Video Interviewing – A Primer for the Uninitiated

March 23, 2020 Share this article:

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Interviews can be nerve-wracking enough without the added stress of flying solo on an unfamiliar video conferencing platform. With more and more executives self-isolating and entire teams testing remote working solutions in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, executive search firms and their clients are turning to online interviews to fill critical leadership positions. In the last few weeks, not only have our teams adapted to remote working via video conferences, but we have helped candidates in 53 cities across five continents to prep for online meetings.

Here’s our checklist to ensure a seamless connection with your prospective new team and quality engagement with established teams.

1. Get your tech game on. Video conferencing platforms are not all created equal. Just because you’ve mastered Skype for Business (now replaced by Microsoft Teams), doesn’t mean Zoom or Samepage or BlueJeans will be a breeze. Additionally, some corporates have proprietary platforms that come with their own quirks. You may well have been sent a link in the meeting request, but clicking on it minutes before it’s due to start may lead you to join the video conference late, and starting an interview flustered and apologetic will put you on the back foot. Many platforms require you to either download software, or set up an account and log in before you can use the invitee’s password and code. Three minutes pass at the speed of light when you’re waiting for a confirmation email to complete your registration.

2. Don’t be camera-shy. Take a leaf from the selfie-generation and perfect your best angle. Being backlit by a window or a lamp can create an incognito witness-protection effect, while leaning in will distort your features, flattening your nose and foreshortening your jawline. Too far away, and you look oddly small and disproportionate while tilting the camera too high or too low will provide a view of the top of your head or down your cleavage. Also, familiarise yourself with the position of your device’s camera and don’t forget to maintain eye contact as much as possible. Practice with a coach or friend.

3. Testing Testing… 1… 2… 3. Use the audio test feature on your laptop to make sure there is no feedback and audio disturbance. Don’t rely on your laptop speakers, no matter how expensive your laptop is. For enhanced clarity plug in your headphones or connect via AirPods. Too often, people lean into the screen to hear properly or speak too loudly so others can hear. Wearing headphones allows you to maintain your pose and your poise! Hint: get your “quaran-teen” to check your headphones for coolness factor. You don’t want to look as though you’re piloting an aircraft.

4. Do a background check. Once you’ve set your laptop or desktop at the right angle, turn your chair around and take a long, hard look at your backdrop. Last month’s calendar, a dead pot plant, the back of the chair covered in cat hairs, a messy pile of papers, laundry drying on a rack, or the spare bed in the corner – these are all things that prospective employers will be interested in for all the wrong reasons. Similarly, make sure there are no whiteboards featuring confidential or price-sensitive information.

5. Stay put. Resist the temptation to get a coffee, or fetch your medication from your bedside table, especially if you’re interviewing on a handheld device. Besides getting an eyeful of your headboard or bathroom cabinet, the movement is disconcerting for those sitting static around a table. Prop up your device at a flattering angle and leave it there.

6. Dress up. Dress as you would for an in-person interview. Yoga pants or sleep shorts will be exposed if the doorbell rings or you have to get up for any reason. When it comes to what to wear, the same rules for TV interviews apply: avoid stripes and checks that flare on-screen and eschew strident colour combinations. Generally, if people remember what you wore, it was probably the wrong choice.

7. Do Not Disturb. Make sure your mobile is on silent, and that your co-isolationists know not to run a vacuum through the house. Also, ban anyone from being on the WIFI at the same time as you! No matter how fast your bandwidth is, internets around the world have slowed as people are home streaming TV series, downloading movies and playing online games. But, since you are at home, be prepared for children or pets who make a spontaneous entrance. And if they do, your reaction will be noted. Anyone who snarls and growls at family members is unlikely to be empathetic or respectful to employees.

8. Listen up. Engage your active listening skills. Stay focused and do not attempt to answer an email or respond to a WhatsApp while on a call. To prevent talking over people, use non-verbal cues to signal agreement.

9. On the Record. Everything is on the record until you have actually closed your laptop and are 100% certain that all callers have disconnected. This is self-explanatory.

10. Who you gonna call? Even the best-laid tech plans can be derailed by a power failure, a bad storm, poor internet connection or your teenager picking that moment to update his Call of Duty game, ripping the heart out of your data contract and slowing your WiFi connection to a trickle. If you lose connection and battle to reconnect, make sure you have mobile numbers on hand to be able to contact the interviewer or the organiser to alert them to your problem. This is not the time to be frantically searching email signatures for contact details.

With thanks to the following AltoPartners for sharing their expertise and experience as follows: Marco Arcaini AltoPartners Germany; Sonal Agrawal Accord India / AltoPartners India; Ricardo Bäcker Backer & Partners / AltoPartners Argentina; Matthias Bruchner AltoPartners Germany; Natalie Deroche Leaders Trust / AltoPartners France; Lindsay Gordon Koya Leadership Partners / AltoPartners USA; Corinne Klajda Accord Group Polska / AltoPartners Poland ; David Löfvendah Novare / AltoPartners Sweden; Johan Stierncreutz Fairchild / AltoPartners Finland ; Julia Zdrahal-Urbanek, Caroline Rofe-Woess and Verena Arcebi AltoPartners in Austria