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The video interview: top tips for employers

Resumes tell you whether candidates have the minimum requirements for a job. True? Maybe. But what happens with intangible skills? Or, with candidates who oversell their knowledge?

Christina Pavlou
Christina Pavlou

An experienced recruiter and HR professional who has transferred her expertise to insightful content to support others in HR.

Video interview tips for employers

A video interview can help you screen candidates more effectively in situations such as:

  • Interviewing across different time zones or with hiring team members in different locations
  • Screening numerous candidates within a short time frame during rapid upscale
  • Looking at intangible skills that can’t be described in words or numbers
  • Assessing candidates’ resumes who oversell themselves to grab your attention
  • Interviewing remote candidates when you build or expand your distributed teams

Video interviews help you get past these challenges, and identify otherwise overlooked talent as well as candidates who seem good on paper but lack necessary skills.

What exactly are video interviews?

Video interviews are a way to evaluate candidates remotely. Instead of meeting in person or talking on the phone, recruiters and hiring managers can interview candidates virtually, using video interview software (e.g. SparkHire, Jobma) or communication tools (e.g. Zoom, Skype, Hangouts).

A video interview is usually preferred at early hiring stages as a method to screen a large number of candidates quickly and effectively. It can also be useful when candidates and interviewers are in different locations and can’t meet face to face. They’re a great solution, too, when you want to reach untapped talent, such as remote candidates or employees who prefer flexible work options.

Employers who wish to conduct video interviews during their hiring process need to have a type of video interview software and basic video interview equipment, your computer’s built-in microphone, camera and speakers will work fine in this case. It’s also useful to choose where to do video interviews; a quiet room with no distractions is appropriate in this case. Finally, consider creating a simple “how to set up a video interview” guide with basic technical instructions and video interview tips that you can share with candidates and/or interviewers.

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What are the different types of video interviews?

There are two main categories: one-way and two-way video interviews. A sub-category also fits here; the video resume or application. Although technically not an interview, it’s still a type of video assessment.

Let’s see in greater detail the different video interview types:

1. Two-way video interview

This is the most common type of video interview, also called live video interview or synchronous video interview. Candidates and interviewers log into the same video call and have their interview in real time regardless of their location. Two-way video interviews are particularly useful when:

  • Candidates and hiring managers are in different locations and want to save time by conducting the interview remotely.
  • Interviewers want to screen a large number of candidates during early hiring stages without dealing with added logistics (welcoming candidates to the office, booking meeting rooms, etc.).
  • Interviewers are in different offices, so it’s more convenient if they all connect with candidates through a video conference interview.
  • The entire team is distributed, so there’s no physical office available for an in-person interview.

When you invite candidates to a video interview, be clear on how they’ll join the video call. It’s best to send them instructions in an email to avoid any confusion. Here are two sample invitations you can send: a video interview email template and a Skype interview invitation email template.

2. One-way video interview

You might have also heard it as “on-demand video interview” or “recorded video interview”. As opposed to the two-way interview, this one is asynchronous. The interviewer asks all candidates to answer a series of questions, and candidates record and submit their answers through the video interview platform.

For candidates, the main benefits of one-way video interviews are:

  • They save time as they don’t have to come to your offices for an interview.
  • They can get more comfortable having the interview from their space.
  • If they know the questions beforehand, they have time to prepare their answers.
  • Or, if they have multiple takes, they can choose the best recording.

Usually, candidates can record an answer, view the video and either submit it if they’re satisfied or give it another go. This can be reassuring for candidates who want to make a great first impression – and overall, makes for a better candidate experience.

For employers, recorded video interviews are time-saving. Instead of scheduling and conducting phone, video or in-person interviews on an individual basis, they can send the same set of questions and instructions to all candidates for a role and review answers at their own convenience. Real-time interviews can also be challenging in cases where:

  • Candidates and interviewers are in different time zones.
  • Candidates are already employed and have limited availability to attend an interview at your office.
  • Interviewers are working on multiple open jobs or are busy with their regular job duties and have a hard time finding open slots on their calendars.

One-way video interviews are best suited early in the selection process, where recruiters and hiring managers want to identify dealbreakers or essential qualifiers. For example, imagine a sales position that requires excellent communication skills or a customer support role that requires fluency in a foreign language. Here are some common interview questions during video interviews at the first stages of the hiring process:

  • Why did you apply for this job?
  • What makes you a great candidate?
  • Show us how you’d make a presentation for X product.

Keep in mind that some candidates might not be familiar or even comfortable with this type of interview, so consider including some video interview practice exercises. This way, candidates will have the chance to play around with the video interview platform and understand how it works before answering the real interview questions. Learn more about how you can benefit your hiring process with recorded video interviews.

Video application

In this type of video assessment, employers ask candidates to submit a video introduction of themselves and screen them based on that. Similar to recorded video interviews, employers ask candidates to answer one question or showcase their skills in a short one- or two-minute video.

For example, you can use video applications to create mini role-playing activities for candidates. Let’s say you want to hire someone to create support videos for your customers. You’re not necessarily looking for relevant experience since this is an entry-level role. So relying solely on their resume is not helpful in this case. What you could do, instead, is send them a script and ask them to read it as if this was a support video. You can then evaluate candidates based on how natural they sound, whether they were able to emphasize on the most important parts, etc.

Video applications are also useful in creative roles and help hiring managers identify outstanding candidates. Here’s an example of how – and why – you can ask candidates to submit video applications on YouTube.

Pedalheads, a skill-based teaching camp, uses Workable’s Video Interviews to evaluate candidates even in times where they can’t meet in person. “It is imperative that we see candidates practice their teaching skills. Workable Video Interviews allow us to assess the skills and teaching methods of our candidates. The interviews are user-friendly and candidates have no issues submitting their responses,”  says Tanya Viceer, Hiring Coordinator at Pedalheads.

Why do companies do video interviews?

We’ve already briefly mentioned some benefits of video interviewing, but let’s see in more detail how video interviews can help you improve your hiring process:

Reduce time to hire

Whether real-time or recorded, video interviews can be time-saving. Think of all the accumulated time invested in welcoming candidates to your offices, offering them coffee, walking them to the meeting room, conducting the interview itself, and then escorting them out. The time spent in that may seem minimal for a single interview, but consider how it adds up with every single candidate who looks good on paper.

Compare that with conducting all those interviews without having to leave your desk. Meeting candidates through video allows you to have multiple interviews within a short time and, as a result, speed up the hiring process. This is especially beneficial when hiring large-scale.

There are, also, cases where you can’t conduct face to face interviews (e.g. due to the COVID-19 health crisis). Video interviews can be a solution to help you keep hiring from anywhere. Brandi Hale, Head of People and Culture at Salad and Go explains: “We’re using the new Workable Video Interviews tool to pre-screen candidates and move quickly into the interview step. Normally, we have daily open interview sites, where any interested candidate can come by. This process is not possible for us right now due to the crisis. This tool has helped us be more efficient during this time and get our jobs done.”

Reduce hiring costs

When you speed up hiring, you also save money. How? A slow hiring process leaves the position open for a long period of time – which can be costly for your business when you absolutely need that new hire right away. On the other hand, when you screen candidates by reviewing their recorded interviews or when you interview multiple candidates per day simply by logging into a video platform, you can move to the next hiring stages faster and ultimately close the hire faster. Because time is money, this is money you’re saving down the funnel.

Read more about the cost of the hiring process.

Automate candidate screening

Automating part of the process is particularly useful if you have multiple open roles or if hiring is not your primary job. With video interview software, you can quickly identify dealbreakers through candidates’ recorded videos and you can automate manual tasks (e.g. sending emails one by one or scheduling separate phone calls with each candidate).

The real benefit of saving time and money during candidate screening is that you can allocate those freed-up resources to the more important later hiring stages such as meeting your most promising candidates in person.

Eliminate bias

Naturally, we’re all affected by first impressions. Consider this scenario: a candidate comes in for an interview. As you walk together to the meeting room, you start some small talk. You learn that they have two kids and one of them is going to the same school as your child. Or, that they hate your favorite movie. How confident are you that you won’t be biased either in favor or against this candidate?

Video interviews cannot completely remove biases, but they can help assess candidates more objectively. With one-way video interviews, for example, you ask all candidates the same questions – which are agreed on beforehand in the hiring team – and you can review their answers to these specific questions without being influenced by irrelevant small talk.

Standardize the hiring process

When you use recorded video interviews, not only can you eliminate bias, but you also make your hiring process more consistent. That’s because you create a set of questions that are repeated for every candidate in the same role – and in some cases for every candidate no matter their role (e.g. you might always want to find out what candidates know about your company, why they decided to apply, or what their availability is in the near future.)

This helps you ensure that you’re tackling important questions early on in the process every single time without fail. This adds value to your entire recruitment lifecycle, since it’s not always the same person who conducts the interview. A standard process means that you give hiring manager the tools to evaluate candidates properly even if it’s not a primary part of their job or if they’re less experienced interviewers.

Sync with the hiring team

On-demand interviews have the benefit that they’re accessible by the entire hiring team (often via that same video recruiting software you used to conduct the interviews). Recruiters and hiring managers or other team members can view the recordings, share feedback within the platform, and decide to reject or move a candidate forward. Instead of having multiple interview rounds, where the candidate experience suffers due to different interviewers asking the same questions or evaluating the same skills at different stages, members of the hiring team can all view the same recording and make better-informed hiring decisions.

Improve quality of hire

We could pose the argument that video interviewing adds an extra step to the hiring process. If this step, though, helps evaluate candidates more thoroughly, then it’s worth that added investment. Important dealbreakers and qualifiers can be identified early, reducing the possibility of a bad hire or a poor fit once candidates have been onboarded. The sometimes exorbitant costs of replacing an employee can be easily avoided if we make that crucial investment in the first stages of the hiring process – both in terms of time and money.

Interested to learn what the actual cost of replacing an employee is?

Recorded video interviews – that the entire hiring team can access – help identify candidate skills and red flags which are often overlooked if you rely solely on resumes and phone calls for your candidate screening.

Reach out to global talent

If you hire only locally, you risk missing out on great candidates. With video interviews, you can connect with remote employees and with people from different regions who are thinking to relocate. You can also overcome the barriers of different time zones, as one-way video interviews allow candidates and interviewers to answer questions and review recordings at their own convenience.

Build a better candidate experience

Interviews are often stressful for candidates. The candidate experience could be much more positive if candidates knew the questions beforehand so they can prepare properly. This is made possible via one-way video interviews. Candidates can rehearse and review their answers and submit their best ones. This process is stress-relieving and also helps hiring managers assess candidates more objectively, as nerves can often hinder a candidate’s performance in an interview. At Workable, we’ve built Video Interviews so that candidates can practice (from any device) before recording their answers to the actual questions. This gives candidates control over their submission and boosts their confidence.

Speed up future hiring decisions

Recordings from candidates could remain in your talent database (as long as this is GDPR compliant) for future reference. If there’s a more suitable job opening in the future or if there’s a more appropriate timing and you want to reconsider their candidacy, it’s easier to have one more resource available beyond their resume and any potential feedback you have noted.

This is also useful in case there’s a new hiring manager in the team (for example after company reorgs) or if you want to refer this candidate for a different role in a different department.

How to implement video interviews in your hiring process

First of all, you need to decide when and why you’ll use video interviews. Start by answering these questions:

  • Do you have (or want to have) remote candidates? In this case, you can use video interviews, not as part of your regular hiring process, but as a way to evaluate outstanding candidates that you consider hiring remotely.
  • Do you have (or want to open) remote positions? Unlike the previous case, you will evaluate all candidates for a remote role via video interview software.
  • Do you want to use a more effective screening method? Then, video interviews (or video applications) should be the first hiring stage for all candidates and all roles, regardless of whether they’re remote or not.
  • Do you want to evaluate specific skills, such as communication or fluency in a language? Video interviews might be suitable only for certain roles, e.g. in sales or marketing. So, you can tailor your recruitment process to add or remove hiring stages based on the role and the skill set you’re looking for.

Once you have clarified the purpose of video interviews, it’s easier to implement them. Now you have to decide on the questions you’ll ask in video interviews, how to prepare yourself before the interview and how to overcome some obstacles that may arise.

1. What questions are asked in a video interview?

Like in all kinds of interviews, questions are relevant to the job, the function and the seniority level. They also have to do with the hiring stage. For example, first-round interviews usually cover basic topics such as availability and salary expectations, while interviews at later stages might address career goals and projects that candidates will manage if hired.

The same guidelines apply in video interviews. If you’re conducting video calls early in the hiring process, as a screening method instead of phone screens, here are some common video interview questions you can ask:

  • What attracted you to the job ad? Why did you decide to apply?
  • Name two skills you have acquired through previous work experiences that you think will be useful in this role.
  • What inspired you to pursue this career?
  • What’s your experience with XYZ software?
  • Describe briefly a challenge you’ve faced at work and how you overcame it.
  • What’s the ideal work environment for you?
  • Do you prefer to work in teams or individually? Why?

If you’re using video interviews later in the process, as well, make sure to include role-specific questions and questions that will help you determine whether candidates would be a good fit for your company culture.

For more video interview tips, have a look at these online interview questions and Skype interview questions. Here are also some sample video interview questions and answers specifically for remote employees.

2. How do I prepare myself for a video interview?

Besides having the proper video equipment (camera, mic, software, etc.), interviewers need to ensure that video calls go as smoothly as possible. Here are some tips to prepare yourself before a video interview with candidates:

For one-way video interviews:

  • Test the recording and submission of videos yourself before sending invitations to candidates. Learn what kind of functionality you have (e.g. Is there an option to have a time frame within candidates can answer a question? Can candidates record as many takes as they want before their final submission?) and craft your questions accordingly.
  • Decide how you’ll send your questions to candidates. Do you want to have them in writing so they can better prepare themselves? Do you want them to learn the questions as soon as they log in to the platform so that you can test their creativity and quick thinking? Or, do you want to send a video so that they get to “meet” you, too?
  • Send candidates an email with detailed, yet simple, instructions. Or, consider calling them to explain the process. In any case, make sure that candidates know what’s expected of them and where to reach out in case they need some sort of assistance with the video platform. This way, you’ll add a human touch in the candidate experience.

For two-way video interviews:

  • Right before each call, test your camera, microphone, and speakers. Even if you’ve used them before, unexpected issues could arise at any moment. It’s useful to have the candidate’s contact details handy in case you need to inform them about a delay.
  • Pick a room that’s free of distractions. Good lighting, privacy and a de-cluttered background are also essential. Make sure to mute any notifications you have on your computer (e.g. email, Slack) so that you stay focused on your interview.
  • Keep in mind that video interviews can be stressful for candidates considering they’re basically talking to a screen. Help them feel more comfortable by maintaining eye contact and showing that they have your full attention. For example, if you’re making video calls with your phone, it might seem you’re in a rush. Plus, the fact that when you’re holding your phone, the screen is not stable and could distract candidates.

3. What are some disadvantages of video interviews – and what can I do about them?

While video interviews can benefit your hiring process, you should also consider the following potential risks:

Poor evaluation due to technical difficulties

No matter how well-prepared you and the candidate are, something could always go wrong (e.g. poor connection or a temporary malfunction of the camera.) These technical issues can hinder the flow of conversation and may be stressful for candidates.

Tip: if you face technical difficulties during an interview, don’t be too harsh on candidates. Also, consider having a quick follow-up if you didn’t have the chance to discuss everything during your call.

Personality bias

While video interviews help you structure your hiring process, and therefore be more objective, they can also introduce new biases. Think of how interviewers can be influenced by a nice-sounding voice or a confident attitude. These characteristics may be job-related if we’re talking about a sales role or customer-facing position, but they could subconsciously (and wrongfully) be used as criteria for other roles, too.

Tip: Keep your evaluation strictly job-related. For each question you’re asking, be sure you know what you want to learn from candidates. Document your post-interview feedback to avoid being biased by non-important factors.

Lack of human interaction

This applies particularly to recorded interviews. Many people are stressed talking to other people, particularly if they don’t know them, let alone talking into a machine. One-way interviews could feel less humane, as candidates might never have the chance to actually speak to someone from your company (if they don’t pass this first hiring stage) and hiring managers don’t get to answer candidate questions and promote the company.

Tip: While recorded video interviews are a way to screen candidates effectively and quickly, don’t let this be your only interaction with them. Send thoughtful and personal emails to rejected candidates from an actual member of the hiring team, rather than from a generic ‘[email protected]’ address. This way, candidates will know that their application was actually evaluated by a human being and not through an automated system.

For more one-way video interview tips, read our blog on the pros and cons of on-demand video interviews.

Video interviews are by no means a hiring solution for every role and every industry. If you choose to implement them in your hiring, you need to think of how you’ll evaluate candidates and how you’ll overcome obstacles and biases.

In spite of that, though, video interviewing is part of an overall trend toward digital recruitment – and for good reason too. Upgraded HR tech stacks and new tools are here to optimize the hiring process, and make it more objective and more efficient. And video interviews, if integrated strategically and successfully into your existing hiring matrix, can help you build better, more motivated teams by making the right hires from the start.

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