Video conferencing continues to be a wonderful tool connecting us with colleagues, clients, vendors, etc. It is also an extremely useful interviewing tool, saving travel time and money. While nothing replaces an in-person interview, the video interview allows hiring managers to push that later in the process with finalist candidates. With greater access to this platform, users are much more comfortable in front of it. Sometimes a little too comfortable and that overly causal approach has spread to the interview process. A video interview is STILL an interview! This CAse Study shares some video interview etiquette tips as well as tales of video interviews gone wrong.
Dress appropriately from your head to your feet. Candidates have appeared on camera wearing baseball caps, which might have been funny if they were interviewing for a position with that team. There are stories of interviewers and candidates dressing News Anchor style (professionally from the waist up only), moving, and exposing the fact that they are wearing sweatpants or pajama pants. Once, a candidate stood up to close a door when her dog barked revealing her bare feet.
If uncertain about what to wear, ask the recruiter or hiring manager what is appropriate. At CA Search Advisors, we like to give candidates the dress code expectation for a video interview. A nice blouse, sweater, or button down with a pair of dress pants or a skirt is normally fine but assume that it is business dress when asking is not possible. Better overdressed than under, as my mother used to say. And DO remember to dress below the waist, even your feet.
Find a quiet, appropriate location for your interview, preferably with a door that locks. We only have a certain number of rooms available, so use the most private, quiet location with the least distracting background.
Lying on your bed propped up against the pillows or sitting on your floor is more appropriate for chatting on video with friends and family. That said, if you are sitting on the end of your bed with a table in front of you, interviewers understand when the setting is neat, quiet, and professional. Set up a folding table and chair in front of a wall in your bedroom. Try it out on camera prior to the call to get the correct angles and no one will notice.
Put pets away. With many people working from home, the barking dog in the background or the cat that finds a way to squeeze into the room and climb up on the desk happens. We all get it but do make every attempt to secure them safely in a different room.
If you wouldn’t have the photo sitting on your company office desk, do not have it in the background during a video interview. A nice family photo or simple photo with friends is fine. That picture of you wearing a bathing suit and a t-shirt that says, “Drinks Well with Others,” while holding a cocktail, or the fraternity party keg stand photo is not appropriate.
Steer away from tricks like putting an intellectual quote on the whiteboard behind you. Unless you spent a great deal of time studying Plato, you run the risk of misquoting, misattributing the quote to, or misinterpreting the philosopher, but it may give the person on the other side a good laugh.
Do use something interesting in the background as a connection point with the person on the other end of the interview. Maybe you are a huge football fan and spot a signed jersey or helmet. Asking to hear the story behind it might help everyone relax and establish a rapport.
Make your friends, family, or roommates aware of the interview. Remind them several times before the interview date and time. This reduces the chance that someone lets the dog in the room, comes in asking for something, or walks around behind you.
Save eating and drinking for after the interview. Being interviewed by someone munching on potato chips or baby carrot sticks is annoying. Chewing gum is a no. Limit your beverage options to a bottle or glass of water sitting next to you in case your throat gets dry. Water does not leave a liquid mustache above your lip or people trying to guess what you are drinking.
Reconfirm the date, time, and link before the interview and show up on time. Hiring managers forget to send video links or prior meetings run long. Candidates have emergencies or accept other offers. People on both sides get sick. Communicate! Confirm the interview information the day before the event. Text a candidate prior to the interview start to say that another meeting is running long, and you may be a few minutes late. Let the hiring manager know before the scheduled interview that you genuinely appreciate the consideration but have accepted another offer. Do not leave someone waiting for you. People remember being ghosted and you never know when your paths may cross again.
Prepare for technical issues and communicate them. Not all platforms work well on all systems. Microsoft Teams tends to function well across a company’s network but not necessarily with all outside personal computers. Google Meets is not always reliable for some users. Zoom seems to be universal but is not perfect. Be sure to get each contact’s cell number so you can send a message if facing an issue. Dial-in by phone and suggest continuing that way and scheduling another video call, rescheduling all together, or quickly transferring to another available platform.
Stories from the Screen
Clients and fellow HR and recruiting professionals were gracious enough to provide a few awkward yet funny video interview tales, or more like fails. And this recruiter added one of her own mishaps. Enjoy!
A candidate appeared on camera wearing a hoodie with the hood on his head. He also sat at the kitchen counter with a messy pile of dirty dishes in the background. The hiring manager explained to the candidate that wearing a hoodie to an interview was not exactly professional and asked him to at least lose the hood while they spoke. The hiring manager went on to ask about the dirty dishes in the background. The candidate responded that his mom was supposed to clean them. The hiring manager suggested that he take responsibility and clean the dishes not only for his mother but for himself and everyone in the house.
“The Male Art Model”
A client was interviewing a candidate in his apartment at his dining room table. His roommate obviously was not aware, forgot, or did not care that the interview was happening, He came out of his bedroom completely nude and walked behind the candidate into the kitchen. The candidate had his back to his roommate and was unaware. The client quickly ended the interview.
A candidate decided to take a video interview in the backyard from his phone. Unfortunately, his lawn service was mowing his lawn at the time. Neither side could hear the other and the candidate kept yelling, “What?” To make matters worse, he had the phone screen so close to his mouth the hiring manager could see what was in his teeth.
“Polly Wants a Cracker”
During a group video event, a participant’s parrot decided to join the call. The bird began hoping around on the person’s shoulder and head. Then the participant encouraged the bird to remain by holding food between her lips and feeding it.
“Honey, Don’t Forget to…”
During a video interview, a candidate’s spouse yelled from another room, “During the interview, make sure you tell them that you need to make more money than you are currently making.” The candidate quickly excused himself, whispered something to his spouse off-camera, and returned. The HR Director replied wittily, “That is the goal if this interview process is successful.” The candidate laughed embarrassed but appreciating the HR Director’s sense of humor.
While on a video interview at home, the doorbell rang. My first thought was a delivery, and the carrier was ringing and leaving. The bell rang a second time. Must be a neighbor who will try again later. Yet, when the door was not answered, the sound of keys in the lock, the door opening and people yelling, “Hello, hello,” could be heard throughout the house. Ahh, the joys of having retired parents who live five minutes away with keys.
These stories are funny now but were awkward situations at the time for everyone involved. Again, a video interview is STILL an interview and requires the same amount of professionalism as an in-person interview. Do not let the fact that you are sitting in an unconventional location or not wearing a suit and tie allow you to forget that.
Amy Bauer, Co-Founder and Managing Principal