Search Committee’s Guide to a Successful Video Interview

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Category: Search Process

Video interviewing is a wonderful way to connect with candidates and is becoming much more common, but doing a video conference with an applicant adds additional responsibilities to the search committee and search committee chair—

  • In addition to developing and asking good, relevant questions, remember that the dynamic of a video may prompt the candidate to engage the committee differently. This is a good thing…but it also has the tendency to stretch the time, so ensure you set a reasonable length of time depending on the number of questions you ask. Share the number of questions and timeframe with the candidate ahead of time.
  • It is most helpful to call from a room on campus appropriately equipped for a full-scale video interview. “Skyping” around a conference table often leaves multiple committee members out of the picture and the candidate may hear faceless voices.
  • Ensure there will be no interruptions or extraneous noises (telephones ringing, members outside of the search committee coming in and out of the room, open windows with traffic noise, etc.)
  • Consider lighting and audio volume – to ensure you will come across well to the candidate have everyone seated an appropriate distance from the camera, close window blinds if necessary to mute bright light, or raise the lighting to make everyone visible!
  • If you are not comfortable with technology, have someone from IT on hand to trouble-shoot. Ideally, you should allow the candidate to do a “practice connection” to reduce the risk of issues at the time of the interview.
  • If the connection is lost or of poor quality you must have a backup plan in place.

There can be a few downsides to doing a video interview:

  • For candidates who less familiar with the format, they may become more focused on technology than the content of their answers.
  • It is important to guard against bias.
    1. If the candidate doesn’t look directly at the camera lens it may be perceived as avoiding eye contact.
    2. Will body image, ethnicity, disability, or something as simple as hairstyle or style of dress prompt bias on the part of interviewers?
  • Many institutions will not allow work computers to be used for personal reasons, so you may be asking someone to use a half-day or more of vacation time to do a one hour interview.
  • You cannot deem a candidate unsuitable because of a poor internet connection or because of technical difficulties.

None of these things should prohibit the valuable use of a video conference interview, but it is important to discuss with the committee ahead of time the pros and cons. Remember, that as you are getting a “first impression” of the candidate, they are also getting a first impression of you!

Ellen Heffernan

President - Spelman Johnson

Ellen Heffernan graduated from Smith College with a B.A. in economics and government. She joined Spelman Johnson in 1996, after a ten-year career in higher education that included positions at Smith College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is also a national speaker and writer on topics related to recruiting and professional development in higher education and serves as faculty for several national higher education association professional development programs. Ellen also currently serves on the executive board of the National Association of Executive Recruiters.