How to get the most out of video interviews

How to get the most out of video interviews


Video calling is now unescapable, with many areas of our business and social lives moving onto platforms like Zoom, Teams and Skype. Here we take a look at the positives and negatives to reveal how to make the most out of the experience.

Video calling platforms have seen an unprecedented rise in use during 2020, with tech companies reporting a user surge by as much as 80%  When you can’t get to see people in real life, using a video calling platform makes a lot of sense, which has also had a very natural knock-on into the world of video interviewing. We sat down recently with Hanover Fox Director, Phil de Glanville, to talk about this evolutionary process, as well as the pros and cons involved.

Out of all of the video conferencing platforms, Zoom has been the biggest winner of 2020. In December 2019 – eight months after going public – Zoom had 10 million daily meeting participants on its platform. Come April 2020, that figure had risen beyond the 300 million mark making it now worth more than ExxonMobil, with a valuation of $139 billion (it started the year at $19 billion)
Yet, Zoom aside, there are a number of other platforms which you could likely find yourself being scheduled onto for an interview, so if you’re not already familiar with each of them then make sure you are before you click ‘join meeting’. The last thing you want to be doing is desperately trying to sign-up a new account while the people you’re about to talk to are patiently waiting on the other end.
“Where Hanover Fox have been involved, the vast majority [of those interviews] have been done over Zoom, and we’ve not had any real technical problems,” says de Glanville. “The only issue I have witnessed is not so much due to the platforms themselves, but with Wi-Fi.”

This year has shone a light on our home working set-ups, so we’re probably all aware of our connection speeds, Wi-Fi dead spots and so on, but that’s also caused a few people to become complacent when going into an important video conference call.
“Everyone’s been at home a lot, so if there are children on the Wi Fi gaming all at the same time, for example, or if someone’s in a part of the house that’s a little bit further away from where the router is, it can cause signal fluctuations. And if that happens during an interview situation, then you end up with the quality of that process being severely impacted. You can usually tell – as an interviewer – if something’s not quite right: if the picture quality is off for example. That can leave a bad taste in the mouths of the interviewers, as the candidate just wasn’t prepared enough. Inevitably that has a negative impact.”

There have been scenarios where candidates have even had power cuts at home just before an interview was due to start, so they’ve dashed off to a local cafe. This causes huge candidate stress, as you can imagine, and as a result they did not perform as well as they might. Those sorts of instances are always a bolt from the blue, however if candidates have prepped an alternative – maybe a phone’s 4G connection was good enough – then that situation could have worked in their favour.

“That sort of situation is a good test of how someone handles pressure, but I think there’s enough pressure in an interview anyway, without worrying about the technical aspects,” de Glanville says. “If you’ve got those technical overlays on top, I’d say that’s going to affect your performance pretty significantly and I’d challenge anyone not to be affected by that kind of thing. So, my advice always to candidates is to test your video connection beforehand and to make sure you have a solid back-up plan.”

Being in the accidental position of a local café also saw that candidate being interviewed by a panel, with the hustle and bustle of people buying coffees and chatting to their friends in the background.
“The key with any of these things is having a space that’s quiet and relatively undisturbed. However, we’re a lot more comfortable with the reality of being at home now, so if you’ve got young kids who pop in and out during the interview asking for a biscuit or what have you, it’s not a problem anymore really. And in fact, this can give interviewers a bit of a look at the candidate’s personal life, which comes into play a lot more these days,” says de Glanville. “Interviewers also tend to have a look at the setting which the candidate has chosen to be interviewed in too, so subliminal things you might be taking away from their background – pictures, books and so on – play a part of the process. When you’re assessing somebody, you try and avoid unconscious bias, but inevitably these factors come in to play their part. Like you would face-to-face, to see how they’ve turned out, how smart they are and so on – it’s all part of assessing them. Just be who you are and then the choice will be made based on that. And that’s the best outcome for everyone,”

So, always think about what the background is and what is being portrayed. You don’t need to go so far as to building a set at home – although some people do tend curate their backgrounds quite consciously – but making sure there’s nothing behind you that might trip you up is a good idea.

If you do run into technical or location difficulties ahead of time, it’s always best to try rearranging if possible.
“If you’re doing a panel interview with the client, you know they’ve got a tight agenda – usually it’s around five people in a day – most clients would rather know if there’s a family situation or similar that is going to stop you from doing the interview. Most clients would be happy to try and rearrange. But certainly, for one-to-one interviews with the headhunter, nine times out of ten they’ll be absolutely fine with rearranging.”

However, if you are planning on rearranging your interview and it’s close to the actual time of the appointment, then make sure you pick up the phone and call. Email is great, but in the instances where you don’t know who’s going to be picking them up – the interviewer, quite naturally, might be doing interviews – then email is quite unreliable. The worst thing possible is to leave an interviewer hanging around, asking themselves, “where’s my candidate?” Phone and make sure that they get the message directly.

Another great thing about video conferences is that it’s been a welcome leveller. Whereas before someone may have been ruled out – or ruled themselves out – of going for a particular position on the grounds of something like distance to location or time and money involved to get there, video can make things much simpler.
“That’s one of the other big pros, that video conferencing is open to all, so some of the limiting factors diversity-wise that might have been in place traditionally are removed. A lot of potential barriers that there might have been, such as time spent, affordability, childcare responsibilities, travelling to the interview venue and so on have been removed with the advent of video calling normality. Not necessarily everyone could take those steps to get to an interview before, so this has definitely opened the process up into being a much fairer one. Most professionals have a laptop, so they are able to be interviewed for a role, no matter where they are.”

Another thing video has done is to make the process much quicker, for the head-hunter, client and candidate. “Pre-Covid, the first stage was the telephone call, an initial kind of screening stage, to assess that the critical elements that are in the job description are right, and they’ve got those experiences. And then we would move to a face-to-face interview, which is now a video call. Less time travelling means we can compress the number of interviews we do, and secondly the reality of video interviews is that they’re definitely shorter than the face-to-face, you just get through things much more quickly. Before, we would do an hour and a half face-to-face, whereas now we’re doing about an hour on video which means that we’re able to get greater exposure and to assess more potential candidates for each role.”

As much as video has become commonplace, in the near future Hanover Fox will integrate it as part of the day-to-day process, rather than wholesale replacing it.
“From our perspective, as the head-hunters, we’re definitely going to be running a hybrid moving forward. Video will play a greater role in the early part of the process, allowing us to filter candidates, then we’ll switch to the face-to-face, but that’s probably going to happen further down the process then it did before this year. Which means that people who are moving through our world will need to be very comfortable with a video interview situation, because video calls are definitely here to stay.”