It's expensive for companies to fly candidates in for in-person interviews, so more companies are conducting video interviews using Skype and similar technology. Internet-based videoconferencing tools allow employers to reach out to candidates virtually anywhere in the world easily and cost-effectively.
According to a recent Robert Half survey, 63 percent of human-resources managers said their company often conducts interviews via video. This is up from just 14 percent one year ago. In addition, 13 percent of respondents said they think their organization will use video more frequently to meet with job seekers in the next three years.
While use of the technology is becoming increasingly common in business, for many hiring managers, this is still unfamiliar territory. Setting the stage for a positive video-interview experience for both the hiring manager and the job seeker requires planning and practice. Here are some tips for employers:
Choose your location wisely
Videoconferencing services such as Skype allow you to schedule a meeting from almost anywhere -- your home computer, cubicle, smartphone or tablet computer.
However, no matter where you conduct an interview, don't let your surroundings interfere with maintaining a professional atmosphere. For instance, if you're working from home, dress as you would if you were conducting a formal, face-to-face interview with a job seeker -- after all, that's what you're doing, albeit virtually.
If you're at the office, remember that your webcam is the job seeker's window into the company. Select a location that is tidy, quiet and distraction-free. To ensure privacy, consider reserving a conference room. Let your colleagues know you'll be interviewing a potential hire and must not be disturbed, just as you would if you were meeting the job seeker in person.
Treat your small screen like the big screen
When preparing to conduct a video interview, think about how to make the experience more natural. For example, ensure there is ample natural light at your location and that it's directed onto your face, rather than from behind you, reducing shadows and glare.
Also, avoid leaning into the webcam; doing so can create visual distortion. However, look directly into the webcam and not at the computer screen when speaking. In a face-to-face interview, maintaining eye contact is essential to making a positive connection with a potential hire, and it's no different in a video interview.
Account for technical difficulties and time delays
Videoconferencing is a convenient but imperfect technology. Its effectiveness depends on the speed of your Internet connection and how much network traffic is being carried on both your company's and the job seeker's systems at the time.
Even under the best of conditions, delays and "choppiness" in video and voice are common; work around these issues by speaking slowly and trying not to move around too much. Allow for a second or two of dead air to pass after the job seeker finishes speaking before you deliver your next question or comment. Think of TV news anchors conducting interviews via satellite. This will help to avoid awkward and confusing conversation overlaps.
If you've never conducted an interview via videoconference, don't risk making a poor impression by jumping into the process unprepared. Practicing with a colleague can help you to build confidence and polish your skills before your debut. And always be prepared to rise above technical problems: Keep the job seeker's contact information handy just in case you have to grab the phone to complete the conversation.