Videoconferencing makes a great alternative to traditional interview methods, allowing a more personal connection than a phone interview without the expense of an in-person visit. Here we offer a helpful guide to ensuring a quality videoconferencing experience.
When preparing for a videoconference, interviewers should give careful consideration to the following aspects:
When scheduling your interview, make careful note of time zones in your location and the candidate’s location, as well as daylight savings time, and communicate that ahead of the interview date.
Make sure to visit the location for your videoconference ahead of time. Make note of how the room is laid out and the number of committee members who will be participating. Consider how many participants will be talking during the conference and whether it is possible for everyone to be seen and heard. Minimize any possible distractions for the candidate, such as unnecessary movement and background noise in the room. If there is any likelihood of disturbance during the interview, place a sign on the outside of the door to indicate that an interview is in progress.
Make sure there is adequate lighting so that the interviewee will be able to see everyone’s face. Avoid bright lights behind you (i.e. from a window), as they will cause a silhouette effect and darken your face. For best results, choose a light source located behind the webcam.
Set the Example
Whatever technology you decide to implement, Skype or otherwise, make sure ahead of time that you are very familiar with it and comfortable conducting online interviews. Don’t operate under the assumption that a Skype interview is just like video chatting with a friend. As with a traditional setting, you set the standard and pace for the interview. Keep in mind that complications during the interview due to technology problems on your end can negatively reflect on your preparedness, expertise as an interviewer, and the institution you represent.
Prepare for the Call
Note: Some IT departments will not allow the use of Skype, due to the fact that Skype’s proprietary signaling protocol makes it hard to secure, and in a shared network environment Skype can consume bandwidth that would otherwise be available to other users.
-Set up your own Skype account
-Make sure candidates have done the same
-Exchange Skype usernames with each candidate, ahead of time
-Agree upon times for test connections and the real interview (ideally, the test call would be conducted by someone other than a search committee member)
-Be sure to test your capabilities well before the interview, as Skype can be easily blocked by firewalls, and keep in mind that even under ideal conditions, fuzzy transmissions, dropped calls and odd disruptions are fairly typical experiences.
What you need to run Skype:
-A PC or Mac computer
-An internet connection – high-speed (“broadband” such as DSL, cable, fiber-optic or satellite) is best
-A webcam to make video calls
-A headset is highly recommended to minimize any possibility of an echo. Most computers have built-in microphones and speakers, but you will get much better audio quality with a hand or headset. Consider echo-cancelling microphones for group situations or a data projector to accommodate a larger search committee.
One of the benefits of conducting Skype interviews is the option to record them. In addition to allowing the interviewer(s) to be more engaged with candidates during the interview, the session can be played back for others to review. Remember to get the candidate’s permission to record the interview!
Remember that the videoconference experience will depend on multiple variables, most of which can change at any given time on either or both ends of the connection. Consider variables such as internet speeds, minimum system requirements, web cam quality, wireless versus wired network, USB devices, Skype version, and firewall or virus scanner problems. Whenever possible, connect directly to your network via wire to avoid internet connection problems. For full specs and explanations behind each technology variable, read our full video conferencing guide for interviewers (in PDF) at our Recruiting Library.
Remember “Murphy’s Law”
Search committees must stay focused on the interview, not the technology.
-Have IT support on hand
-Allow an extra 10 minutes per call to allow for setup and problem resolution
-Have a phone number with you to call the candidate if Skype fails and you can’t reconnect
-Always give the candidates an opportunity to continue by phone, visit in person or try again if the Skype interview fails
You can access our full guide to videoconferencing for interviewers (in PDF) at our Recruiting Library!
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