Video interview tips for online recruitment

Are you looking for video interview tips for online recruitment?

Many companies over the past few years have made the switch to video interviewing for their recruitment. Whether through necessity or to improve their hiring practices, we are seeing video interviewing on a sharp rise.

Challenges of video interviewing

While we are avid supporters of video interviewing, we recognise the importance of careful planning of the video interviewing to avoid disaster.

Here at Reworking, we've written dozens of posts on the benefits of video interviewing. However, for the purpose of this post, we want to highlight the distinct disadvantages of video interviewing to a rookie interviewee and interviewer. But hang about, as we also give practical video interview tips on how to manage and overcome these disadvantages.

By following our video interview tips throughout this post, you'll not only improve your hiring process, but you'll also improve the candidate experience.

Without further ado, let's dive in.

What are some disadvantages of video interviews and what can I do about them?

A very recent study conducted by Neal F. Chaisson and Rendell W. Ashton (Nov 2020)  found many challenges with utilising digital video interviewing for their company in the healthcare industry. (The Respiratory Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio).

Due to the unforeseen lockdown of Covid19, Chaisson and Ashton's company unexpectedly had to switch their graduate medical application process and graduate medical education training programs to a digital interviewing format. After being thrown into the deep end, the company had to tread above water adjusting its policies to this unknown digital landscape.

While making the switch, Chaisson and Ashton monitored how they experienced virtual interviewing in the context of cognitive load theory.

What is cognitive load theory?

Cognitive load theory is a model that describes human information processing. It has been used to explain and predict various cognitive phenomena and limitations.

It is a theory based on the idea that people can only process so much information at once. Every time we take in new information, we use up some of our resources and it makes it more difficult to process other information we receive afterwards. This resource usage varies depending on the type of task as well as the individual’s ability to deal with such tasks.

The theory of cognitive load therapy can be broken down into 3 sensory inputs in long-term memory.  These are:

1. Intrinsic load

In cognitive load theory, Intrinsic load is the mental effort of performing a task. It is divided into two parts: "essential" and "surplus". Essential load is the set of tasks that must be executed in order to complete a task. Whereas surplus load is tasks that don't need to be done but are helpful or desirable.

2. Extraneous load

Extraneous load is a psychological term that describes the mental energy required to process an external stimulus. In other words, it is the mental workload that a person must deal with in order to interpret and respond to their environment.

3. Germane load

Germane load is the mental energy to lower the intrinsic load through accessing necessary mental tools.

So what has cognitive load got to do with virtual interviewing?

By using cognitive load theory we can assess the effectiveness of virtual interviewing in comparison to interviewing in-person. However, with special consideration to the process of virtual interviewing, we can make necessary and essential changes to effectively improve the virtual interview experience.

Challenges with virtual interviewing through the lens of cognitive load theory

Chaisson and Ashton highlight 6 challenges they experienced with video interviewing in their study. These were: prolonged monotony, internet connectivity, time zone differences, background activity diminished non-verbal cues and loss of group visualisation.

1. Prolonged monotony

Chaisson and Ashton remarked their video interview participants were confined to the same screen for a prolonged time. Even with optional breaks, the interviewees resisted taking the breaks.

Chaisson and Ashton noted in their study that with in-personal interview days, the interviewees were stimulated in various ways throughout the day. Whether changing venues and promoting physical movement, through changing venues or variation in communication methods allowed mental reset and improved assimilation of information.

However, not wanting to harm their reputation and character, online participants were less likely to take these necessary breaks.

2. Internet connectivity

While many of Chaisson and Ashton's interviewees preferred to interview from home, many experienced connectivity issues.

One of the main reasons being a residential internet connection isn't as effective or reliable as the office. Many of the interviewees experienced dropping connectivity, frozen screen, and desynchronized voice to video. Thus disrupting the flow of conversation and connection between the interviewer and interviewee relationship.

Interestingly, the study highlighted that interviewees that lost connectivity weren't ranked lower. In addition to this, there was no discrepancy in the interviewer/ interviewee relationship. However, the loss of connectivity did increase stress in both their experiences- which may have affected interview impressions.

3. Time zone differences

Time zone differences impacted the interviewee rather than the interviewer. Chaisson and Ashton assumed that interviewees connecting outside of the same time zones had a more challenging time working with the interview day start and finish times. This mainly is due to potential sleep deprivation affecting cognition and working memory.

4. Background activity

Chaisson and Ashton noticed that background activity increased the extraneous cognitive load. Things such as poor lighting, background noise, busy backgrounds and poor camera placement all drew the focus away from the interviewee. The disrupted conversational flow and increased stress displaced the impressions of the interviewer.

5. Diminished nonverbal cues

Chaisson and Ashton discovered an increase in intrinsic load with the loss of nonverbal cues through virtual interviewing.

Essentially with video interviewing it's fair to suggest there is a decrease in non-verbal communication. Thus altering character judgement and the effectiveness of interactions.

6. Loss of group visualization

With the virtual interviewing, groups performed more poorly as the visibility among group participants decreased significantly. Even with group virtual interviewing, the platform displays all participants in small square tiles in a grid. This increases the extraneous load, as not all participants and their facial expressions (feedback cues) can be seen clearly.

There is also the additional setback of reduced feedback among group participation. The interaction among group members is affected causing a disparity.

Solutions to the disadvantages of video interviews

Chaisson and Ashton highlighted the distinct disadvantages of video interviewing in their experience. Now we'll look at their tips on how they overcome these challenges as they recognised the importance of interviewing remotely.

Video interview tips:

1. Keep it short

By the end of their study, Chaisson and Ashton had to implement mandatory breaks to decrease the extraneous load. While encouraging participants to take a break away from their computers.  They also broke down their hiring and training programme to limit the amount of time spent in one video session.

While we recognise their unique training and interview programme is longer and more demanding than the average recruitment programme. It's a great case study to see how utilising video interviewing can be successful for full remote working hiring, training and orientation programmes. They even gave a suggestion of a maximum of 5 hours in total to be allocated for a virtual interview day.

Another suggestion which we fully support is to switch the live video interviewing sessions to asynchronous interviews. This is simply a one-way video interview which you can read more about here: One-way video interview software.


2. Simplify visual aesthetics

The set up to a video interview should aim to minimise background distraction and give maximum attention to the interviewee. There are a number of ways to achieve this:

Improve Lighting

The lighting should face the interviewee front. This will decrease shadows and maximise visibility. Avoid at all costs light coming from behind the interviewee as this will cast a shadow on the face. Interviewees can achieve this by sitting in front of a bright window or creating a light source in front of the camera to illuminate the face.

Camera position

The webcam should sit directly in front of the interviewee at eye level. Any positions above, below or to the side will impact the connection and eye contact. If using a webcam on the laptop, place books or boxes to raise the height to eye level.

One great tip from Chaisson and Ashton is to decrease the video window size and place it directly under the camera. This improves eye contact and establishes an emotional connection. This is a great way to coax interviewees to look directly at the camera to maximise eye contact.

Simplify clothing choice

Interviewees should opt for simplified structured clothing such as a suit or plain office wear. Avoid brightly coloured or patterned clothing that will distract attention. With a white background opt for a colour that will be in contrast so you stand out and not blend into the background.

Environmental background

The background of your video call should be plain and cause as little distraction as possible. Avoid sitting in front of a mess, or a bookshelf with lots of distracting objects. If a plain background cannot be achieved, blur or use a virtual background. But select a plain theme to reduce cognitive load.

3. Technology

Test your technology and get familiar with your video platform.

If interviewees are unfamiliar with certain platforms, be forthright and practice prior to the interview day on the software.

Sound quality is also important. Test the microphone and speakers prior to the interview day. Many interviewees will use headphones with a mic attached to optimise sound and decrease background noise distractions.

Conclusion- Video interview tips to reduce cognitive load and improve the experience.

When the cognitive load gets too high, the interview experience is diminished. This leads to participants resorting to preconceived notions of bias rather than judging on newly acquired information when making decisions.

Through Chaisson and Ashton's study, we were able to learn how to recognise factors that increase cognitive load. By being aware of the impact this has on acquiring new information, interviewees and interviewers can put tips and processes in place to reduce cognitive load and improve the video interviewing experience.

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