Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

Looking Past the Nerves in a Video Interview

For candidates, even top quality ones, the video interview can be a nerve-wracking proposition. With high unemployment, you might even see more nervous candidates than ever before. These candidates might be hanging all their hopes of re-entering the workforce on this one single interview. Just because a candidate is nervous, however, doesn’t mean they won’t be a great hire.

Many employers dismiss candidates who are a bundle of nerves in the interview, whether it’s an in-person or video interview. This isn’t unreasonable behavior on the part of employers. Candidates that are extra-nervous in the video interview are unlikely to turn into your top performing employee. But what about the candidate who is clearly nervous but otherwise great? There are plenty of nervous candidates in interviews and the most self-confident interviewees aren’t always the best people for the job.

You never know, your nervous candidate might turn into your best employee. Here are some things to look for when talking to a nervous candidate so you don’t miss out on great talent:

Ignore the quavering voice and listen to the words
Your candidate might stutter and their voice might quaver, but what are they actually saying? Too many hiring managers place style over substance when it comes to the video interview. It’s true that style is important, especially when this style encompasses a candidate’s communication skills. The actual value of their words, however, is much more important.

Listen to what your candidate is saying. There are plenty of well-spoken, confident interviewees who manage not to say anything of substance when it’s their time to talk. If your talent is a bundle of nerves but still making great points about how they’ve brought value to organizations in the past, this could be a great future employee. Dive below the surface level and make sure to listen to the content, not just the delivery.

Know how to spot the difference between normal nerves and lack of self-confidence
This might be tricky ,but there’s a difference between normal interview nerves and a serious lack of self-confidence. As a hiring manager, it’s your job to be able to spot the difference. Nervous candidates might stutter or take long pauses but they can speak clearly about their skills and qualifications. They can express to you why they would be right for the job and how their unique skill set can bring value to the team.

Candidates who lack self-confidence, however, will not be able to give you a clear picture of why you should hire them. They won’t be as clear about their achievements and they won’t feel comfortable telling you about their value. Your company needs employees who are confident and can take the reigns. If a candidate can’t even express why they’re the right person for the job in the interview, don’t expect leadership skills down the line.

Ask for concrete examples of value
One of the best ways to evaluate a nervous candidate in the video interview is to get as specific as possible with your questions. To evaluate the content and self-confidence of a candidate instead of just their demeanor, ask interview questions where the candidate can really show off his or her knowledge. Instead of asking general questions about why the candidate is right for the job, get specific and ask about tasks they would need to perform or knowledge they would need in order to succeed in the position.

If the candidate aces these questions with concrete examples of knowledge and specific instances of ways they’ve used this knowledge in the past to bring value, it doesn’t matter much how nervous they are. The nerves are most likely just a temporary state of being for the interview. The knowledge, however, will be something the talent brings along with them into the workplace.

Many smart people are caught off-guard by their nerves in a video interview. Remember, this doesn’t mean they won’t be a great employee or the perfect person for the job. If you weed out the nervous superstars from the bad hires, you might snag hidden talent to really grow your business.

What are some ways you evaluate nervous candidates? Share in the comments!

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Heather Huhman

Heather R. Huhman is the Career & Recruiting Advisor for Spark Hire. She writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets, and is the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle (2011), and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010).

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