Video interview horror stories


Chances are you already use video interviews as part of your recruitment or will do very soon. A 2012 survey from the staffing service Office Team asked more than 500 human resources managers about their use of video interviews, and nearly one in three uses them “very often.”

And just as likely, you will have had your very own horror story using this interviewing medium. A study from the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University in Ontario found that job applicants interviewed through video conferencing come across as less likable, while those doing the hiring are viewed as less competent.

There are many cautionary tales out there for candidates about how to portray themselves well through this medium. But recruiters are in danger of overlooking how they come across, especially if they are focussing on the technical aspects of the video such as recording the event or simply concentrating on the candidate.

You can observe this in a painful video interview with Jeff Garber, the CEO of 360JobInterview and champion of the video interview. Unfortunately his demeanour when waiting for his cue to expound on the marvels of the medium can only be described as glum, to say the least.

What this video – horror is too strong a word, lapse is fairer – shows, is that being on camera accentuates facial expressions.  Recruiters, you need to work hard at appearing warm and friendly otherwise you’ll come across as aloof and disdainful.

Another horror story, this time technical, comes from a head teacher in Cape Town. David Hunter, principal of International School, Cape Town relies on Skype to not only screen but to recruit teachers who he’ll meet for the first time when they arrive at his school gates.

In many countries, bandwidth is low and so the video will fail throwing the interview into a voice-only mode explains Hunter. “When the interview is voice-only, on the telephone, your verbal communication must be outstanding” he says.

While good preparation will mean clued up candidates and recruiters will ensure they are in an uncluttered, well-lit environment and look into the camera, a technical glitch or unexpected noise can undo all that. A candidate who is unfazed by this and can communicate their proposition is a good bet. When all non verbal body language cues are removed, it leaves you pretty exposed.

The final horror story doesn’t focus on a single example but a meltdown that can overcome any recruiter or candidate. “People tend to be more nervous on camera than in real life, because as infrequently as we may do job interviews, most of us have conversations on camera even less often,” says Christine Allen, New York-based psychologist, consultant and executive coach.

The way to overcome on-camera nerves is through familiarity. If you have a schedule of video interviews or screenings coming up, get some Skype practise in beforehand with a chum and get some candid feed back in how you come across.

The video interview is becoming a fixture in the hiring process as recruiters rate its efficiency and ability to help them trawl a wider and global talent pool. In these days of Youtube and Skype, it plays to the preferences of young people who wish for a more instant connection with employer, notes Tony Wilmot, co-founder of StaffBay.

So recruiters, it’s time to step up a gear, the video interview is here to stay.

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