Originally published October 15, 2014; updated March 19, 2020
While the use of videoconferencing as a recruitment tool has gained traction in recent years, social distancing efforts to combat COVID-19 present an opportunity for nonprofits to get more comfortable conducting video interviews—and keep the hiring process moving.
Temporarily moving the entire recruitment process to technology platforms will allow organizations to maintain momentum and prepare them for a future which relies on these tools more frequently.
There are numerous platforms that work well for conducting video interviews, and many of the industry leaders are offering free or discounted access to their enterprise-grade services. These services offer more robust features, such as hosting meetings with multiple participants and recording and saving meetings for future review. Examples of providers with special offers include:
Video interviews are convenient and cost-effective, but they do require a certain amount of preparation and online etiquette. One note of caution for interviewers: the informality of the technology may lull you into forgetting about EEOC guidelines on pre-employment inquiries. It’s always best to stick to a prepared script of questions so you don’t ask anything that could be out of compliance.
Our Executive Search team has prepared the following video interviewing tips for both interviewers and candidates:
1. Dress the part.
Dress as if this is an in-person interview. Nice shirt or blouse, even a suit coat and a tie if it is appropriate for the culture of the organization. Though you'll be sitting down, be sure to wear dress pants. You never know when you'll have to stand up mid-interview to respond to something unexpected, like turning on a light, adjusting your ceiling fan, or picking up a pet.
2. Frame yourself.
Find a clean, quiet location for the interview. Look behind you to see what will be visible as your backdrop. Ideally, it should be a bookcase or a nondescript photo or painting. You don’t want anything to distract from your face. Check the lighting, and add a desk lamp if the space seems too dark. If you can, avoid sitting in a swivel chair—it's hard to resist the urge to twist back and forth, which can make you look nervous.
3. Test your equipment.
It can be awfully stressful to try to join a video interview only to find that the connection doesn’t work. If you’ve set up or been given a conference software login, try it 5-10 minutes in advance to make sure you don’t have to download anything. To be on the safe side, exchange cell phone numbers and email addresses ahead of time so you have an alternate way of connecting if the technology fails.
As search consultants, we’ve had our share of experiences where we’ve had to switch to iPhone FaceTime when laptops or iPads have not cooperated with candidates. Simply be flexible. Acknowledge the problem, and if you both have audio but no video, just carry on.
4. Consider your pets.
We all understand that dogs can bark without notice. So if you're at home and have a dog, inform the interviewer (or candidate) at the start of the meeting. If barking erupts, it will provide a little comic relief rather than discomfort. That said, you might consider scooting your pets out of the room during the interview. A cat walking across a keyboard is not as uncommon of an occurrence as you might think!
5. Take notes, but don’t lose eye contact.
You’ll want to have a pad of paper and pen nearby to take notes as needed. If that’s a bit old school, then use a tablet with a silent keyboard. It’s hard to talk over the sound of clicking keystrokes. Just make sure you maintain good eye contact with the person on the other side of the screen. That’s why the two of you are on the video interview in the first place.
Campbell & Company is offering free 30-minute consultations to organizations that need help moving their recruitment/hiring operations online. Please be in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to schedule a session with one of our search consultants.
For more guidance during this challenging time, check out our COVID-19 nonprofit resource page.