Boutique Search Services for Higher Education and Nonprofit

Tips for First-Round Video Interviews

Sona Andrews, PhD
Senior Consultant
July, 2019

Tips for First-Round Video Interviews…
As a candidate, you know that each stage of the search process is designed for the committee to learn more about your interest and suitability for the position.  Congratulations if you make it to the first-round interview stage (also called airport interviews, phone interviews, or semi-finalist interviews). It is at this stage that the search advisory committee is having its first one-on-one interaction with you.
Video Interview with Search CommitteeInstitutions are relying more and more on video technology for these first-round interviews. While there are advantages to meeting face-to-face, there are several advantages to video interviews.  Videos save the institution significant cost and time. There is no expense flying candidates to the interview location, renting facilities, or putting committee members up overnight in a hotel. Video interviews can be scheduled quickly because they do not involve travel time and travel reservations.  There are advantages of a video interview to you as a candidate. A video interview takes only a few hours out of your day.  Since there is no travel, you do not have to explain why you suddenly need to be absent from work for a few days, and you can get a good night’s sleep in your bed the night before!

There are many things you can control to have a successful video interview that will allow the committee to get a great sense of who you are and what you can bring to the role.

Suggestions for a successful video interview (in no particular order):

Test the link: Ask to test the link a few days before your interview.  This will allow you to determine if you have the required software on your computer and what the connection is like. Connect via video technology with a friend or colleague before your interview to see what you look like.

Check Connection Speed: Do your interview from a location with a high-speed internet connection.  Many candidates try to do them from home with slow or average internet speeds.  If doing it from a hotel room, it may be worth the extra cost for high-speed internet.

Have a Backup Plan: Make sure you have a phone number that allows you to reach someone at the scheduled time of your interview and walk through any technical issues, and if needed, to do the interview by phone.

Anticipate the Frame: Visually, be prepared to not see all committee members.  This is especially true if it is a big committee or the room is big.  You might not be able to read body language or facial expressions but know that the committee will see your image on a large screen.  The most flattering perspective does not cut off the top of your head and goes to your mid-chest. Make sure your camera is at a good angle, and you do not have any visual distractions in the background (clutter, personal items, or glare from a window).

Beware of Movement: Sit in a fixed (not swivel) chair –especially if you tend to fidget or move side-to-side or back and forth.

Starting the Interview: The interview typically will start when the committee initiates the video meeting. Make sure your video camera is on (does not have a red slash through it) but also know that there might be a few second delay from the time the committee turns their video on and when you see them.  It is best to be seated and ready but cover your camera with a post-it note just in case you are scratching the top of your head when they connect.  You can remove it when you see and hear them.

Make Eye Contact: There is a tendency in video interviews for you to rely on notes.  Do not read too much – reading has you not looking at the camera, and the committee just sees the top of your head. Make some bulleted notes on post-its for prompts and stick them directly on your computer screen.  All that needs to visible on your computer screen is your camera and the committee in a small window. The committee cannot see your screen, and you will be looking right at the camera when you talk.

Regardless of the Interview Format:
Be aware of the time it takes you to respond to questions.  The committee is interested in hearing what you have to say, but they will want to get through all of the questions they have, and they can become impatient if they think you are going on too long in answering their questions.  Listen carefully and answer the question asked. Know some things about the institution. Provide examples when possible as opposed to talking in generalities.

Use a “sandwich approach” to respond to questions.  This involves giving a brief statement about your philosophy on the topic (bottom slice of bread), followed by an example or two (the meat), and ending with a brief statement for the committee to see you in the job (the top slice of bread).  For example, the committee asks “In this position, you will need to set priorities and balance a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities and do so with a limited budget. Can you give any examples of ways you creatively problem solved when faced with competing priorities/challenges and a limited budget?”  The sandwich answer would have you briefly say how important it is to set priorities, followed by an example or two of doing so, and ending with an acknowledgment that if you were to be hired, you would look forward to determining how their strategic plan would help guide you in those decisions.

Remember, at this stage (first-round interview) you do not need to tell the committee everything you know; just enough for them to want their colleagues to see more of you as a finalist during a campus visit.

And don’t forget to relax, smile, and be yourself and let the committee get to know who you are.

Author Sona Andrews, PhD, Senior Consultant

Dr. Sona K. Andrews has 36 years of experience in higher education as a university faculty member and administrator. She has been directly involved in executive level higher education searches (deans, vice presidents and presidents) for twelve years.  Click here to view Sona’s bio.