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Skyping Job Interviews: Headhunter Tips for Hiring Via Video Chat

If you haven’t yet conducted a job interview via video chat, chances are you will soon. About 30 percent of organizations that participated in The Aberdeen Group’s 2013 talent acquisition research are investing in video interviewing. That number continues to grow by 10 percent each year. Video interviews can offer employers a glimpse into the personality of a job candidate, but it can also give candidates a glimpse into the hiring organization’s company culture. And, now that unemployment is down and options are up for job seekers, headhunters have learned that conducting a video interview correctly could mean the difference between wooing a candidate and sending him or her heading for the hills.

The following three areas cover some of our best headhunter tips on conducting video chat interviews that won’t fall short:

Set the stage.  Do not make a video interview a barrier to entry for great job candidate. The added technical requirements could have the individual unfairly on edge, especially if the job requirements do not include remote work/technical prowess. Confirm beforehand that the candidate has the necessary tech available, such as software (Skype, GoToMeeting, or perhaps another program that your organization uses more often) and adequate bandwidth. Tell the job candidate that it’s OK to ask that a question be repeated or to confess when a glitch causes a blimp in the connection. If you jump right into the interview without presenting an opportunity to fine tune the connection, the candidate may feel it’s inappropriate to interject.

On that point, do what you can on your end to make sure the candidate can see and hear you well before you begin. If multiple people are present for the interview, be sure everyone is “on camera” and close enough to be recognized. While this may be a no-brainer, College Professor Stephen Winzenburg humorously recalls several job interview “incidents” in which the way the interviewers were positioned created very awkward experiences.

Watch your body language. Facial cues are more pronounced during video interviews because most other body language is hidden. First, make sure to smile—which is easier said than done. According to Forbes, “Lacking a ‘live’ person in front of you, and sidetracked by thoughts of equipment or cameras, you might be less likely to smile reflexively.”

Second, create the illusion of “eye contact” by looking at the monitor/web cam intently and nodding/smiling now and then when the job candidate is speaking. As CBS MoneyWatch’s Amy Levin-Epstein recently wrote, “If someone can’t even give you their undivided attention when they’re determining whether to hire you or not, why would they give you it once you’re on staff?”

Keep expectations in check.  As with in-person interviews, do pay attention to red flag behavior shown by the job candidate, such as professional appearance to body language. Virtual interview veteran and education specialist Kelly Yang admitted in The New York Times that it wasn’t until she conducted her tenth video interview when she “started noticing little things: the way the connection mysteriously dropped the minute I started asking hard questions; the way it would became completely stable again five minutes later, followed by a perfect answer from the candidate.”

Hopefully you’ll never be confronted which such blatantly unprofessional behavior.  At the same time, however, be realistic. If you’re turned off during the interview for any reason, try your best to figure out what may have set you off. Several hidden (and often bizarre) factors present only with video chat can create unfair negative perceptions. For instance, the image of an individual wearing an orange V-neck on a grainy web cam can look eerily like a mug shot, as career coach Debra Benson pointed out to Forbes. Fixing these unfortunate specifics can be a learning experience more than a red flag.

While it may be true that more and more companies are hiring candidates without ever meeting in person, that scenario simply isn’t ideal. If at all possible, set a date to bring the job candidate in for a follow up.  Or, if travel isn’t the issue, make in-person interviews a part of the early process, saving Skype for subsequent interviews. Perhaps Ben Lerer, co-founder and CEO of Thrillist Media Group said it best when he admitted, “You sit across the table from someone and usually you know in about 10 or 15 minutes if this person is going to work out.”

Can you get that same feeling from a video interview? That’s a chance rarely worth taking.

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