September 30, 2014

Should You Believe What You See in a Video Interview?

SeeingVideo interviews have been around for quite some time now, and I guess that many of you probably feel there is not much left to learn about this expedient format of interviewing. The benefits always outweighed the drawbacks in the early days, as video interviewing was overwhelmingly enabling. Now that video interviewing is established as a mainstream form of interviewing, we can now look at some of the original drawbacks, not as an attempt to criticize this essential vehicle, but as an opportunity for refinement.

And one particular drawback of video interviewing worth noting is the dampening effect of video interviewing. Researchers at the Degroote Business School last year found that applicants interviewed through video conferencing came across as less likeable than applicants interviewed in face-to-face settings and were rated lower by interviewers and less likely to be recommended for the job. What they also found was that candidates rated their video interviewers as less attractive, trustworthy, and competent than face-to-face interviewers.

These findings make it pretty clear that you are not seeing the real person during a video interview, but this is not to put the kibosh on video interviews. Rather, we must pave the way for to refinement.

Since today’s hiring process is so focused on cultural fit and interpersonal engagement, we can no longer quietly overlook the video interview’s tendency to dampen or even obscure a true personality.

Tips to Have a More Authentic Video Interviewing Experience

To help get around some of the personality-dampening effects of video, you’ll want to try and interview in HD quality and encourage the interviewee to take up a good, visible position where you can see their face and body clearly. Coach them to speak up, speak clearly, enunciate, and look into the camera. You’ll need to do the same, as rapport-building is a two-way street, and the research shows that the interviewer’s personality is dampened, too. (It could make sense to prepare a guide for video interviewees to help them do well at video interviews.)

I’d recommend that you spend additional time at the beginning of the interview building rapport with relaxed small talk, the odd joke, talk about company culture, fun corporate videos, and discussion of company news. Give interviewees a chance to talk about their hobbies and interests. You may need to allow more informal conversation than you would in face-to-face interviews to compensate for the flattening, personality-dampening, rapport-squashing aspect of video exchanges.

Finally, you’ll want to place a greater emphasis on cultural fit, personality type, and situational questioning to really get a good understanding of candidate personalities, so as to compensate for the personality-dampening effect of the video interview.


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Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.