Interviews have long been sources of angst for job seekers. Adding even more stress to an already stressful situation, the pandemic caused many organizations to move almost exclusively into virtually screening candidates. Candidates now need to prepare for their 15 minutes of (on screen) fame in addition to a possible in-person interview.
Video conferencing can now be achieved with manageable investment by both organizations and candidates. Its utilization and functionality as an alternative to in-person workplaces seemingly changed overnight. However, long before the pandemic-driven lock downs, travel restrictions and work-from-home mandates, organizations and search firms utilized video interviews as a step in their recruitment process. It can be an efficient way to assess candidates prior to investing in the time and costs related to hosting multiple on-site interviews.
One of the first systems was introduced in 1968 by AT&T and followed by Polycom in the late 1990s. Equipment and hourly utilization costs were expensive, but less prohibitive than flying people in from around the world. Fast forward to the explosion of high-speed internet access and all the enabled services that have helped us connect throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The reality is that many companies will never go back to the expensive conventional interview cycle given how accessible virtual interviews have become.
These systems and services are not without their quirks. Just like in-person interviews, there can be unpredictable outcomes with virtual interviews. However, with some advance planning you can ensure your interviewing skills are on full display despite being on a small screen.
Much has been written over the past months that make you believe you need to upscale your location or studio setting, lighting and technology as though you are producing a television show. While you do not need to invest in the highest-end equipment, you should have a good quality camera, microphone, speaker, etc., that you know how to use. Be aware of what is in the background and what that could possibly convey to a hiring manager. Most importantly, make sure you load and fully test the software the hiring company will be using to interview you prior to the actual appointment time.
Technical issues aside, the process and expectations of a video interview are the same as if it were in person. Ascertain what the company dress code is and dress accordingly. Be natural, engaging and project interest and positivity. Answer the questions that are given, not the ones you wanted to be asked. Have your resume or CV ready to email or text in the event one of the interviewers does not have a copy. Understand the job description ahead of time and be able to describe why your background and experience are relevant to the position.
While it is especially uncomfortable for a security professional to be unable to “read the room” in the way you would in person, it is critical to adjust and not be thrown off topic. Remember that seemingly innocuous movements and gestures are amplified when only your upper torso or head is on screen in front of an interviewer. Reading the screen is a new interview skill that must be practiced.
It is likely you will experience a longer interview cycle involving multiple video interviews. Previously, you might have had multiple calls with recruitment teams followed by a call with the hiring manager. You would then have been invited for multiple in-person interviews. Today that entire cycle will likely all be done virtually. Keep in mind a “gallery view” video interview can be just as intense as an in-person panel interview.
Most of our clients now take advantage of video interviewing to get candidates in front of their executives who are located around the world. Much of business is being achieved virtually, and there are long lead times for these time slots that result in longer search cycles. Several of the CSO searches we completed in the past year found the successful candidate being hired without having met anyone in the organization in person. All on-boarding was done virtually.
Restrictions are beginning to lift in some regions and, while the interview cycle remains mostly virtual, the final candidate may be brought in for an on-site meeting. This is especially critical if the candidate will be relocating for the job and needs a sense of the region and community to make a final decision. Ever-changing border crossing rules and quarantines can make that a challenge.
Video interviews can be a valuable, cost-effective assessment tool for organizations, and they are here to stay. If you plan to change jobs as your security career progresses, plan your strategy to put your best foot forward, virtually.