Let’s face it, (pun intended), video communication is all the rage. Whether it’s a Zoom meeting with colleagues in another office or FaceTiming with your nephew—everybody’s doing it. Interviewing is no different, partially because the technology has improved so much that it almost feels like an in-person conversation. While nothing is better than meeting someone face to face, that can often be impractical or logistically challenging. Especially when it comes to hiring in the nonprofit sector, it can also be cost prohibitive to pay for candidate travel expenses.
At Morris & Berger, we interview dozens of candidates via video every month and have seen our share of what not to do. Whether you’re interviewing a candidate or you’re the candidate being interviewed, here are some key tips to help you make—not break—the video interview.
- Preparation Matters. Just like the motto: always be prepared! At least the day before as well as an hour before your scheduled interview, ensure everything is running smoothly. Make sure you feel comfortable with the technology that will be used (Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, etc.). If possible, you can ask the interviewer to conduct a test before the scheduled interview or test it out with a friend. The last thing you want during your video interview is to have connectivity problems. Be sure to have a strong Internet connection, sufficient battery, up-to-date software, and clear audio and video. Close all other programs or put them on “do not disturb” mode. Clean the camera lens to ensure a clear picture. It is also important to have access to a phone in case the video conference technology falters.
- Background Matters. Look behind you to see what your “audience” will see in the video. In an interview you should be the focal point, so make sure there is nothing distracting or unprofessional in the frame. If you are doing the interview from home, make sure there is no dirty laundry or scattered toys or unusual artwork—anything that will take interviewers’ eyes off of you and give a negative impression. Ideally, a plain wall is best.
- Lighting Matters. With the background in mind, choose a location that is well lit but make sure there isn’t a window or light behind you that could cause your face to be in shadow. Close curtains or blinds if needed. To illuminate your face, you may want to put a lamp directly behind your computer/tablet. Adjust for dimness or brightness and make sure not to wear flashy jewelry or other shiny objects that could catch the light and be distracting.
- Angle Matters. Consider your camera placement closely. We have had many interviews where the camera is coming from below which results in us looking up a person’s nose or at a highly unflattering angle. Choose a solid surface and position your computer or tablet so the camera is at eye level, using books as props if needed. Also, make sure the camera is an appropriate distance from you. You want the interviewer to be able to see from the top of your head to about mid-torso.
- Eye Contact Matters. Look directly at the camera when speaking. It is natural for us to want to look an interviewer in the eye, but if you stare at your screen and your camera is above, it will appear as if you are looking down or in a different direction, making it more difficult to establish natural rapport with your interviewer. When speaking, stare directly into the camera (which should be at eye level).
- Location Matters. It’s important to be in a quiet place with as few distractions as possible. Choose your setting wisely. Candidates have done video interviews from the airport or a coffee shop, with people walking around and talking in the background, which can obviously be distracting. We understand that if you are doing this from home a furry friend may find their way into the frame, but if possible, put them in another room. Make sure that phones and televisions are off and family members know that you need privacy.
- Being Yourself Matters. Dress comfortably but professionally. Wear the same clothes you would have worn for an in-person interview but think about what colors and patterns might be distracting on video. Above all, relax and focus on listening and connecting with the human being on the other end. It may take some getting used to, so practice with friends and family members.
Video communication is here to stay. As technology continues to improve, we’re only going to be doing more of it. So, take a few trial runs and get ready for your close-up (but not too close)!
To learn more about Morris & Berger and our approach to nonprofit executive search, click here.