Mastering the Art of Video Interviewing in the Age of COVID-19

Just because COVID-19 is forcing you to work from home, doesn’t mean you need to stop recruiting world-class talent for your engineering team.

Thanks to an abundant supply of tools and online conferencing platforms, video interviewing is a viable option for engineering managers who are unable to meet candidates in person. Even better, companies that have integrated video interviewing into their hiring processes, have enjoyed reduced time-to-hire, increased efficiency, and improved candidate experiences among other benefits.

We’re all having to adopt new practices during these turbulent times, but we’re in this together. In that spirit, we’re offering an array of useful tips for making a successful transition to video interviewing.

Reengineer Your Hiring Process

Switching from in-person to video interviews may require a strategic shift in your firm’s hiring process from top to bottom. For instance, replacing initial phone screens with video interviews has proven to speed up the hiring process and encourage higher levels of interaction. But how will you measure intangible qualities such as team chemistry over the Internet? How will you provide a realistic preview of your culture and the unique nature of your firm’s capabilities and projects?  (FYI, nearly 48 percent of candidates rated culture as very important when considering an employer.)

Perhaps your team could host technical chats or give candidates an illuminating presentation of daily life at your company to close the gap. When you’re ready to seal the deal, make sure your hiring documents are digitized and set up for electronic signatures. After all, you don’t want to waste time when you find the perfect candidate.

Communicate Expectations

Naturally, you want to ensure that candidates have all the information they need for a positive and enlightening interview experience. Begin by sending an email with instructions for accessing the technology and running a pre-test. Even someone with vast web meeting experience may not have participated in an online job interview. In times like these, it is better to over-communicate. Provide a meeting link, how long the interview will last, and what you plan to cover, so the engineer can fully prepare.

Set the Stage for Success

Background noise, interruptions, or technical problems such as lags or delays (latency) can get in the way of forging a strong connection with a candidate.

To make sure the interview goes off without a hitch, test your interviewing platform, microphone, headphones, camera, and Internet connection well before the scheduled time.

Remember that 55 percent of communication is non-verbal, specifically body language, so maintaining eye contact with the camera (not the screen) is critical. Position your webcam right at eye level and note that a head-and-shoulders shot is ideal. Consider using a grid for framing, to make your shot look more flattering and professional.

Select a private, quiet, uncluttered space that’s near a window or try placing a lamp next to your laptop so your face is in a flattering light. Turn off the ringer on your phone, the notifications on your email, and post a “do not disturb” sign on your door to make sure you are not distracted.

Finally, video interviewing is a core skill that can be honed through practice, so consider conducting several trial runs with team members.

During the Interview

Following these tips and nuances can help facilitate natural exchanges and fair evaluation of every candidate:

  • Put candidates at ease by signing in early and greeting them when they join.
  • Start with some small talk or casual questions to break the ice.
  • Be aware of something called distance bias, which is our brain’s natural tendency to put more importance on things and people that are closer to us than farther away.
  • To overcome biases, focus on the substance of the candidate’s answers, not on the quality of their video connection.
  • Use a scorecard to maintain impartiality and consistency among different interviewers.
  • To avoid speaking over the candidate, especially if there is a lag in the connection, always wait a few seconds before commenting or asking another question.
  • On the flip side, don’t go on and on when making a point. Incorporate pauses or invite feedback to gauge the candidate’s response.
  • Always have a back-up plan in mind, such as switching to another platform or conference call, in case you or the candidate encounter technical problems.

In conclusion, COVID-19 may be forcing us to change our recruiting processes, but thanks to video interviewing, there’s no reason that you can’t continue to engage and hire top engineering talent.


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