Polycom Employee

Recently, I shared some tips on how candidates can prepare for a job interview over videoconferencing and I received some positive feedback from candidates that the tips did come in handy! So, I thought it would be good to share some further tips, but this time from the perspective of the interviewer.


There is plenty of guidance out there on general job interviewing and most experienced interviewers will have their own established and unique technique, which works best for them. But with the growing adoption of videoconferencing to conduct interviews, allow me to add to your list of considerations when preparing.


1)  Set the agenda


It is very easy to get carried away during an interview, causing the interview to overrun. This is more so when interviewing candidates who are new to interviewing over video. This might be their first experience of such a scenario.


To get around this, it is advisable to set the agenda at the start of the interview. This allows the interviewer to cover as much as possible in the allocated time. Also, the action of setting up an agenda encourages the interviewer make a list (if that’s not already been defined) of criteria he or she is looking for in the candidate.


An example of an agenda is as follows:


  • Introduction and quick ice-break (5 mins)
  • Revisit some of the questions the candidate may have from his/her last interview (assuming that this is not the first interview that the candidate is having) (5 mins)
  • Assessing the candidate based on the criteria for the role:

       -  Criteria 1 (Example: Business Acumen) (15 mins)

       -  Criteria 2 (Example: Functional Expertise) (15 mins)

       -  Criteria 3 (Example: People Management and Core Values) (15 mins)


  • Questions from candidate (10 mins)


It is perfectly fine to share with the candidate the agenda “as is”. Remember, this is an interview not a debate or interrogation. What you’re looking for is a rich discussion allowing you to gain insights into this candidate, and sell the job and the company to them in the process.


Thus, being clear about the interview agenda upfront will help facilitate that discussion.


2)  Introduction (Self and Panel)


Many of us overlook the importance of a good introduction. I am not suggesting that a lengthy introduction is a good one either.


When you are meeting someone over video for the first time, and having to rely on what you see on screen to judge body language, it is important that we take the effort to make sure that we create the right first-impressions. Treat an introduction over video like you would in a traditional meeting where you are in the same room.


Even if you’re very well known in the industry, nothing beats a good concise introduction of who you are and what you do in the organisation. Also, it is always good practice to share with the candidate how your role interacts with the role which the candidate is interviewing for.


Usually, the candidate would be meeting more than one person from the company. If you are the first interviewer, it is useful to make sure that the candidate has a brief idea of whom they will be meeting over the course of the interview process and whether this will be over video or in person. You don’t have to go into too much detail on who and what each of the interviewer on the panel does, so an outline introduction would do. This way, the candidate can plan and allocate the right questions to the right interviewer accordingly.


3)  Bridging the language barrier


The majority of video interviews are conducted with candidates based in a different geographic region. As such, there could be a possibility that language might be a barrier to a free flowing discussion.


It can get very frustrating to have to find a translator at the last minute, and this will almost certainly render the interview session useless.


Unless strong bi-language proficiency is required for the role, many regional interviewers make the mistake of marking candidates down for poor language abilities when they are assessing the candidate for a local role.


Yes, the candidates may need to interact with the regional team, thus the requirement for the language. However, we need to also be realistic that this could contribute to a small part of the role; when most of the time, the candidate may not be required to speak the language of the regional team. Thus, the additional language proficiency requirement may drastically reduce the candidate pool.


To minimise such issues, it is recommended to have the local interviewers conduct the first rounds of interviews. Depending on the language capabilities of the candidates, one of the local interviewers can sit in as an interpreter and partner the regional senior interviewer who is connecting over video. This can help bridge the language barrier.


In this scenario it is also helpful to provide the candidate with a list of questions you intend to cover prior to the interview for the candidate to prepare. I would normally structure this in the form of a short presentation on a topic the candidate can present on.


4)  Presentation


The use of a presentation can help enhance the richness of the discussion over video. This is especially useful for candidates to illustrate and show content visually rather than just trying to articulate verbally.


Most video conference room solutions, including Polycom’s RealPresence Group Series and virtual desktop software solutions like RealPresence CloudAXIS, allow meeting participants to easily share content. Candidates can simply display their own content during the meeting for all participants to see – be that a presentation, a document, a web page or a video.


However, not all videoconferencing solutions are the same. If the video conference solution that you are using does not support content sharing, do get the candidate to send you their presentation prior to the interview.


5)  Recording


Recording an interview can save interviewers a lot of time when making a final decision on candidates. This is especially when you’ve got very strong finalists and different opinions among the panel. This is where a videoconferencing solution with a recording function and content management system for your organisation offers a tremendous advantage.


Interviewers are only human, and your memory could be sketchy after interviewing numerous candidates. Also, we sometimes miss out on taking down notes throughout the entire interview process, especially when we get carried away with the discussion. The ability to revisit some of these recorded interviews to validate the assessments can save you the time and effort in making candidates go through that extra interview.


Just remember: do tell the interviewee before you begin that you wish to record the session. But explain, as above, why you wish to do this so that they feel completely relaxed.


6)  Interviewing from anywhere


Interviews have to be arranged to match the availability of both the candidates and the interviewer(s). Therefore, having the flexibility to conduct an interview from home or another remote location to the office enables the interviewer to be more efficient with the process. This can speed up time to hire, thus contributing to improved company productivity.


Mobile and desktop videoconferencing solutions such as RealPresence Mobile and RealPresence Desktop can allow you to conduct interviews regardless of your location. For example, you can easily fire up the same enterprise grade videoconferencing software on an Apple or Android tablet and run an interview from home after office hours.


Make sure that you have a reliable internet connection, remember your tablet or laptop power supply, and always find a suitable, professional location to conduct the interview from.


7)  Video Etiquette


Finally, as much as we are assessing the candidate, we mustn’t forget that we are representing the company and to create the right professional impression.


Always check your background and lighting (especially if you are conducting the interview via video from your home office) to make sure that your background is not messy.


Also, dress appropriately. Although you are the interviewer and you may be joining the meeting over video from home, your candidate is most likely all dressed up. It is only polite not to also be smartly dressed, just as you would be in person.


I cannot emphasis enough the importance of good “video etiquette”, as candidates curious about the culture of your organisation will take every possible chance to learn more. Thus, that first impression works both ways. Do read more about “Good Video Etiquette” in one my previous articles:  http://community.polycom.com/t5/The-View-from-APAC/My-2014-New-Year-resolution-Better-Video-Etiquett...


Happy interviewing and good hiring.



Eric Wong left Polycom as of March 2015. This blog post is his personal view and reflective of his thoughts while at Polycom.


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