A while ago I mentioned the idea of “canned” video interviews that some companies were instituting in their hiring process (make that screening process). Now I have a first-hand client story that points out some of the perils these interviews pose for job seekers.
One of my clients was required to undergo a video-webcam interview that he expected would contain five questions. After just one question, he found he was unable to continue. He assumed that was due to a technical glitch, but when he contacted their tech support, he was informed that he had completed the interview and it was being processed. Subsequently, he received a rejection notice.
What’s wrong with this picture? He was applying for a position similar to what he does now but at a more well-established company, and his background seemed like a good fit. Obviously,there’s no way to tell whether his answer to the question was good, but what does seem apparent is that, for whatever reason, technology had been used to rule him out as a job candidate.
Challenges of Video Interviews
My client’s experience indicates just one of the challenges of video interviews used for pre-screening candidates: The technology can be inflexible, and you have little chance to influence that. Here are a few more challenges:
- The information available to you before the interview might be inaccurate, incomplete or otherwise not as helpful as it needs to be in order for you to prepare properly.
- Such interviews are completely one-sided. You have no interaction with an interviewer to give you hints on his/her responses, reactions, etc., because there is no interviewer involved at that stage. You also don’t get to ask questions about things it might be important for you to know.
- If you don’t do well when being recorded (visually or audibly), you start the interview with a pre-set handicap that can put you at a distinct disadvantage.
Opportunities of Video Interviews
According to an article by Hannah Morgan titled “Are You Ready For Your Video Interview?” (an interview with Jobvite’s CEO), video interviewing offers some advantages to the job seeker as well as saving a lot of time for recruiters.
“Dan Finnigan says this advancement will help eliminate the ‘black hole’ applicants find themselves in because companies will be able to interview more candidates. The candidate will have the opportunity to review and re-record each answer before submitting them according to Finnigan. This is the equivalent to an open-book test in my mind. There will be no excuse NOT to submit the best interview responses possible. That is, unless the candidate doesn’t review their answers first.”
But what if the system you’re forced to use doesn’t allow you to review and revise your answers or exhibits a glitch that truncates the process? Does that mean you’re pretty much out of luck? At this point, who knows?
These points do suggest, however, that preparation will be as critical as for a more traditional interview–and maybe even more so. Your best bet is to begin by gathering as much information about the company and the position as possible–always a good idea in any case. A key element, of course, is the need to make sure that you are well prepared to present yourself effectively in a visual format (including obvious factors such as hair, clothing, facial expressions, etc.). In addition to that, you need to practice speaking about yourself and make sure you don’t stumble over your words or come off looking/sounding like an idiot.
Will every company move to video interviews? Maybe not, but the more that do, the more challenging you’re likely to find the interview process. Be prepared!
One definition of commodity is: “A basic good used in commerce that is interchangeable with other commodities of the same type.” In the world of job search and career management, you do not want to be a commodity! Interchangeability is not your friend.
Avoid the “Me Too” Syndrome
If your resume and other career marketing/job search tools paint you as just another candidate like the scores whose resumes preceded yours across the employer’s desk, you have set yourself up for failure at the start. You don’t want to come across as a copycat or someone without any original ideas, experiences and value.
It’s fatally easy to look for a shortcut that avoids the hard work required for a successful job search, such as convincing yourself you don’t really need to develop a professional resume that clearly and compellingly showcases your value-add message. Or maybe you’ve just looked at a few samples and decided you can kluge together a generic version that will work for you. (By the way, the definition of kluge is: “Use ill-assorted parts to make (something).”)
The “me too” approach means you have zero chance of standing out to potential employers or being memorable enough to them that they will think of you when scheduling interviews.
Present Yourself as a Special-Value Candidate, Not a Commodity
You can take a number of steps to present yourself as a desirable (special-value) candidate and prevent the commodity label from being applied to you. For example, you can:
- Identify uncommon qualities and qualifications you can offer employers. You might, for instance, have demonstrated the ability to bring together people who don’t much like each other and are ready to fight to defend their turf–and get them to collaborate productively on business-critical projects. Not everyone can do this.
- Research potential employers and their probable needs or challenges. What can you offer them that hits really close to home? What obstacles have you overcome for other employers that would resonate with their needs or challenges? Also, have you broken new ground in doing so, rather than just following in someone else’s footsteps?
- Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses; then look for creative ways to accentuate your strengths and distinguish yourself from the herd (that is, your competition). Let the weaknesses just drift out of the picture unless one of them is standing in the way of setting yourself apart as a non-commodity job seeker (in which case, take active steps to eliminate it as a problem).
- Start now (if you haven’t already) to acquire a unique skill or specialty that will help you gain an edge in a competitive job market. Do your homework first, though, to make sure you have identified something with real promise, not just the next “shiny new thing.”
If your name comes up in a hiring discussion and people say, “George [or Georgina] who?”–you have some work to do to make sure you’re not viewed as a commodity job seeker the next time you pursue a new job.
The term “behavioral interview” isn’t new. It’s been around since at least the 1990s, I believe. However, you might still not have heard it or you might have encountered a behavioral interview without knowing that’s what it was going to be.
You can prepare just as well for a behavioral interview as for a “normal” interview (whatever that is!). However, you do need to understand what they involve in order to do the most effective preparation.
What is a Behavioral Interview?
According to an article titled “What is a Behavioral Interview?” by Alison Doyle, “Behavioral interviews are based on the premise that a person’s past performance on the job is the best predictor of future performance. When a company uses behavioral interviewing they want to know how you act and react in certain circumstances. They also want you to give specific ‘real life’ examples of how you behaved in situations relating to the questions.”
To put it another way, in a behavioral interview the employer is asking “what did you do when…? ” or “tell me about a time when…” rather than “what would you do if…?” The interviewer doesn’t expect you to hypothesize about what you might do in a certain kind of situation. In fact, he/she doesn’t want you to do that. Real-life examples are the goal.
You really can’t effectively “wing it” in your answers to behavioral questions or try to frame them in a way you think the interviewer will like. Your answers need to be on target.
How Do You Handle Behavioral Interviews?
Start by doing your homework ahead of time. (Groan! Yes, I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep saying it because it’s essential.) Find out as much as you can about the situations you might encounter in that company and position.
Then comb through your success stories and other sources of information about the challenges you’ve encountered and overcome. Identify at least several kinds of situations you’ve run into that could be applicable to the company and the position you’ll be interviewing for. Become comfortable with presenting a story that relates to each one of them. Notice that I said comfortable, not rote-response-enabled. There’s a big difference.
Whatever you do, resist the temptation to fake it. Glib, off-the-cuff responses will more than likely land you in the soup! If you don’t have a response that fits the question neatly, try to come up with one that’s close enough so you can legitimately say something like: “I’ve never encountered that exact situation, but I did experience one that I believe is similar. Here’s what I did about that….”
Remember, too, that in a job interview it’s always okay to take a second or two (even three) to consider a question you’ve been asked and focus your thought on the most desirable answer before you start speaking. You don’t need to rush into speech and stumble all over yourself trying to answer the question quickly.
On the other hand, as I sometimes tell clients when I’m doing interview coaching, you don’t want to sit in front of the interviewer with a “deer in the headlights” expression that tells him/her you haven’t a clue what to say!
Get your act together before the interview, and it probably won’t matter whether it’s a behavioral interview or some other kind.