You're ready for your job interview, but are you ready for your close-up?
That's a question job seekers may encounter as companies increasingly turn to videoconferencing to conduct interviews.
A "significant" rise in the use of videoconferencing to speed the hiring process began in the late '90s, "during the talent wars," said Gerry Crispin, a staffing consultant based in Kendall Park., N.J., and the co-author of "CareerXroads," a directory of job and resume databases. The technology continues to be used during these gloomy economic times, as companies seek to save on travel time and expenses.
Many large companies have multiple offices, with executives settled in far-flung locations or jet-setting from place to place, and a single candidate may need to interview with all of them. "You've got the division manager of a hiring company in New York and one person in Washington and one in Chicago, but you want interactive discussion, and you don't want to wait until everyone's calendars are in sync," said Ray Britt, vice president and chief marketing officer at InterCall, a Chicago-based conference-services company. A videoconference also means interviews can proceed despite unforeseen circumstances, such as travel delays caused by inclement weather.Videoconferences save employers and job hunters time and effort, as it "gives both sides a better sense of whether they want to go to the next round," Britt said. Sometimes the candidates, rather than the employers, learn enough from a videoconference that they're not interested in going further.
Leslie Aun, a spokeswoman for Sodexho, said the Gaithersburg-based food-services company has been using videoconferencing for job interviews for the past year. With offices in the 50 states and Canada, Sodexho is always hunting for ways to curtail travel expenses.
"If you have a large pool of candidates, it makes lots of sense to do videoconferencing," Aun said. The company may start with a pool of 100 resumes and pluck 10 from the bunch. Next, a round of phone interviews may narrow the field to about six. Then videoconferences are used to select two or three finalists to invite to the office.
Although videoconferencing helps streamline the process, final interviews are face to face, because "nothing can replace a face-to-face meeting," Aun said.
However helpful videoconferencing is, the technology is not without drawbacks. First, there is no universal standard for equipment, so people on either end of a conference need to make sure they're using compatible hardware. And "sometimes the connection isn't great, or on other occasions the lighting isn't right, so the participant may not look as lifelike as they should," Aun said, noting that some job candidates have appeared "a little greener than we thought was humanly possible."
Still, she sees Sodexho using videoconferencing more as the technology improves. "As the [broadband] pipes get bigger and there are more locations, it becomes an increasingly viable choice," she said. "We're looking for anything that makes things more flexible, more cost-efficient."
For job candidates, it's important to be prepared when sitting down to a videoconference.
Recruitment experts said to treat the on-camera interview just as you would an in-person meeting. It's important to dress appropriately, even if you're in a room by yourself -- in other words, no fuzzy slippers.
When it comes to wardrobe, avoid anything too dark, such as black, or too light, such as pastels. Plaids, stripes and other prints are also fashion no-nos. The safest bet is to choose clothing in strong, deep colors and crisp fabrics.
Being in front of a camera can feel awkward, but don't betray your unease. "There might be this fear walking into it," InterCall's Britt said. He advises the camera-shy to treat the camera as the interviewer, making eye contact. "The worst thing you can do is be staring around the room."
Aun added that interviewees should be aware the devices are on at all times. Once the interview is done, she said, "wait until all the equipment is turned off before you totally relax. Think of yourself as being live on camera, like you would be on television."
In addition, pay attention and listen carefully. Sometimes a transmission is delayed, so be certain the interviewer is finished speaking before you answer.
Finally, Britt said, be sure to close the discussion definitively. "What you don't have at the end of a videoconference is the stand up, shake hands thing," he said. Britt coaches interviewers and job candidates to reiterate what was discussed and then outline the "next steps" as a signal that it's time to sign off.
Oh, and one last detail that probably wouldn't hurt: Smile.