Imagine getting called for an in-person interview in a city you don’t live in. The company flies you across the continent and puts you up in a hotel overnight. You meet with the potential employer the next day for 15 minutes. That’s it. You get on another plane and fly home. It’s harried. It’s expensive. It’s wasteful. And companies and job seekers can avoid a great deal of it by using their existing videoconferencing software for virtual job interviews.
The concept of a virtual interview isn’t exactly new. Skype’s been around for years, and a handful of companies, such as Zappos, started applying it toward recruitment near the end of the last decade. As testaments to the advantages of virtual interviews continue to grow at the same time as concerns about the economy and the environment increase, what was once seen as a trend for tech-savvy companies is looking likelier to hit the mainstream.
“We’re living in the 21st century, and we’re all using YouTube; we’re using Facebook; it’s all a social environment,” says Mario Gedicke, an account manager at Mayomann, a video employment platform that helps match employers and job seekers. “The social aspect and the video aspect is so heavily integrated, it’s inevitable that we’re going to use this tool on a more professional level as well.”
It’s difficult, if not downright impossible, to deny the financial and environmental benefits inherent to any kind of videoconferencing, including interviews. There are no flight costs, no fuel use beyond electricity, no hotel stays, no bed linens to throw in an industrial washing machine—the list goes on.
To many a job-seeker the idea of a virtual interview initially might seem like yet another example of the cold world of digital technology taking over human interaction. After-all, where’s the opportunity to show off the powerful handshake and make the all-important eye-contact? However, Gedicke points out that this isn’t really the case.
“You’re doing it in the comfort of your home, so you’re not going to be nervous,” he says. “You’re going to be excited and very pumped up about it, but you’re not going to be too nervous because you’re already in your comfort zone. This is the way you talk, and the companies actually get a real view of who you are.”
Tyler Redford, CEO of resumebook.tv, which enables users to create video resumes, also points to video and videoconferencing’s ability to broaden a job seeker’s search.
“This increases mobility,” he says. “What it really does on the larger picture is open your universe of opportunities by going abroad.” And because no travel costs are involved with a videoconference, this applies as much to employers as candidates. A recruiter in California can seriously consider an applicant in Baltimore because there is no risk expenditure involved in the first meeting. It eliminates the need for the “local candidates only” provision so abundant in today’s job market.
Both Gedicke and Redford note that the list of industries who have proved most receptive to the range of video platforms that exist in the job market—from resumes to virtual interviewing—is not exactly surprising. The hospitality industry, sales and marketing top the list, with Redford remarking that pharmaceutical sales has stood out as a prominent subsector.
Skype might be the software most often noted, but that’s far from the only thing out there. Gedicke points to Google Chat and MSN Messenger as two other free options, as well as ooVoo, a video chat app for both computers and smartphones, which Mayomann is working with to develop its own videoconferencing capabilities. In addition, there’s iMeet, a web-based videoconferencing application from PGi.
As far as the setting goes, it’s not quite anything goes, but you also don’t have to construct a set. The goal is to create a space as free from distraction as possible.
“Plain white background is the best thing for both videoconferencing and resumes,” Redford says. “It doesn’t allow for distraction for the viewer.” Lighting is the next key, with Redford recommending candidates do some testing to make sure it’s not too light or too dark. Ideally it’s at a 45-degree angle toward the interviewee, but not such that it makes him or her squint, and it shouldn’t be to the side, which can create strange shadows. That said, natural daylighting, so long as it’s sufficient, can be just fine.
Gedicke says that a room doesn’t have to be free from adornment, but do consider what people might be seeing: A painting is one thing; a pin-up girl is another. “Use common sense,” he says. That common sense needs to extend to less obvious things as well. Cards that many people keep close during the interview process—children, partners, pets—might become apparent during an at-home videoconference. If you wouldn’t mention your family during a first interview, then take down the photo during the interview.
And what about the uncontrollable variables—the neighbor’s barking dog, a crying kid, the city’s impromptu jackhammering of the street—that can lead to the ultimate distractions? Apologize profusely, but keep your own cool and move past it.
“It’s the side effects,” Redford says. “The person gets nervous, has to apologize; it throws them off their game a little.”
Editor’s note: PGi is a Mother Nature Network sponsor.