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Video job interviews: Getting ready for your close-up

Lloyd Staffing director Norman Trichon interviews Leela Pathak

Lloyd Staffing director Norman Trichon interviews Leela Pathak on Oct. 16, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Preparing for a job interview traditionally involved researching an employer, anticipating questions and coming up with questions of your own.

To that list add this: checking your Internet connection, clearing the wall behind your desk, testing the webcam on your computer.

Video job interviewing is on the rise -- and is likely to continue growing, say employers and other job search experts.

A major plus for employers of such remote screening is its cost-effectiveness, which allows managers to interview more far-flung candidates and from a wider pool, said Christel Colon, a human resources/business partner at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

"We can make a dollar go much further by adding video interviewing" as one phase in the hiring cycle, she said.

However, the uninitiated, both job hunters and hiring managers, need to learn how to work with this new medium, both in terms of technology and presentation on the screen.

Think of video interviewing as "recruiting without borders," said Nancy Schuman, chief marketing officer for Melville-based Lloyd Staffing, which this summer rolled out to all its recruiters a video interview tool, GoToMeeting, from Santa Barbara-based Citrix Systems.

Although screening candidates remotely "was once a kind of novelty, today it is very common," she said. Millennials, especially, show a comfort level "in front of a camera and talking into a device."

Some 18 percent of job hunters and 19 percent of employers and recruiters reported they had engaged in video interviews, according to a 2013 online survey for Right Management, the career management arm of Milwaukee-based ManpowerGroup. More than two-thirds of employers and recruiters said they expected video interviews to increase in the next three years. Respondents included more than 300 job hunters and 100 employers/recruiters.

Locally, in a poll of members of the Society for Human Resource Management, Long Island Chapter, 16 of the 28 respondents said they had conducted video interviews -- primarily using Skype. Most of the others said they expect to give it a try in the coming year.

"There's really no reason not to use it," said Liz Uzzo, human resources vice president of Melville-based H2M architects + engineers and one of the respondents.

Uzzo said she often uses Skype for early screening of out-of-town candidates, including students on nonlocal campuses seeking entry-level positions. She expects the technique to be "very popular" in the coming year or two, with the economy shifting and recruiting on the rise.

Of course, technology glitches can and do arise, involving dropped connections and incompatible software. Both interviewers and job applicants should communicate about how to handle such problems.

And, then, there's a whole new element to master, particularly for job hunters. In addition to the core factors of interviewing, there's now this "set designer aspect as well," said Gary Alan Miller, executive director at Hofstra University's career center. He's referring to the need for a "nice, neutral background" and proper laptop positioning so employers at the other end will see the most flattering image of you. That and appreciation for finding a location that's free of background distractions, such as barking dogs or a scantily clad roommate walking within camera view.

To help students grasp some of these new basics, the Hofstra career center rolled out last fall a Web platform that allows students to, among other things, engage in mock video interviews.

Students and other job seekers should be wary of being too casual when using mobile devices such as smartphones during their job search. Uzzo describes an instance in which a candidate was in his car for a lunchtime video interview. At one point he got out of the vehicle, she said, and "went into McDonald's, and that was not good."

Job hunters would be wise to become comfortable with the do's and don'ts of video interviewing before it's sprung on them, said Linda McLaughlin, senior consultant with the Melville office of Right Management. You want to be "ready technologically and logistically" for the moment an employer says the next step is a round of interviews with a video conference -- tomorrow.

"None of this is going away anytime soon," she said.

Andrew Williams, a business development manager who hadn't had a job interview in almost 20 years, said that early last year when he was interviewing, he was notified by the Dallas-based division of a telecommunications company that he would be interviewed remotely the next day -- with four 30-minute back-to-back virtual meetings.

Already comfortable with technology and adept at using Skype and FaceTime, Williams, of Manhasset Hills, said he still studied up on the fine-tuning of elements such as lighting, volume and eye contact with the camera.

He also asked the prospective employer, which was using a software platform he was unaccustomed to, if they could conduct a test run the evening before. "Without that," he said, "I would definitely have had some issues getting the actual interviews started on time." Williams took a job with a different employer.

The live, in-person interview isn't going away, BNL's Colon said. A virtual meeting "should not be the sole mechanism for interviewing," she said. But "hiring managers are finding it to be helpful on so many levels."

PREPARING FOR THE VIDEO INTERVIEW

TIPS FOR HIRING MANAGERS

Set up a quiet, dedicated space that can accommodate a single interviewer, as well as a group.

Work with the applicant before the interview to see if his/her tech set up is compatible with yours.

Have someone on hand or on call during the interview to help with any technology glitches.

Develop a brief orientation for the applicant, including an interview timetable, who'll be conducting the interview, what else to expect.

Let the applicant know what to do if the connection is broken, such as providing a number to call for further directions.

Sources: Society for Human Resource Management, Long Island Chapter, members Liz Uzzo and Christel Colon

TIPS FOR JOB HUNTERS

Avoid back lighting. Place lighting sources in front of you to highlight your face.

To make eye contact, keep your eyes on the camera, not the image of the interviewer on your screen.

Minimize the image of yourself on the screen.

Suit up. Wear shoes. Don't interview in sweats, shorts or pajama bottoms.

Ban friends, family members, animals from the interview area; put "do not disturb" sign on the door.

Turn off ringers on phones and other alerts that involve sounds.

Practice Skyping with friends. This tests your connection and increases your comfort level so you'll behave more naturally.

Arrange your computer so your eyes are level with the webcam. "You don't want the employer looking down on your head, or worse, looking up your nostrils."

SOURCE: Blog post by Norman Trichon, director of accounting and finance talent with Lloyd Staffing.

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