Company have asked me to “talk to myself”, our weekly column from various Irish newspapers

Q: Help! I’ve been called to a first-round interview – but it’s a video interview. I have to sit in front of my webcam, press the button, and start answering questions that will be served up as written text on my screen. I’d really like to work for this company, but I can’t get my head around this format at all. I’m not accustomed to talking to a screen like that, unless there’s somebody talking back to me. Have you any tips? (LK, email).

A: I believe this is going to become an even more common approach in the years ahead.

For companies, video interviewing – or early-stage screening as some call it – offers all sorts of advantages, namely:

  • It allows them to interview a huge number of applicants – just formulate the questions, create the video link, and send out to all applicants. The fact that they can do this without having to commit their own people to a few days of interviewing is a real bonus – in other words, it saves cost;
  • At early-screening stage, a person lower down the company pecking order – in other words, someone who doesn’t cost as much – can be deputed to assess the video interviews. I suspect, though I can’t be sure, that in some companies they are handed a scalpel and a ticking clock before commencing this job. Think Graham Norton’s video guests, sitting on the chair, waiting for the handle to be pulled if their story doesn’t tickle Graham’s fancy, and you get the picture: the early-screening stage will quickly weed out a goodly portion of applicants;
  • No more late cancellations. No more “can I change my time from morning to evening?” requests. No scheduling issues at all – the candidate just presses the button, as you say, and does the rest in their own time;
  • No more first-round phone interviews – another time-consuming process;
  • Greater prospect of spotting the hidden gem – the great candidate with the CV from hell. They might shine in the online interview.

So, from the employer’s perspective, there are a lot of attractions to online interviewing. They can still hold face-to-face interviews at a later stage.

The company generally provides an ample candidate guide. Take the opportunity to conduct a practice interview. Is the sound level okay? Can they see me properly?

The whole ‘talking to myself’ element can really throw candidates. There is no feedback, no nod of an interviewer’s head, no steepling of hands as they contemplate your insightful points. So you’ve got to the make the running yourself and that can be difficult.

But that’s what you must do. So, practice, practice, practice. Sit in front of the laptop and answer questions. Make a list of 30 questions that might come up – plenty of guides are available online – and get over the understandable nervousness you feel. Time yourself: get to know how long it generally takes you to answer a question.

You should be completely at home with ‘talking to yourself’ long before you press record. After that, don’t forget that it’s still an interview with the same purpose as any other interview – namely, to find the best candidate for the job. And that, as we repeat here so often, is a function of identifying the employer’s needs and how you meet them – and elaborating on same in the interview.

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