Preparing Students for Career Success: Exposing Students to Online Interviewing
By Errick D. Farmer and Sundra D. Kincey
The interview process is beginning to take a shift. Very soon traditional telephone, in-person, and luncheon interviews will be a thing of the past. In their place are online/virtual interviews using technology on a diverse set of platforms, such as Skype for Business and Zoom. With this change in mind, it is imperative that college career development professionals, faculty, and other advisors embrace this new approach as they prepare students for the job search and world of work.
Reasoning Behind the Move to Online Interviewing
An increasing number of companies and organizations are conducting online job interviews, and in most cases, financial reasons seem to be the driving factor (Doyle, 2017). In an effort to combat the rising costs of travel and the reduction of related recruiting budgets, companies are turning to online interviews as a way to save money and improve ROI. The use of virtual interviews also often reduces the number of employees needed to conduct quality interviews, and saves time by allowing organizations to reach a greater number of qualified candidates from a wide geographic area without having to actually travel (Zielinski, 2010). This mode of interviewing is particularly helpful when recruiting candidates internationally. Additionally, since the technology needed to conduct online interviews has become more mainstream, the concept is now more readily viewed as a simple and effective way to interview candidates for employment.
Faculty Involvement and Bringing this Concept into the Classroom
While interview skills are often taught in college career centers and advising offices, university professors are also regularly engaged in helping their students become successful after graduation, including providing assistance during the job search process. Professors are now seeing interview prep as a task in which they can assign and explore within their individual classes. For example, students at Gateway University were given a class assignment to test their online interviewing skills. Prior to the assignment, they were asked a series of questions regarding their perceptions, including:
- Prior to this assignment, how comfortable were you with a videoconference interview?
- After conducting the interview, how comfortable are you now with videoconference interviews?
- Do you think this was a good assignment to prepare you for videoconference interviews?
Surprisingly, many of the students stated a preference for online interviews (over face-to-face interviews), even though this was their first time participating in a virtual job interview. While in-person interviews tended to cause anxiety and fear, students seemed to believe interviewing in a virtual environment would lessen this feeling of pressure. In this particular instance, while student confidence in virtual interviewing based on this assignment only increased about five percent to 55% overall, the majority of students (almost 75%) indicated that the assignment did tangibly help to prepare them for future virtual interviews. Students with a positive experience noted the assignment helped increase their level of preparedness and confidence conducting interviews using this modality by giving them a sense of control, a better understanding of the technology, and the ability to choose their interview environment (space/place).The second part of the assignment involved a pre-recorded video interview. Even though the interview was just for a class assignment, students were required to dress up as if they were attending an actual interview. Some of the pre-recorded interviews yielded exceptional results. For those students, this exercise clearly became an opportunity to sharpen their skills and gain exposure to the future of online interviewing through a safer, simulated environment. Noted areas for improvement included:
- Background noise
- Dress attire
- Fluency in response to questions posed (i.e., too fast or slow)
- Body language (e.g., proper posture)
- Inappropriate placement of the recording device
- Poor audio or video quality.
Overall, feedback from the professors as part of this assignment both assisted individual students in improving noted weaknesses and helped the professors to refine course instruction to include more active learning and opportunities for engagement and public speaking.
Strategies for Supporting Students Preparing for Virtual Interviews
As many employers have come to understand, while potentially more convenient for both parties, the online interview process can be daunting, especially for college students and new graduates. However, help from career advisors as well as class assignments such as the one presented here are an active, effective way for university faculty and staff to help students become more comfortable with this mode of interviewing.
Career advisors may need to help students with the following issues to support this new, non-traditional interviewing method:
- Ensure the students' Internet access is reliable (Kelsky, 2016).
- Remove distractions.
- Embrace the initial discomfort.
- Practice, practice, practice to increase comfort and confidence with the medium.
As faculty consider this type of assignment to support student development, it will be important that they concurrently commit to:
- Embracing new technology
- Learning and accepting different modes of student learning
- A willingness to learn from their students during the process
- Providing concrete, constructive and applicable feedback
- Having fun!
Ideal Preparation for the Immediate Future and Long Term
Interviewing is an awkward and intimidating endeavor for many students. The onset of video interviewing has added a new and different dimension to the process, offering challenges and opportunities. As university faculty and staff members, we must find ways to assist our students with moving toward a comfortable place so they can present their best self in job and internship interviews. This starts with creating curricular activities to add awareness of and familiarity with this mode of interviewing to their world. With proper preparation, we will have students that are ready for interviewing on all platforms, and thus ready to secure best-fit positions in the world of work.
Doyle, A. (2018, August 11). Tips to practice and prepare for an online job interview. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/online-job-interviews-2064216
Kelsky, K. (2016, August 9). Making the most of a skype interview. Retrieved from https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1506-making-the-most-of-a-skype-interview
Rehn, K. (2013, March 27). Virtual interviews: The next wave of hiring technology? Retrieved from https://hhstaffingservices.com/virtual-interviews-the-next-wave-of-hiring-technology/
Zielinski, D. (2010, January 15). HR discovers web-based video interviews save time, money. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/technology/Pages/VideoInterviews.aspx
Errick D. Farmer, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Professional Leadership Development at Florida A&M University in the School of Business and Industry. Dr. Farmer’s research interest includes retention, graduation and career development and success. Errick can be reached at Errick.Farmer@famu.edu
Sundra D. Kincey, Ph.D., is Assistant Vice President of Program Quality in the Division of Academic Affairs at Florida A&M University. Dr. Kincey’s professional career includes a wealth of experiences in higher education that span over a course of twenty years at the university and statewide system level. Her research interests includes retention, persistence, mentoring, and academic success for minority populations. Sundra can be reached at email@example.com.