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How to Conduct a Video Job Interview

More and more employers are turning to video job interviews as a means of evaluating prospective employees.

From a bottom-line standpoint, video interviewing can reduce time and costs. It also makes it easier for more individuals to participate in the decision-making process. But with hiring a key component of an organization's success, it is critical for employers choosing to embrace this technology to use it effectively.

Step 1: Get Comfortable With the Technology Ahead of Time

It speaks poorly of the interviewer, and by extension the employer, if he or she is fumbling with a webcam and unsure of how to fix the problem. Just as the employer judges the job applicant during an interview, the applicant is making judgments as well.

The time to troubleshoot issues should be before the interview occurs. This includes ensuring there is a solid connection.

Regarding the internet connection, an Ethernet connection is preferable to Wi-Fi, which has a tendency to drift in and out. A good speaker phone or external microphone connected to the computer is also recommended, along with a webcam.

Step 2: Conduct a Practice Video Interview

There is no better way to have confidence in the technology than to conduct a test run with friends or work colleagues to ensure the webcam and the connection work well. It also is a useful way for the interviewer to get used to looking into the webcam when asking questions.

The interviewer also should get accustomed to the differences in timing of the interview dialogue, possible minor delays in audio or minor lack of syncing of audio to video so that these do not disconcert the interviewer during the actual interview.

Step 3: Book a Well-Lit Conference Room

Conducting the interview in a conference room with a neutral backdrop and good lighting is important. If the interviewer works in a cubicle, that is not the best vehicle either for lighting or the impression that is being given to the job applicant of your company. A conference room with a glare is not the best venue for a video interview either.

Step 4: Record the Interview

Provided they obtain the job applicant's consent, employers may wish to record a video interview. Consent should not be overlooked because some states require both parties to a recording to be aware ahead of time that the recording will take place.

Once consent is obtained, there are clear advantages to this step. Most notably, it allows more decision-makers to be a part of the process and reach a more thorough result.

For instance, having four or five interviewers in a conference room with an applicant might be intimidating and negatively affect the responses. But allowing those same four or five employees to evaluate the applicant's performance in a one-on-one video interview is likely to keep the conversation more natural while still enabling the employer to engage in its due diligence.

Another advantage to recording video interviews is that it saves the interviewers from having to rely solely on their notes and recollections in recounting the applicant's responses to others in the decision-making chain.

Step 5: Be Prepared and Consistent

Just as is true with an in-person interview, there is no substitute for preparation. Toward that end, the interviewer should have a standard set of questions ready to go for job applicants to avoid subjectivity. This set of questions must be job-related. However, it also should include inquiries that will assess skills such as problem solving, honesty, communication and teamwork to name a few.

There may be legitimate cost reasons why an employer may interview some candidates via video and not others who may be local. However, the process should be as consistent as possible so that it does not appear the employer is using video in a discriminatory way, such as only requesting video interviews of applicants with foreign-sounding surnames.

Step 6: Set a Human Tone From the Start

Ask open-ended questions that allow applicants to develop a rapport with the interviewer. By setting a human tone from the beginning, you can avoid stoic, static answers.

Pay extra attention to eye contact. Otherwise, the interviewer (and by extension the prospective employer) can come across as impersonal.

Step 7: Phrase Questions to Comply With Employment Laws

A video interview should be treated no less seriously than if it were taking place in an ornate marble conference room or some other setting. Interviewers must not ask job applicants questions that would run afoul of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Equal Pay Act, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

The format of the video interview makes compliance especially important because the ability to record cuts both ways. For instance, an inappropriate question now has a record that a jilted job applicant could use at a later date.

In certain limited instances, the employer may ask questions relating to protected characteristics if they are job-related. However, the burden is on the employer to make this showing. Courts find such inquiries to be justified only in rare situations.

Step 8: Avoid Snap Judgments

With the ability to connect with applicants via video, some employers are opting to conduct initial phone interviews on video instead. As these initial contacts can serve essentially as the "gatekeeper" to a more in-depth interview, it is especially critical that the interviewer not make judgments about the applicant based on protected characteristics such as their age, race, national origin or disability.

Step 9: Maintain Formality

A video interview may lend itself to less formality, but an interviewer must resist this inclination. As an example, hearing a crying child in the background does not give license to asking job applicants how many children they have. In addition, seeing a Bible or other religious book nearby on the video should not lead to questions about an applicant's religion.

Step 10: Take Technology's Impact Into Account

Remember that some applicants may perform worse in a video interview setting than others because of their own discomfort with the setting. If technological know-how is not an essential function of the job, the employer should not give too much weight to the applicant's lack of comfort with the format if he or she is a stellar candidate in all other respects.

This also is why having finalists come into the employer's office for in-person interviews is still a good idea as there is no perfect substitute for that direct connection.

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