Videoconferenced Interviews: What you need to know

22nd Apr, 2020

Like most recruitment services worth their salt, Engage has always provided the option of conducting interviews with candidates through videoconferencing.  That option was only occasionally deployed for candidates who were located abroad, and generally was limited to early stage interviews because employers still placed huge importance on being able to gauge personal rapport and chemistry face to face.

That was in the BC era – Before Covid.

Now videoconferenced interviews are part of the new normal during lock-down (or lock-in as I prefer to call it, because it sounds more fun).  Thankfully all Engage needed to do to keep trucking was to scale up the existing deployment of our in-house videoconferencing platform, Google Meet.  We made our first successful appointment using full remote videoconferencing back on the 25th of March.

Google Meet is part of the secure, encrypted, business user-oriented G-Suite of applications that we adopted more than half a decade ago, and continues to meet the high demands we make of it in regard to privacy and security.  The decision to stick with it means we have not been exposed to the worrying phenomenon of Zoombombing for instance. Aside from security, we also use it on the grounds that it is the most user-friendly videoconferencing platform for people who have never used videoconferencing.   The ‘caption’ facility, which provides real-time subtitles on attendees’ speech is surprisingly accurate and really helps with accessibility too.

As a recruiter, we recognise that ensuring service quality during videoconferences is not just an issue for the IT team, and it is not just about what happens during the call.  It is about preparation.

To start, it is as important to me as it is in a face to face interview to suit up during a videoconferenced interview as a mark of respect to the candidate.  At Engage, we make sure that members of the panel know well ahead of time how to use the interview scoring materials we give them, and how to submit them afterwards.  We focus on ensuring that everyone knows their role, like which questions they are going to be asking.  We make extra time at the start of the interview for introductions and some informal chat to build a rapport before launching into the interview proper.  That allows everyone to acclimatise to the altered conversational cadence experienced during a video call.  Technical ‘lags’ in the call mean that people will always trip over each other conversationally. It is inevitable.  But you can help by leaving a short gap after each of your verbal contributions to help mark the cue for the respondent to step in with an answer.   One other practical tip to help build rapport is to try to arrange to have the screen with your audience view on it as close to your camera as you can.  It helps everyone get closer to a semblance of eye contact.

If you are a nervous candidate for, say, a chief officer post in Northern Ireland’s third sector, there is one factor that might be worth remembering. It is more often the case than not that volunteer board interviewers are less experienced videoconferencers than you are. That means the candidate is often starting off with a degree of empathy from the panel interviewing them.

We make sure to brief the recruitment panel and the candidate that, just as no-one is being judged on their home décor, neither are they being assessed on the reliability or speed of their broadband. Echoes, line drops and screen freezes are part and parcel of videoconferencing.  It is useful to know that nine times out of ten when the screen showing your audience has frozen they can still hear you, so it is worthwhile persevering with whichever question or response you are making.

You can mitigate the risk of these technical issues by ensuring your computer is hardwired to the internet through an ‘ethernet’ cable into your broadband router, rather than relying on the Wifi signal. A headphone and mic set can also help reduce echoing and distracting,  extraneous noise. But back to preparation.  Always test your connection.  At Engage, we always offer a dry run of the videoconferencing technology to employers and candidates alike before the main event.  That is really important in a lock-down environment, where every attendee is remote and responsible for their own kit.  There is an appreciable difference in this scenario compared with experiences you may have had of videoconferencing with a single connection between a room full of panellists and the candidate.

We’ve put together a technical checklist for candidates who have been invited to a videoconference interview, so that they can spare more headspace to focus on the rather more important matter of preparing what they’re going to say.  Download it here.

Good luck!


Patrick Minne, Director, Engage Executive Talent



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