office interview
    • Encourage first-time interviewers to familiarize themselves with the video call application in order to avoid dropped calls and accidental muting/unmuting

Video Interview Instructions (for Candidates)

You have no way to control what a candidate says in their interview, and you don’t want to, because you don’t want to color an interview with false impressions. However, some candidates may not realize how to prepare for a video interview or how things like background choice can have an impact. And while good interviewers have enough experience and training to prevent something like personal appearance from creating bias, even the most well-trained interviewer can have a hard time ignoring a bad connection, a room full of screaming kids and barking dogs, or “unique” decorating choices.

That’s why it’s a good idea to provide a similar checklist to candidates with advice and instructions, including:

  • Recommended hardware and software
  • Connection speed information
  • Background noise and lighting
  • Backdrop choice and awareness

Some candidates may not have access to the right technology or have a good place to hold an interview in their own homes, in which case you might want to keep information handy on local meeting space providers, library facilities, or workforce assistance organizations, most of which have options to hold video conferences or can at least provide adequate connection speed.

Unfortunately, some or all of the alternative locations for video interviews may be closed or limited due to the COVID-19 crisis. In that case, conducting an interview by phone may be the only option. While it’s not optimal, it’s perfectly acceptable and shouldn’t be viewed as poor form on the candidate’s part.

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Moving Forward in a Video-Only Work Environment

With work-from-home arrangements becoming the norm for many organizations, the idea of video conferencing as the preferred form of communication is likewise becoming more and more familiar. That’s a good and bad thing, as it makes people more comfortable with the idea of being on camera (good) at the same time it makes the idea of a video meeting more and more casual (perhaps not so good).

As we’ve discussed, there are limits to what you can do to prevent a bad interview experience, because you can’t control what people say or how they act. But if you can communicate these guidelines on how to conduct video interviews while reminding everyone involved of just how important it is to conduct interviews well, you can maintain your employer brand in the mind of candidates, minimize the impact of bias on your hiring choices, and preserve your organization’s record of hiring great talent for the right reasons.

Rob de Luca
Copy Director | BambooHR

As the copy director for BambooHR since 2016, I've had the opportunity to read and write extensively on the topics of HR leadership and best practices, and I'm convinced company culture is the leading factor driving business outcomes. I believe every HR professional has what it takes to be a culture champion and a valuable strategic partner, and that it's my responsibility to help them reach their full potential.