Talking to Yourself: How to Nail the One-Way Interview

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Published on March 19, 2018, at 4:41 p.m.
by Halle Russo.

According to a Classes and Careers survey of 2000 bosses, 33 percent know if they will hire a candidate within the first 90 seconds of an interview.

While it may be easy to distinguish yourself and tailor your answers to your audience in an interactive interview, the one-way video interview makes this virtually impossible. In my own job search, I’ve experienced a multitude of interviews, and none were as daunting as the one-way video interview.

Companies that use a one-way video interview during the hiring process typically send an email to you with a link to a third-party platform, such as Spark Hire, Wepow, VidCruiter or HireVue. You are asked to complete the video interview at your convenience, usually within a two- or three-week period.

Once you log on to the third-party platform to complete the interview, you are given a few practice questions before the actual interview begins. For both the practice questions and the interview itself, you have about 30 seconds to prepare each answer and two to three minutes to respond to each question. The hardest part? There’s no one interacting with you on the other end.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Ken Marasco, former chief marketing officer at HireVue, said, “Employers often prefer a one-way session for the first round of interviews because it offers efficiency and consistency in the selection process as you hear applicants answer the same question back to back.”

According to a post on Spark Hire’s website, one-way video interviews can help companies “ease the scheduling burden, improve performance tracking, make interviews more consistent and invest time and effort into the best candidates.” Spark Hire also found that traditional hiring methods, such as phone and in-person interviews, can take an average of 45 days and cost $1,500 to $5,000 for a single candidate.

Furthermore, companies can use artificial intelligence in one-way interviews to analyze candidates’ word choice, tone and facial expressions. An article from Business Insider discusses how voice and facial recognition software filter interviews with an algorithm that places those who resemble the “ideal candidate” at the top of the pool. This allows recruiters to better manage the time that they spend reviewing each video interview.

Evidently, one-way video interview technology yields many benefits. However, it tends to make the hiring process relatively impersonal.

As a candidate in a one-way video interview, how do you determine whether you truly want to work at a company without interacting with its employees? How do you ask questions to gain more insight into the specific job description and the company’s business model? Most importantly, how do you ensure that you stand out as a candidate?

Here are a few tips to help you succeed if you are faced with an interview where you are basically talking to yourself:

1. It’s all about the details.
The one-way video interview gives companies an opportunity to review your recording multiple times. Not only do recruiters have the chance to observe your body language and attire, but one-way video interviews also allow them to analyze the background. Recruiters can hear your dog bark, see posters on your wall and witness anyone who decides to make an entrance mid-interview.

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“You’re looking at the background and setup, the lighting and the shadows on their face and you’re coming up with a mental score: ‘Yes, I want to talk to this person’ or ‘No, I can’t wait to shut this camera off,” Paul Bailo, author of “The Essential Digital Interview Handbook,” said in a CNBC article.

Therefore, it is extremely important to choose a location where you have no distractions and the background is as neutral as possible. You should also make sure that you are dressed in professional attire and that anyone and everyone with the smallest chance of interrupting you knows not to enter the room.

2. Perfect practice makes perfect.
The one perk of video interviews is that you often have a chance to practice and to watch your recording before the official interview begins. These practice questions are meant to help you become comfortable with the software and shake off any nervous tendencies. Companies never see your responses to these questions, so you can rerecord your answers as many times as you desire.

That said, you should use these questions to perfect your presentation style. Don’t rush through them or not take them seriously because they’re not the real deal. Analyze your recordings as a recruiter would and make any necessary adjustments to your appearance, the volume or the background before you begin the interview.

3. There is a fine line between preparation and over-preparation.
You should research a company at length before any interview. In addition to a company’s mission and current initiatives, you should become familiar with industry news and trends. You can almost always guarantee that a company will ask you about yourself and why you want to work there, so it’s often helpful to prepare a response to those questions. In these responses, you should think about how your unique skills and experience fit a company’s goals and mission based on your research.

From my experience, it is overwhelming to have notes dominating the blank space on and around your computer screen. You may not know where to look, risk sounding too rehearsed or lose track of how you want to express your opinion.

A Wall Street Journal article reinforces this point with the story of a candidate who was interviewing at a boutique PR firm. The article stated that the candidate “seemed perfect on paper,” but it was obvious that she was reading her answers from notes on her screen. This ultimately cost her the job.

The moral of the story is to do your research to the point where you “own” the material. It is okay to have your résumé out or to list a few talking points, but don’t overload yourself with too much information.

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Although one-way video interviews can seem awkward, they are often a necessary step to reaching your goal and attaining the job of your dreams. So, remember to take a deep breath and relax. Ultimately, the answers should reside within you.

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