Online Interviewing

My local newspaper, the Raleigh, NC, News & Observer, recently published an article about video interviews which deserves some attention. As the article reports, video interviewing is on the rise, and you need to be prepared. Tip 44 (Prepare for an online interview) provides some basic information about video interviews, but today I want to talk about it in a bit more detail.

According to the article, written by Katherine Blunt, “18 percent of job candidates have participated in a video interview within the last year.” That number is likely to rise for several reasons:

  • Video interviews save the organization time and money. They don’t have to pay the travel expenses for an initial round of applicant interviews; they don’t have to give tours of their facility; they can go quickly from one interview to the next.
  • They allow employers to expand the applicant pool more easily, providing an opportunity to quickly check out applicants from distant locations.
  • They provide more communicative richness than a phone call: body language, eye contact, familiarity with technology, and responsiveness are on display.
  • They create a more personalized—and potentially more memorable—experience.

Although still not as effective as in-person interviews, video interviews are starting to replace phone interviews as a preliminary stage in the hiring process. Two years ago, I was on a hiring committee at my university, and we conducted a series of video interviews before deciding which candidates to bring to campus for in-person interviews. While this is a fairly new practice at my school, I found it to be superior to the older process of one or more committee members traveling to a central location (usually a national convention) to conduct the interviews and report back to the rest of us on their impressions of the candidates.

Preparation for an online interview includes most of the steps involved in preparing for an in-person interview (Tip 42 and Appendices A, J, and K) or a phone interview (Tip 43), but there are additional steps you need to take. One of the most important of those additional steps is to make sure that your technology is working properly. It’s also a good idea to spend some time practicing by having at least one video chat with a friend or relative several days before the interview, especially if you haven’t used this technology a lot in the past. You will want to be sure that you look at the camera, not the screen, that the area around your computer (or other device) is free of distractions and clutter, and that you have a quiet place for the interview. You don’t want to compete with the patrons in a coffee shop or your neighbor’s loud music. And you also want to make sure you’re not sitting in a “dead spot”—a place where the connection may break up.

The goal is to make the interviewer believe that you are already a professional. That means having an appropriate setting (have a friend tell you what they see behind you during the chat—it should look more like an organized home office, not the remnants of a house party or late-night cram session). Also, be sure that you give your full attention to the interviewer—no mail program “dinging” the arrival of a message, no cell phones ringing, and no roommates (or moms) hollering at you from another room.

The good news about all this is that it’s not just the employers who are expanding their pool of applicants; you, as a job searcher, can expand the list of locations where you apply because you don’t have to be right there for that first interview. Of course, you do need to be willing to move there if you get the job!