9 tips for video interviews 

Why do video interviews?  “We” – Learning & Performance Innovation at PA – discovered that there are always a lot of people in organisations, who hold a huge amount of experience and expertise in their heads. 

These people typically aren’t the ones who blog or share their ideas on social media. In rare cases they may be actively resistant to sharing knowledge because they perceive their knowledge as their value. Which is true; but of course, anyone miserly with their help, is either missing the point, or someone maybe you don’t want around anyway. 

Filming interviews, is a relatively cost-effective way to grab expert advice and disseminate it around the company for the benefit of all. The idea is fairly simple and effective. At BP Gemma Critchley managed a website called ‘The Hub’ which was chock full of these videos and received 6,000 visits a month. Not bad for something not mandated, in a company of 80,000 employees. 

I know what you’re thinking. “Wow! This sounds so much better than the rubbish classroom training and eLearning I’m grinding out, tell me more!” Before I do, it’s worth saying that video interviews are actually really hard. Getting valuable, interesting clips, is far more complicated than simply rocking up with a camera and pointing it at an unsuspecting interviewee. Anyway, the tips… 

1. Ask the direct questions, for open answers 
For example: “what is the one piece of advice you would give a new leader to this organisation?” 

My style is to waffle, and I often end up asking 2 or 3 questions. The problem is people don’t know what they’re answering. You also want to make sure that you are giving the interviewee plenty of opportunity to say why and how, as well as what in their answers.

2. Chill people out
For example, “how are you? How’s it going?” 

Inexperienced interviewers often portray their own anxiety. This is then reflected to the interviewer whose mouth suddenly becomes dry and whose mind suddenly goes blank. Mostly, you’re looking for authenticity in your clips, so a big role you play is helping people to forget the camera and share their stories. 

3. Look for the story
For example, “tell me who has been most influential in your career and describe a time when they taught you something important”. 

Our brains are designed to remember stories better than pure information, out of context. The reason to film rather than simply writing the advice down is because text doesn’t always create a connection with the person behind it. You need to find ways of bringing the personality to the fore, stories are the key to unlocking people’s insights and emotions. 

4. Affective Context 
For example, “you were the first female leader in a industry of men, your parents must be really proud?”

The best stories are the ones with emotional resonance. Affective context is the idea that you don’t really remember anything without having an emotional connection to the experience. As a test, you probably have many forgotten journeys to work, they all pass you by without you really being present. In contrast, if one day, you witness a fight, you’ll be able to describe that particular incident in intricate detail. You had an emotional reaction to it. That’s Affective Context.

For a more detailed explanation of Affective Context, check out https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-we-learn-nick-shackleton-jones. 

5. Say what you want and need
For example, “well done, that was really good because…” 

Most people you interview just want to do a good job for you. They won’t know what you want unless you tell them. Give feedback regularly and often, but be careful not to make them feel like they’re doing it wrong, that will damage their confidence. As a guide, stick to positive feedback only. 

6. Noise

For example, “we’ll have to take that again, that microwave pinged just as you were making your key point”. 

Even quiet offices are really loud. You won’t notice it until you’ve got a sound guy standing there with headphones on. People making tea, walking through the office in high heels and typing, are all noises to avoid. The key is to find a quiet space without comprising your image quality. 

7. Answer technique
For example, “sorry I’m just going to stop you, you started your question with erm”. 

There’s been a fair bit of debate in the team about how strict to be with the way people respond to questions. There are lots of little tricks you can use to get a more polished interview. However, I’m personally starting to gravitate to the view that actually the key thing is interviewee confidence. Actually stopping someone mid-answer is a bad idea, so it’s best to let them finish their point before giving feedback.

8. Communicate regularly to the interviewees before and after
“Just a reminder that your interview is tomorrow”. 

If you’ve spent a lot of time scheduling your interviews, it’s a real pain when people cancel. The best way to avoid this is to email or call them a couple of times before hand so they know you’re paying attention to them. If you do get an email the day before, from someone asking to rearrange, ask the person to nominate a suitable stand-in. It’s not ideal but it’s better than wasting your time and money. 

After the shoot, make sure you stay in touch and update the interviewees on the editing process. They’ll be itching to see the output. 

9. Have a conversation
“We spoke earlier about your passion for rugby, tell me about it”. 

What really hit home this week is that everyone has a story (except for me perhaps). This week I spoke to someone who had riden a motorcycle across the world, someone who had become paralysed in their 20s and someone whose mum had been diagnosed with cancer during their exams. It’s these experiences that shape people and contain the most potent and memorable lessons. A good interview is about helping people to share their unique stories and perspectives.

Filming interviews is a lot about being clear about what you want and avoiding any corporate messages. People are generally awesome if you let them be. It’s corporate structures and impersonal processes that keep the greatness hidden.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi there

    Thanks so much for such a good read and the listicle points are well crafted, I enjoyed this and cannot wait to implement these points next time I work on my articles !

    1 Ask the direct questions, for open answers
    For example: “what is the one piece of advice you would give a new leader to this organisation?”

    My style is to waffle, and I often end up asking 2 or 3 questions. The problem is people don’t know what they’re answering. You also want to make sure that you are giving the interviewee plenty of opportunity to say why and how, as well as what in their answers.

    2. Chill people out
    For example, “how are you? How’s it going?”

    Inexperienced interviewers often portray their own anxiety. This is then reflected to the interviewer whose mouth suddenly becomes dry and whose mind suddenly goes blank. Mostly, you’re looking for authenticity in your clips, so a big role you play is helping people to forget the camera and share their stories.

    3. Look for the story
    For example, “tell me who has been most influential in your career and describe a time when they taught you something important”.

    Our brains are designed to remember stories better than pure information, out of context. The reason to film rather than simply writing the advice down is because text doesn’t always create a connection with the person behind it. You need to find ways of bringing the personality to the fore, stories are the key to unlocking people’s insights and emotions.

    4. Affective Context
    For example, “you were the first female leader in a industry of men, your parents must be really proud?”

    The best stories are the ones with emotional resonance. Affective context is the idea that you don’t really remember anything without having an emotional connection to the experience. As a test, you probably have many forgotten journeys to work, they all pass you by without you really being present. In contrast, if one day, you witness a fight, you’ll be able to describe that particular incident in intricate detail. You had an emotional reaction to it. That’s Affective Context.

    For a more detailed explanation of Affective Context, check out https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-we-learn-nick-shackleton-jones. 

    5. Say what you want and need
    For example, “well done, that was really good because…”

    Most people you interview just want to do a good job for you. They won’t know what you want unless you tell them. Give feedback regularly and often, but be careful not to make them feel like they’re doing it wrong, that will damage their confidence. As a guide, stick to positive feedback only.

    6. Noise

    For example, “we’ll have to take that again, that microwave pinged just as you were making your key point”.

    Even quiet offices are really loud. You won’t notice it until you’ve got a sound guy standing there with headphones on. People making tea, walking through the office in high heels and typing, are all noises to avoid. The key is to find a quiet space without comprising your image quality.

    7. Answer technique
    For example, “sorry I’m just going to stop you, you started your question with erm”.

    There’s been a fair bit of debate in the team about how strict to be with the way people respond to questions. There are lots of little tricks you can use to get a more polished interview. However, I’m personally starting to gravitate to the view that actually the key thing is interviewee confidence. Actually stopping someone mid-answer is a bad idea, so it’s best to let them finish their point before giving feedback.

    8. Communicate regularly to the interviewees before and after
    “Just a reminder that your interview is tomorrow”.

    If you’ve spent a lot of time scheduling your interviews, it’s a real pain when people cancel. The best way to avoid this is to email or call them a couple of times before hand so they know you’re paying attention to them. If you do get an email the day before, from someone asking to rearrange, ask the person to nominate a suitable stand-in. It’s not ideal but it’s better than wasting your time and money.

    After the shoot, make sure you stay in touch and update the interviewees on the editing process. They’ll be itching to see the output.

    9. Have a conversation
    “We spoke earlier about your passion for rugby, tell me about it”.

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