Lights, camera, action: Interviewing in our new reality

Despite all the money that employers invest in technology, many don’t train recruiters on how to effectively prepare for digital interviews. It’s an issue that’s coming front and center now, as so many Americans are navigating the new reality of working from home.

“They’re antiquated and fall behind the curve,” says Paul Bailo, executive, Digital Strategy & Innovation and adjunct professor of applied analytics at Columbia University. “It’s like buying a Ferrari but not teaching them how to drive it through its [multiple] gears.”

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He compares digital interviews to a Broadway show. The stage should be set and equipment tested before the show–or interview–begins. He points to simple things like the fact that camera lens should be eye-level and clean. If a microphone is used, position it off to the side and place a clock and list of interview questions behind the camera. Also, never wear a headset, which may be distracting or interfere with sound quality.

“You need lighting in the front, back and side, which should illuminate your face,” he says, adding that office lighting typically casts shadows on a face. The camera should only capture the “triangle of love,” which he explains is the recruiter’s face and shoulders.

Likewise, pay attention to the background. Consider an interview that takes place in front of a home library or window with a highway in the background. Instead of listening, he says, many job candidates can be tempted to read the book titles on shelves or watch cars speed by on the highway. He says the best background is gray or blue marble photographic paper, which is used in photos of elementary school children.

Even your chair and the way you sit in it matter. Are you using an executive chair or a chintzy one without arms? Are you rocking back and forth because you’re impatient or nervous?

See also: 8 benefits employers should zero in on during the COVID-19 pandemic

The idea is to establish a professional presence, he says. This includes dressing professionally. Bailo says there’s a direct correlation between the clothes people wear and how they speak or behave on or off camera. Avoid excessive jewelry, which can be another distraction.

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He says these practices will help recruiters solicit better answers or responses from candidates and also weed people out.

“Take these extra steps,” says Bailo. “You can’t expect [applicants] not to do what you shouldn’t be doing.”

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Carol Patton
Carol Patton is a contributing editor for HRE who also writes HR articles and columns for business and education magazines. She can be reached at [email protected].