Top 10 video interview questions and why you should ask them

November 8, 2018

When the CEO of Proven published an expert interview on the People HR blog, he claimed that video interviewing was failing to live up to its potential. However, he was sure that it would. And two years later, in 2018, we’re seeing more and more companies turning to video interviews as a way to assess potential employees.

According to Recruiter, more companies are now using video interviews to recruit, because they can access top talent faster, make significant cost savings, and access a more geographically diverse talent pool.

With video recruiting on the rise, I thought it would be a good time to talk to experts from around the world, to find out the kinds of questions you should be asking candidates. I’ve compiled the top 10 questions to ask. But first, let’s talk about why video interviews are different to in-person interviews.

Video interviews give candidates more control

Alexander Lowry is Professor of Finance at Gordon College. But before his academic career, he spent 20 years in the business world – including nearly 5 years working as COO at JPMorgan Chase, where he conducted a lot of video interviews.

“A video interview gives the interviewee lots of control” he warns. “I cannot see what they’re doing in their room or office. So they could discreetly have a few notes nearby. That said, I am highly attended to watching if they look elsewhere or type something. So pay attention to that.”

Professor Lowry also explains that the interviewee needs to work a lot harder to engage the interviewer, because they aren’t physically in the room. But he says that while this makes building rapport more difficult, this is ultimately their challenge – and he advises assessing how they overcome this hurdle, as it can teach you a lot.

Top 10 video interview questions

Most experts agree that you have to put a little more thought into the kind of questions you’re asking for video interviews. Especially if you’re sending out a set of questions which give candidates chance to prepare and pre-record a video response.

Here are the most useful and thought-provoking video interview questions you should be asking, as shared by industry experts. You may find these questions useful in both a live video interview setting, as well as recruitment drives where you are requesting pre-recorded video responses.

1. What are your career goals?

Patrick Colvin, Strategic Human Resources Business Partner at USA Today, has long since implemented video into his HR strategy and talent acquisition process. He says the best questions are direct and specific. For example:

  • What are your career goals?
  • Tell me about your job at Company ABC
  • What type of work environment are you most productive in?

“Questions are centred around the candidate’s experiences, any achievements or goals, and determining if the hire is a good culture fit” he explains. “The beauty of the video interview is that it gives the employer literally, a front row seat to a candidate’s personality”

What I find interesting about Patrick’s recommendations, is that none of them encourage candidates to provide short ‘yes’ or ‘no’ type responses. They each give candidates the chance to speak freely, about a topic that is very relevant to their potential employment with your company.

2. Tell me about a recent project you worked on

In the spirit of asking open questions which explore specific topics, Jesse Harrison, CEO of Employee Justice Legal Team, recommends asking candidates about a recent project they’ve worked on.

“I would be listening to the words, to gauge what this project meant to the person, and what skills the person has gained because of this project” explains Jesse. “The questions I ask in video interviews are more targeted and direct.”

Jesse says that in an in-person interview, he has more tools at his disposal. For example, he can intentionally disagree with the candidate, to see how they handle themselves. In a video interview – particularly where the response is pre-recorded – this is not possible, which is why more direct and targeted questions are important.

3. Tell me about yourself

Some recruiters claim that asking candidates to tell you about themselves is a bad interview prompt, because it encourages a scripted response. But when you’re asking for pre-recorded video answers, responses are going to be scripted anyway. And for on-boarding consultant Jen Teague, it’s one of the best questions to ask in a video interview.

“All positions and companies require different questions” she says, “but the one I’ve found to bring out the most in someone is ‘tell me about yourself’. This question is essential, because it allows the candidate to be natural and reveals a lot when you pay attention to body movement, voice tone and fluctuation, as well as the words.”

Jen says to look out for somebody who does not complain, who has energy when they speak, and who avoids fidgeting or moving around too much in their seat.

4. Tell me about three people you would choose to help you with a project

Cristian Rennella, CEO of oMelhorTrato.com, has conducted more than 550 video interviews over 9 years. He says that by far, the question that has helped him understand candidates the most during these video interviews, is as follows:

You have to finish a job that would normally take you a month. You only have 72 hours. You must convince three people to work with you. Who would you choose?

This question is fairly non-standard. But Cristian explains that you can learn a lot about a person based on the types of people they would choose to work with. For example, the way they describe the people they would work with can tell you a lot about the kind of culture this person might fit in with – and how close it is to the culture at your own company. It also helps you understand if this person fits in well with a more practical team, a more creative team, or something else entirely.

This kind of question is well suited for a video interview. The candidate does not have to go searching for examples of things online, nor do they need a pen or paper. They only have to talk to you about the ideal people they would be working with.

5. How did you deal with a big mistake, and what did you learn?

Being perfect all the time is not something you should expect from anybody. And many of the experts I spoke to about video interview questions, suggested asking candidates about a big mistake they made, and then asking how they dealt with it. And perhaps more importantly, what they learned from it.

“Mistakes happen, so it’s important to use situational interview questions to evaluate how candidates react when they’ve made a mistake” explains Professor Lowry. “The mistake, the response, and the lesson learned can tell you a great deal about how the candidate approaches setbacks and how they deal with high-stress situations.”

At People®, making mistakes is an important part of our company culture. If we never make mistakes, we never learn. You can read more by downloading our employee handbook here.

6. How would you solve the following problem?

Learning how a candidate has solved a previous problem is helpful. But it doesn’t always help you understand how they might approach specific problems associated with the job they are applying for.

“Ask the candidate to solve a problem you present” advises Laura Handrick, HR Analyst at FitSmallBusiness. “Even on video, you should be able to see their passion for the job, their ability to articulate an idea, the way they address the problem, whether they tend to be more humble or more arrogant. And observing them on camera gives you insight into their temperament.”

Laura adds that you shouldn’t be so quick to interpret fast talking or a lack of eye contact to mean a candidate is not qualified. Many people are not comfortable having a camera looking at them, so you need to compensate for nerves when evaluating the candidate’s behaviour on video.

7. How do you evaluate success?

Questions like ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’ are often criticised as being ‘trick’ questions. But it’s still important to understand what a candidate is looking for in their career – hence the question about career goals, at the very beginning of this article. Another good way to do this, according to Professor Lowry, is to ask how they evaluate success.

“It’s not one of the standard interview questions” he explains “but it probably should be. It gives you a good idea of what the candidate is looking for. Do they want challenging work? More responsibility? Or just a bigger paycheque?”

This question can also provide more insight into how a candidate might approach their job. After all, you may be hiring for a job where success depends on meeting certain objective metrics – but your candidate may measure success based on approval from their peers. It’s important to find out if your perceptions align.

8. What is your greatest career accomplishment?

As well as asking a candidate how they define success, you could try asking for an example. This is another great way to assess how a candidate defines success, and it also gives you the chance to see the candidate at their very best.

“When you ask candidates to use real-life examples from their own experiences to demonstrate value, you get a better idea of how their skills work in action” says Professor Lowry. “But as this question lets you see the candidate at their best, then if you find yourself unimpressed, this is a bad sign for their overall job performance.”

Experts consistently agree that asking for examples during interviews is the best way to find out if candidates really do understand what they’re saying – rather than reeling off a template answer they’ve downloaded online.

9. Describe your ideal work environment

Remember that an interview is not just a chance for the candidate to impress you. It’s also a chance for you to impress the candidate. And while this is not easily possible when you’re conducting a one-way, pre-recorded video interview, you should certainly be asking questions that help you find out whether your work environment is going to be suitable for the candidate.

“This question is focused on company culture” explains Professor Lowry. “Let the candidate tell you what kind of company culture they would prefer working in, so you can see if their ideal fits your company’s reality.”

If you want to rephrase this question so that it encourages a more work-related response, you can always take Patrick Colvin’s approach, and ask ‘what type of work environment are you most productive in?’

10. How do you approach working in a team environment?

Steve Wang runs a career blog, and has worked in HR for over 15 years. He reminds us that as well as asking open questions and identifying a good set of skills, you want to find out how well candidates may work when placed within a team.

“You could also ask questions like ‘do you like working in teams, or doing things yourself?’” he suggests. “Questions like this can help you identify if the candidate is an introvert or an extrovert.”

When reviewing the video footage, Steve says to look at more than just the response, and to analyse the non-verbal cues. Do they seem upbeat and enthusiastic? Or do they seem like they’re only going through the motions?

Let’s bust some tricky office problems

I’ve been working on answering some tricky office questions recently. Let’s look at one of the most controversial: Should you contact an employee who is off work sick?

 

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