This article is written by Olivia Coughtrie, Director at Oriel Partners PA Recruitment.
Online interviews enable hiring managers to engage with candidates remotely using videoconferencing software. Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts are among the most popular apps for interviewing candidates, but recent circumstances have given rise to many more.
If you need to interview numerous candidates in a short space of time, video can be your biggest asset. Similarly, it can be the most effective mode of communication when hiring a remote member of your team, not least of all by eliminating the need for a costly and time consuming commute.
Although face-to-face interviews might actually be your first choice, social distancing measures could well render them an unviable option. Yet if executed properly, video interviews can be a great way to assess candidates’ intangible skills and an effective tool for rapport building without them having to set foot in your office.
Read our full guide to interview techniques here.
Why is building a rapport in interviews more challenging via video?
When you’re not in the same physical space as your candidate, building a rapport can be more difficult. Engaging in conversations, however formal, over video can also zap your energy. Why? Because deciphering non-verbal cues and tone of voice requires more effort.
Silence can also be a barrier to rapport-building. One 2014 academic study reveals that just 1.2 seconds of delay made participants perceive the responder as less friendly or focused.
With all of this in mind, the candidate might feel like they have to work harder to engage you. But there are things you can do to make the process run more smoothly. (And for some roles such as enterprise sales, it could be valuable for you to see how candidates navigate communicating over video.)
7 tips for video interviews that will help you build a rapport with candidates
Here are 7 of our tried and tested techniques for establishing relationships with candidates in video interviews.
1. Craft your questions
As with any interview, questions should be relevant to the role but also seek to invoke a response that reveals something about how the candidate would think and act in the role. Questions should also be relevant to the interview stage; for instance, if it’s the candidate’s first interaction with you, ask high level questions such as “What attracted you to the job ad?”
You might also want to focus your questioning on the workplace. As the interview is taking place remotely, the candidate won’t be gaining as much of an insight into your company culture and office environment. Asking them to describe their perfect work environment or the type of workspace they work best in will help you gauge whether or not they're aligned with your organisation's values and mission.
2. Be calm and poised
As a hiring manager, your own tone of voice and body language will impact the candidate’s state of mind more than anything else. Prior to the video interview, take a couple of minutes to breathe deeply, relax and gain composure. It sounds simple, but set a goal for the interview that you can keep in mind and return to if things go off track.
3. Spend time setting up
It goes without saying, but take some time to test your technology prior to the interview. Expect the unexpected - and by that we mean necessary app updates or internet issues. If you’re conducting the remote interview from the office, book a meeting room that offers good lighting, privacy and a de-cluttered environment.
4. Make eye contact
Candidates might be experiencing higher levels of stress at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic and they may also feel uncomfortable or unused to speaking to a screen. Maintaining eye contact can help them feel more at ease. It can also let them know that they have your full attention.
Instead of looking at the candidate’s face on the screen when you’re speaking, focus your attention on the webcam. This way, your eyes are more likely to meet the other person’s. When listening to their reply, you can shift your gaze to them.
Remember to mute any notifications for the duration of the online interview.
5. Prepare the candidate
Help set the candidate at ease by letting them know in advance which video platform you’ll be using. Do they need to install an app or can they join with their browser? Of course, you should always send a calendar invite well in advance with the time and a link to join the interview.
You might also want to brief them on the type of questions you’ll be asking. This might not be common practice for you usually but it may help set them at ease in a video context.
6. Have a contingency plan in place
We’ve all been there: the interview is going well, the conversation is beginning to flow and then the audio stops working or the other person’s face freezes on the screen. That’s why it’s a good idea to prepare for all eventualities by asking the candidate for a phone number you can reach them on should things go completely awry.
Remember that candidates will probably be using home WiFi which might be slower and more unpredictable than your office internet connection. Always wear headphones, and if noise continues to cause a distraction you could mute your microphone while the candidate is speaking.
7. Follow-up in a personalised way
Despite video interviews being a really effective way of screening candidates and building a rapport in the absence of face-to-face options, it shouldn’t be your only mode of communication. You should also try to avoid unpersonalised automation where appropriate. Organisations using Applied can send automated, personalised feedback at the click of a button to unsuccessful candidates, part of the reason why candidates rate Applied 9/10 on average.
When turning a candidate down or indeed notifying them that they’ve been successful, send a personalised email from either yourself or a member of the hiring team. Doing so will let them know that they’re part of a human hiring process.
About the Author
Olivia Coughtrie is Co-founder & Director at Oriel Partners a PA and administrative recruitment consultancy based in Central London. Olivia is passionate about making a positive change to the recruitment process.