10 (more) video interview questions and why you should ask them

April 21, 2021

A couple of years back, I posted a video of myself talking about the top 10 video interview questions and why you should ask them. Over the last few months, this post has seen a steady increase in views – and understandably so. After all, the pandemic thrust us deep into a world of remote working – and, with recruitment now back on the menu, remote hiring.

So I thought I’d take another look at video interviews, and how you can make the most of them. I still stand by the top 10 questions I posted back in 2018 – but here are 10 more great video interview questions you could consider, as explained by the people who actually ask them.

Video interviews are more challenging

It goes without saying that many of the questions you would ask in a normal interview, could be very useful in a video interview. But video interviews do, of course, pose a greater challenge in many respects.

For example, you cannot easily read body language, and webcams make eye contact very difficult. Connection issues can rear their ugly heads, and there’s a big difference in visual quality depending on what equipment your candidates are using.

Still, video interviews enable you to recruit remotely, and they enable you to interview candidates who may otherwise find the commute a challenge. So we believe video interviews are here to stay.

1.  What made you apply for this position?

For Lynne Smith, Senior Vice President of Global Human Resources for Robert Half, the most important question in any interview – video or otherwise – is to ask what made a person apply for the position.

“It’s a simple question” she explains, “but you’ll find out right away who is sincerely interested in the position and organisation – and who isn’t.”

Lynne adds that in an interview, the goal is to find a good fit on both sides.

“View the conversation as a partnership” she says. “I remind candidates that interviews are a two-way discussion and I want them to show up and be themselves.”

2.  What helps you excel in a remote environment?

One of the reasons you’re conducting interviews via video link, could be because you’re hiring for a remote position. But while the pandemic has proved that most of us can find a way to cope with this, not everybody thrives on it. In fact, many people buzz for an office environment – and struggle to cope in isolation.

“The answer to this question is a key factor in my decision to call or email someone back for another interview” says Rolf. “It shows me that they have thought deeply about how remote work is fundamentally different than on-site work.”

For Rolf Bax, Chief Human Resources Officer at Resume.io, it is therefore important to ask what helps a person to excel in a remote work environment.

It also helps you, as an employer, ensure you can give your new hire the right support to succeed if they get the job.

3.  Tell me about somebody who inspires you

This is a great way to get insight into a person’s values, as well as the kinds of values they appreciate in others. Plus, it will help you to understand whether they’ll fit in well with your company’s culture.

And for Elizabeth Weatherby, SEO specialist at CSI Financial Group, this question was one of the favourites she has ever been asked in an interview.

“My answer had to be someone I had actually met in person, not just someone I admired” she tells me. “I responded with a previous professor and mentor of mine. These types of questions really make you stop and think, and dive deep into your knowledge base. They can also evoke profound responses.”

Elizabeth adds that in a video interview, being asked a question like this helps you to show personality, which can otherwise be quite challenging.

4.  Ask about something in the background

Personality is difficult to assess via video link. Which is why Dan Bailey, President at WikiLawn Lawn Care, says that one of his favourite video interview questions, is to ask the candidate something about their background.

“Many people have bookshelves behind them during a video interview” he says. “I really like to ask them about their books. It breaks the ice and disrupts the pattern of memorisation people can sometimes fall into. It helps people relax and talk about something that interests them without thinking they’re going to be judged. It also tells me a lot about them.”

Remember that most people choose their backgrounds quite deliberately. People may place their favourite books, ornaments, crafts, or artwork, in direct view of the camera – almost like they’re screaming to tell you more about who they are!

5.  Describe how you handled a recent conflict.

Managing remote disputes is something that HR has found particularly tough during the pandemic. So if you’re using video interviews because you’re hiring for a remote position, then finding out how a person handles conflict resolution is key.

“The best questions are behaviour-based questions” says organisational psychologist Dr Edie Goldberg. “These questions should require the interviewee to describe, in great detail, how they have demonstrated the most critical skills for the role, or displayed the most important cultural attributes that drive success in your company.”

Describing a recent conflict is one of the many questions Dr Goldberg recommends asking in any interview setting – video, telephone, or face to face. She adds that it is important to have the interviewee describe the conflict, explain how they handled it, and then report on their current working relationship with the people involved.

6.  What’s your favourite way to communicate?

In an office setting, people have different ways they prefer to communicate. For example, some may take the elevator to the 8th floor just to tap a colleague on their shoulder, whereas others may email the person in the cubicle next door. And remote working also fosters different preferences of communication.

For example, while you may be used to typing your messages via Skype, a colleague may prefer to dial your mobile phone for a chat. And professionals such as Janelle Owens, HR Director at Test Prep Insight, believe that this is important to find out.

“During the course of the past year” she says, “I have found that the single most important question to ask during video interviews, is ‘please rank the following forms of business communication in order of your preference, and tell me why’”.

Janelle then lists options such as Slack message, email, telephone call, etc.

“This is obviously crucially important in a remote world” she explains. “Teams often have a rhythm in terms of how they communicate, and there are also certain practices and expectations when it comes to customer communications.”

7.  How do you manage stress?

For Scott Cairns, Founder and CEO at Creation Business Consultants, it’s important to understand how a potential new hire manages stress.

“The current situation has been very stressful for all of us” he says. “If you are the kind of person who doesn’t know how to deal with stress correctly, it will surely eat you and have adverse effects on your mental health.”

Scott says that this question has become particularly relevant, now that video interviews have become a trend in the absence of face-to-face interactions. Employers should ensure employees – future and current – have a good way to deal with stress, because no matter where in their life it is coming from – personal or professional – it’s going to contribute to their overall work journey.

8.  Tell me about an achievement as part of a team

Most employers want to hire people who are good team players. But hiring team players in a remote environment is tough.

Ordinarily, you could arrange a group activity with one or more candidates. Or you could simply aim to get a feel for their people skills during your face-to-face encounter. But over video interview, this is tough.

Professor Amy Edmondson, of Harvard Business School, says that to find good team players in a remote setting, you need to ask about team experiences – and then look for evidence of credit-giving in the way they tell their story.

9.  How will you manage the commute?

Of course, you might not be interviewing for a remote position at all. Or perhaps you’re interviewing for a position which will start off remote, but will eventually require the successful candidate to come into the office.

I’ve found that when conducting video interviews, it’s helpful to ask candidates how they will manage the commute. After all, it’s easy to jump on a Zoom call and persuade somebody that you’re right for a job… but the reality of the actual commute might prove to be too much.

Of course, many companies are now taking a hybrid approach – for example, requiring employees to work from home three days a week, but asking that they work alongside the team in the office for the other two days. This could be more manageable if you’re hiring people with long commutes.

10.                How do you manage your schedule?

When working from an office, it’s sometimes easier to manage your schedule. You deal with emails when you turn up, prioritise your daily workload, then simply take your breaks with everybody else. But when working remotely, schedule management can be a bit trickier.

“People face more distractions when working from home compared to a physical workspace” says Cindy Deuser, HR Director at Thrive Agency. “I ask people to tell me how they organise their work and schedule their time. This helps to see if they have effective work habits and if their organisational skills are compatible.”

Cindy says that many people struggle to put a boundary line between their working space and their living space. If you, or anybody in your organisation, is struggling to find a work-life balance, then you may find it helpful to read my article “9 ways to work from home”.

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