Fun Friday: Recruiters reveal worst interview mishaps

Some old habits are becoming new pet peeves for recruiters

Fun Friday: Recruiters reveal worst interview mishaps

We’re midway through January but the hiring season has only just begun.

With the pandemic limiting social interaction, however, there’s a good chance you’ll be doing video interviews in the weeks ahead. This method of candidate screening has become the norm for more than half of hiring decision makers (52.7%) surveyed by career platform Joblist.

At least there wouldn’t be any awkward handshakes to worry about, right? Then again, video interviews carry with them a whole new set of challenges.

The old habits that job applicants never thought would matter in front of a camera are suddenly becoming a pet peeve for recruiters.

Read more: How to run successful virtual meetings

Out of focus
Technology plays a key role in today’s candidate experience – from the way the applicant’s colour of clothing translates on the screen, to the way they focus their eyes on the monitor and not the camera. (Yes, recruiters know when you’re checking out your own reflection during the Q&A.)

“We all have that tendency to look down a bit,” said Phil Haynes, head of global talent acquisition at video conferencing specialist Zoom. People naturally gravitate towards images on the screen, instead of looking straight into the camera, which serves as the other person’s set of eyes.

“Even the executives here at Zoom sometimes struggle with this,” Haynes told CNBC.

Feeling a little too casual
One advantage of doing interviews from home is that it offers recruiters a glimpse into the candidate’s character just as they are in a casual environment. The only problem is, video and phone interviews will “artificially lower your energy level,” says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

As a result, the candidate (and sometimes, even the interviewer) will have a tendency to switch to a more casual language and forget the professional decorum that most assessments require.

At times, a candidate who may be feeling a little too casual will resort to fillers like “um” and “uh” which often impede the flow of the Q&A.

Read more: Tips for conducting a successful video interview

Being overdressed/underdressed
Because the camera mediates the communication process, a person’s appearance on screen might differ from how they are in the real world. This is why recruiters advise against wearing white or donning outfits with bright colours or striking patterns. They can end up distracting the interviewer.

In a similar way, coming to an interview in your sweats or even in that notorious WFH mullet won’t win you points with the interviewer, either. 

Not checking equipment and internet connection

“Hello, Susan? Are you there?” Recruiters lose valuable time whenever the candidate drops in and out of a call, or their screen freezes because of a lag.

Even days before candidates log in for the interview, recruiters should clarify the technical requirements and check whether the candidate will need extra help navigating the app, employment expert Erin Schreiner told HRD.

The golden age of Zoom has also brought along novelties such as the fake background. But forget that crazy add-on! More than a third of hiring decision makers (36.4%) are put off by those quirky vignettes, according to Joblist.

So, how should candidates stand out in a video interview? According to the survey, recruiters are impressed by candidates who:

  • Look directly into the camera
  • Arrive on time
  • Are in a neat and distraction-free environment
  • Are a good conversationalist
  • Have good-quality audio/lighting
  • Maintain good posture throughout
  • Use facial expressions/hand gestures
  • Ask unexpected questions/give unexpected answers
  • Choose a flattering camera angle


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