Casting Calls for Video Shoots
When you’re targeting a managerial or professional job, a job offer is unlikely to be extended until the candidate and the person with hiring authority have gone nose-to-nose in the same room.
The video look-over, which may include multiple screening interviews, is usually aimed at reducing in-person meetings to a single event. Having said that, remember that nothing is fixed in bronze in today’s rapidly developing online video interviewing industry. After a round of phone and video interviews, job offers are occasionally extended to candidates who’ve never set foot inside the employer’s office.
Not all video interviewing models are the same, and some employers may use more than one model. Regardless of the model, interviewing skills are front and center in a video version. This section describes the three basic video models.
Working with third-party vendors
Private video interviewing firms like HireVue, the first company of its kind, are fast climbing the pop charts of talent-management technology. Launched with a single Salt Lake City office in 2004, the video interviewing industry is estimated to number more than two dozen vendors in 2012. (Check out www. talentmanagementtechnologymegalist.com.)
Here’s how it works: The typical method is for a third-party vendor to send the job applicant a webcam, with detailed directions on how to use it. Additionally, the vendor’s website usually has detailed instructions, an 800- number to call if there are problems, and sample interviews.
Assuming you’re the job seeker, once you receive an interview invitation, you log in to a server to get the interview questions, which appear on your computer screen or are spoken by an announcer or company spokesperson. You have about 30 seconds to read each question and a given amount of time (usually two to three minutes) to answer on camera.
Once your interview begins, there’s no turning back. The interview is recorded, and you can’t edit your answers, even if you quickly realize you gave a mother-of-all-jokers answer. The questions keep coming — usually about seven to ten of them. For instance, “Can you give an example of why your past work history qualifies you for this position?”
Chatting through Skype
You can interview live using Skype, an online phone and video Internet service. But you need a computer, a webcam, and a decent broadband connection.
Skype started in 2003, and its name is short for “sky peer-to-peer.” Free to use in its basic version, with an easy registration process, Skype is the best-known service of its type. Skype is now the preferred method many employers use to conduct long-distance screening interviews, although a number stick to “old-fashioned” phone screeners for simplicity. Comments by interviewees who’ve tried video chat interviewing range from enthusiastic to grumbly:
I really liked the video interview a lot better than the phone-based interview — it was a much friendlier and warmer exchange.
A webcam isn’t the most flattering piece of technology. It can make you look as attractive as Jason in Friday the 13th.
Before you make your first screen appearance on the interview scene via video chat on Skype, take the following steps:
- Download the Skype software a week or two in advance. Cultivate a firstname basis with it. Set up practice training calls with your friends so you’ll look comfortable and polished when real interviews come your way.
- Create a professional username; this isn’t the scene to joke around.
- On the morning of a real interview, conduct a quick test of the technology to ensure that your camera and microphone are working like a charm.
Videoconferencing is conducting a conference between two or more participants at different sites by using computer networks to send audio and video data.
A two-person videoconferencing system works much like a video telephone. Each participant has a video camera, microphone, and speakers mounted on a computer. Similar to video chatting, as the two participants speak to one another, their voices are carried over the network and delivered to the other’s speakers, and whatever images appear in front of the video camera appear in a window on the other participant’s monitor.
Some videoconferencing services invite job candidates into an office, college career center, or other permanent set and may utilize traditional high-end equipment.
The development of multipoint videoconferencing technology allows three or more participants to sit in a virtual conference room and talk as if they were sitting next to each other.
Determining Video’s Upside and Downside
Certain advantages and disadvantages of video interviewing are obvious, but others are sure to turn up as employers and job seekers gain more experience using the technology. First, a look at the pros:
- Time savings: In certain situations, you may get a job faster because of video interviewing. Recruiters and hiring managers can conduct firstround interviews more quickly online using video interviewing than they can scheduling in-person interviews. Video interviewing is a time-saver particularly when you can’t easily break away from your present job to travel to an interview or when several groups of company executives must weigh in on your hiring but are in different locales; video interviewing allows several locations to connect at once.
- Convenience: When you’re currently employed, you don’t have to miss work to interview if you can respond at your convenience.
- Distance-jumping for short-term employment: Video interviewing is a boon to prospective interns and contract workers who want jobs far away; a company isn’t going to fly you in for a three-month summer internship or contract gig, but it may hire you on the basis of an online video interview.
- Modernity: Not many candidates have used video interviewing yet. If you can show that you take technology in stride (especially if you’re over 40), you get bonus points. You look like a good fit in forwardlooking companies.
But nothing is perfect. Take a look at some of the drawbacks that video interviewing presents:
- Lag time: A lag time occurs when data is compressed and sent from one location to another. You have to remember to allow for the delay and not step on the interviewer’s lines. Additionally, the interviewer may inadvertently cut you off midsentence.
- Connectivity: Sometimes the connection isn’t great, and you have to strain to hear what people are saying.
- Lighting: If the lighting is goofy, you may look purple or pale as a corpse.
- Performance pressure: When it’s your turn to speak up, you have very little time to look away, down, up, or sideways to process your thoughts. When the “green light” goes on, the pressure on you is somewhat like a contestant at a quiz show: Talk or walk.
- Learning curve: Being judged in front of a camera takes some getting used to. Glimpses of awful screen tests of actors who later became famous confirm the point. While camera success may be ducks-to-water for a few people, more typically, candidates start out feeling unnatural. Time and practice make them less so.
Rock the Video Job Interview
The content of a video interview is much the same as an in-person interview. But the execution differs. Consider these sample reactions:
- A candidate, a cool 20-something manager who isn’t easily thrown off center, told a magazine that his video interview was “kind of nervewracking” and a totally different feeling from sitting in front of someone for a live interview.
- An employer reported on a comments board that a lot of things don’t come across the camera and that certain factors are accentuated: “Posture, dress, comfort with uncertainty, facility with technology — all those things get highlighted and bolded during a web interview.”
Online, you can’t use handshakes and ingratiating small talk as you enter and leave an interviewer’s office to help imprint favorable memories of you. To compensate, include a memorable statement — a sound bite. Somewhere near the end of the interview, an experienced candidate says something like this:
Of the many things I’ve accomplished in my career, (name a top achievement) stands out as the most significant. Do you see a strong connection between my favorite accomplishment and what it will take to be very successful in this position?
An entry-level candidate can aim to become unforgettable by saying something unexpected like this:
I know that many employers consider my generation to be lacking in writing and critical thinking skills and are not pleased that some of us write company e-mail as if we were texting cell-phone messages with our thumbs. That’s not me. I’m good with technology, but I’m old fashioned. I spell my words correctly and include all the letters. And I believe you will be happy to know that I use my head when I write — not just my thumb. When can we get together and speak face-to-face?
Getting ready to video interview
As with all interviews, don’t walk in cold and sit down before a camera unprepared. The following suggestions brief you on what you need to know.
Find out whether you’re on a clock for the interview. If the interview is scheduled for 30 minutes, consider it a rigid cut-off and don’t plan on overtime.
Send materials for show-and-tell in advance of the interview, in case the interviewer wants to ask questions about an updated resume or project; you can’t slide materials through the screen.
Review potential questions that you’re likely to be asked. Be ready to relate your qualifications to the job’s requirements. Memorize examples of accomplishments that illustrate what you can bring to the company.
Making a few notes during an in-person interview is flattering to the interviewer. But the jury’s still out about whether you should take a notebook to video interviews and jot down points that will help you respond with clarity. The criticism of note taking is that it is more pronounced and disruptive onscreen than it is face-to-face. Others disagree, saying that glancing at your notes may make you seem more conscientious.
On balance, I vote with the note-taking school. I think it’s okay to refer to your notes (and resume) and hopefully be seen as a thorough person who covers all the bases.
When you’re not interviewing at home, arrive 15 to 30 minutes early at the interview site to deal with any technical issues that may arise. Request an overview of the interviewing event and a refresher on the use of the equipment. Ask the technician how loudly you should speak into the mike and how to use the picture-in-picture feature that shows you in action.
When you’re using your own video equipment, check your camera angle (set it at eye level) and speakers (place them out of view). Improve the quality of the audio by wearing a lavalier microphone clipped to your collar or tie rather than relying on the uncertain audio quality of your webcam.
Each morning before a real interview, double-check your Internet connections. Arrange to keep the other Internet traffic to a minimum during Skype sessions; make sure no one is surfing, playing online games, or watching streaming video in another room (these all compromise the bandwidth you need for Skype).
To avoid a contrast issue, you can’t go wrong with solid colors that aren’t too dark (black) or too light (white, yellow). Blue works well. Although you may see an anything-goes range of colors on high-definition or digital TV, you can’t count on the technology for the average computer monitor being that advanced.
Additionally, busy patterns distract from your face. So do definitive stripes and plaids. Watch TV newscasters to form your own wardrobe preferences. Otherwise, wear the clothing you would wear to a same-room interview.
Plan for an uncluttered look. Eliminate such distractions as too many books or magazines, wall hangings, memos taped to the wall, stacks of laundry, posters from your favorite band, and so forth. Avoid background motion — second hands ticking on a clock, barking dogs racing back and forth, cats leaping into camera range, or kids walking in and out of camera range, for instance.
Eliminate any bright light (as from a window) behind you — it will darken your face.
Arrange test interviews with friends. Can you hear each other? Can you see each other? Is the framing of your screen about right (head to waist), or is the focus on your face so tight that every pore looks like a moon crater?
Go beyond merely conducting test interviews with friends — record your performances to see for yourself how you’re coming across on camera. In addition to paying attention to the quality of your answers and how you look overall, be on the lookout for awkward or off-putting behaviors, such as the following actions:
- Swinging your leg
- Tapping your foot
- Fiddling with your hair
- Leaning back
- Crossing your arms
- Looking dour
- Slumping or slouching
- Reacting in slow motion
This tip, more than any other, will improve your interviewing performance.
During the interview
You’re almost prepared to command the screen. Now review these finer points gleaned from others who have gone in front of the cameras before you.
Movements and posture
Calmness is classy and shows confidence. No way should you check your personality at the door, but do try to be fairly still. Smooooth. Avoid overly broad gestures — you’re not directing traffic. Ration your gestures to underscore important information.
Pause and think before answering a question, to seem thoughtful and unflappable.
Look interested when you’re seated by leaning slightly forward with the small of your back against your chair.
Microphones have an irritating habit of picking up all the noise in the room. Don’t shuffle papers or tap a pen. Noises that you may not notice in a sameroom interview can become annoying in a video interview.
Occasionally glance at the picture-in-picture feature on the monitor to check your body language and hope you don’t catch yourself scratching, licking your lips, or jangling your keys. Hunching your shoulders and other badposture poses make you look even worse on those small screens than they do in person.
Facial expressions and speaking
The first thing you say is, “Hi, I’m Bill Kennedy. Nice to meet you.” (And if you’re not Bill Kennedy, use your own name.) Speak normally, but not too fast. When nervous, some people don’t stop for air, and their best lines are left on the cutting room floor, unheard or not understood.
Be conscious of a sound delay. A couple seconds will lapse between when the interviewer speaks and when you hear the statement or question (you observe this audio pause on TV when a foreign correspondent is on another continent). At the end of an interviewer’s words, pause (One-Mississippi Moment) before you reply.
Look directly at the camera as often as possible when speaking — this is how you make eye contact. You can look around occasionally, but avoid rolling your eyes all over the room as though you can hardly wait to make your getaway. Some people look down at the desk. Don’t, especially if you have a bald, shiny spot on the top of your dome. And don’t bend over a microphone; imagine that the interviewer is sitting across the table from you. (Remember to use a lavalier microphone and eliminate that temptation.)
The three most important things to remember in a video interview are (1) smile, (2) smile, and (3) smile. Have you noticed that, even when reporting disasters of nationwide proportions, TV anchor people don’t always wipe the smile off their faces? Why do you suppose that is? Smile!
Unless your interview space is on fire, it’s not your prerogative to end the interview. Always allow the interviewer to indicate when time’s up.
Since at the end of a video interview you can’t shake hands through a monitor, deliver a sign-off statement indicating you understand that the interview is over. You can say something as simple as “Thank you for interviewing me. I enjoyed it. Let’s talk face-to-face very soon.”
Not the Same Thing — Video Interview vs. Video Resume
Video interviews and video resumes are sometimes lumped together in discussions of video technology. They shouldn’t be. They’re two different documents with different purposes.
The differences between the digital siblings are based on the following four factors:
- The stage at which video enters the hiring process
- The length of the video
- Who controls the video’s content
- Who pays the video’s costs
A video resume — which is offered in a message of voice and motion — is an employer’s first look at a specific job seeker. The resume typically lasts between one and three minutes. The job seeker controls the content. The job seeker pays for the video.
A video interview — also presented in a message of voice and motion — is an employer’s second look at a specific job seeker that ordinarily takes place only by invitation after the employer evaluates the applicant’s fixed online or on-paper resume. A video interview may replace a phone screening interview prior to an invitation for an on-site interview. The duration of a video interview varies. The employer controls its content. The employer pays for the video.
Weighing In on Video Resumes
I surveyed 20 established career management experts nationwide for their experience-based opinions about the value of video resumes to job seekers. Eighteen respondents — nearly all — said that replacing fixed resumes with video resumes is a dim-bulb idea.
Checking out the objections
In a nutshell, the two chief objections to video resumes are the issues of time and discrimination. Here’s a quick look at each issue.
The time vampire issue
Addressing the time issue head-on, Barbara Safani, a leading resume authority and president of Career Solvers (www.careersolvers.com), says that, in today’s pressure-cooker world, no one really wants to see your video resume because we want our information fast!
“Everyone needs to be a master scanner just to keep up with the incredible amount of information flying by,” Safani observes.
Hiring systems take less than a minute to slice and dice data on traditional resumes to determine a match between a candidate and an open job. But as Safani explains, “There’s currently no good way to parse a candidate’s information and accomplishments on a video resume.”
“With few extra professional minutes to spare in sizing up candidates’ qualifications for a job, why would anyone want to look at video resumes from 500 applicants?” Safani understandably asks.
CareerXroads is a company that holds dozens of events each year with hiring authorities across America. Gerry Crispin, a principal of CareerXroads, applauds the growth of video interviews but boos the video resume:
“Not a single firm I know would spend time on a video resume of a prospect or candidate who has not already been previously evaluated. Not one.”
The video resume time issue also carries a cost issue for job seekers. Crispin worries about candidates not only wasting their money paying to record video resumes, but also losing job-search time while learning how to project themselves to an imaginary audience of recruiters.
The potential discrimination issue
Video resumes increase the risk of even the best-trained managers sliding into discriminatory practices, according to Donald Asher, a top-shelf career consultant and author of Cracking the Hidden Job Market: How to Find Opportunity in Any Economy.
Asher says, “Video resumes could so easily be used to discriminate against candidates on the basis of race, age, gender, ‘looks,’ and sexual orientation.”
Michael Forrest agrees. Forrest, now retired, was president of a major job board, head of the National Associate of Colleges and Employers, and dean of a famous MBA executive program. Forrest’s view:
“Pictures — motion or not — have been a great big ‘no!’ in the human resources world for decades, as the practice assures both discrimination and reverse discrimination. The attorneys will have a field day.”
Consider making a video resume only when you’re in an occupation that requires presentation skills, such as acting or sales.
Viewing the bottom line
Of the 20 career management experts I surveyed for their takes on the value of video resumes, 2 were on the fence and responded with the thought that video resumes may be more widely acceptable “tomorrow maybe.”
In short, the video resume is not an idea whose time has come. But the video interview is an idea whose time is now.
Keep Smiling: You’re on Camera
Regardless of model or format, learning to look and sound good on camera is a challenge, according to candidates who’ve been through the experience. (If it were easy, anyone could be on television presenting the news.) I anticipate that community colleges will pick up the pace in offering students the opportunity to enroll in video interviewing training courses and workshops sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I emphasize these two tips:
- Become familiar with a webcam (set at eye level), a microphone, and video chat software. Schedule regular online visits with friends and family, during which you learn how loudly to talk and how to watch the picture-in-a-picture on your computer monitor to see if you’re guilty of overacting. Keep doing this until you feel comfortable.
- Periodically search the Net for evolving video job interview advice about everything from correct lighting to clothing.
The content of an online job screening interview is virtually the same as that of an in-person or phone screen. But the mechanics . . . oops, the electronics . . . are changing the interview picture as you read this.