Get the Best Out of Video Interviews

By Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, CEO

There are ways to improve the video interview so the outcome is almost the same as in-person. With everyone working from home now, how do we close the gap between today’s “must do” video interviews and the connection that in-person interviews would provide? How do we go beyond the technical aspects like quality of picture, sound, and background in order to assess behavioral indications and chemistry? How can hiring decision-makers sharpen your intuition to ensure video interviews are as close as possible to real life?

It's not easy. 

Throughout this crisis, corporations, universities, and large nonprofits may still need to hire senior management leaders, even if new hires will have to work from home. Whether you use Zoom, Skype, Face Time, or other platforms, perhaps these tips will help you see the halo over the best candidate for your organization.
At Berkhemer Clayton, we have fine-tuned the art of video interviews since we frequently consider executive candidates who live and work throughout the country. If you are accustomed to in-person interviews at your office, you may be scrambling now to adjust to video interviews at home. Try these tips to correctly assess the candidate’s honesty, experience, and chemistry:
Eye Contact : Establishing eye contact on video can be difficult. The camera is often positioned above or to the side of the computer or smartphone screen. Both you and the candidate need to talk toward the camera, and not toward the screen which can be very hard to do when the natural place to look is toward the other person’s face on screen. If you or the candidate are not looking into the camera, stop the interview and advise the candidate to talk toward the camera, not the screen. Be aware of your own camera angle and field of vision. Having your full head and torso in the screen makes for a better visual. Avoid distortion caused by the camera angle too high or too low. Through eye contact, you should be able to assess chemistry and trust. You might need practice to make sure you are looking into the camera yourself.
Body Language : Even on camera, you can tell if a candidate is engaged, alert, interested in your organization, and really wants the position you have open. Leaning forward, relaxed demeanor, and hand motions reveal telltale hints about the candidate’s confidence, caring, and comfort about the role. Body language on video signals the candidate’s personality. Notice if a candidate has their hands under the table, or clenched together, or too many hand gestures, which could indicate the candidate’s lack of comfort, lack of confidence, or lack of honesty.
Professional Attire : When working from home, your instinct may be to dress more casual. Yes, dress codes in certain industries and sectors have become more casual. You still want to set the appropriate tone. It may not be necessary to wear a full business suit and tie at home, but you should look professional. Avoid bright colors and patterns. Stripes and complex patterns don’t translate well on video and can be blurry or distracting. Also before the interview starts, notice your own background behind you and how it looks on the screen. Because you are at home, that could be messy or distracting. If needed, use Skype’s “Blur my background” option or Zoom’s “Virtual Background” feature.
Tough Questions : Doing the video from home, you may have the tendency to relax and not drill down to learn what motivates the candidate. When you get an answer that does not give specific explanation for strategy or management decisions, ask the tough question again. You notice when television news reporters are on camera, they ask the tough question, and if the person they are interviewing does not give a satisfactory answer, the reporter asks the same question again–and again. Just as for in-person interviews, planning your questions in advance helps you assess achievements in the candidate’s career, and how well they developed and implemented strategies to achieve those goals. Asking tough questions ensures that you will choose the best candidate.
Technology : If you are using your smartphone instead of tablet, laptop, or desktop for at-home video interviews, get a tripod for your phone, or your laptop can be used as a sturdy, adjustable place to prop up your smartphone. Turn off your cell phone notifications which can distract and disrupt your conversation. Sometimes using horizontal rather than vertical orientation for your phone gives you better perspective. You probably have a professional setting to conduct video interviews in your office, but you may not at home. Is there enough light? Avoid backlighting when possible. These seemingly small touches can make a big difference in the effectiveness of your interview.
Even on video, you can make the right hiring decisions. We hope our years of experience will help you. Berkhemer Clayton is open for business throughout this crisis our team members are all working from home and doing plenty of at-home video interviews! 

We wish you all well, hope you will stay safe, and hire the best!

Copyright © 2020 Berkhemer Clayton, Inc., All rights reserved.
Berkhemer Clayton has a 26-year track record of successful senior-level searches for corporations, higher education and nonprofit organizations. We specialize in management-level executive searches in Communications & Marketing, C-Suite, and Boards of Directors.
  Our office address is:
Berkhemer Clayton, Inc.
241 S. Figueroa Street
Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90012