As you get busier and busier with your video business, you’ll eventually get to a point where you’re looking to hire in additional people to help with the workload. Whether we’re talking freelancers here, or someone to add as a permanent part of your team, you’re going to need to learn how to conduct an interview.
In video, most of us are enamored by all these fantastic gadgets to capture images, sound and light. And yet when we decide to hire somebody we don’t use anything more complicated than the good old, “Hi, come in, have a seat, I’ve read your resume.”
Somehow we think that will give us an objective hire.
After all, most interviews are over after you’ve shaken hands.
Yes, you read that correctly. Subconsciously, you and they have made your decision.
You might think we’re objective judges who carefully weigh the evidence, but this isn’t true. We’re more like lawyers. We take a position and then look for evidence to support our case.
Don’t believe me? Try any of these tests and then come back to me.
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
You probably didn’t think you were that biased, did you?
Consciously you might not be. Unfortunately, nobody told your subconscious. For more of this kind of thing read Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It’s dense, but a fantastically illuminating book on the subject.
Your subconscious weighs in on every decision you make and it is important you appreciate it.
In order to conduct an unbiased interview you have to accept that you are biased
I’m sure that’s a shocking statement for most people to take in.
Now, how exactly are you biased, I hear you ask.
In your actions
Things like the fundamental attribution error, the confirmation bias and the availability heuristic will color your choices and your hiring decision.
It is unavoidable.
Even more surprisingly, accepting this is hard. A lot of people will accept others have biases, but won’t believe it about themselves.
And your memories
In fact you’re so biased, that you’re willing to change your memories to prove your own objectivity. Memories are easy to change.
Heck, you possibly even create false memories at the drop of a hat!
Use a camera (and get others to watch it)
Fortunately, the memory bias is pretty easy to avoid. After all, you’re in the video production business, so why not produce a video?
Tape every interview. Then you can go back later and make sure your memory matches what actually happened.
And in order to avoid the action bias, get somebody else to analyze the video. Preferably without first giving them your opinion, so that they can form their own.
Do make sure that they are honest and forthcoming with their assessment and that you respect their opinions. Otherwise, they might just end up saying what you want them to, or you’ll ignore them if they disagree with you. Both of those defeat the purpose of this enterprise (and the employee searching process in the first place).
The interview itself
Okay, so you’ve got a camera setup to record the interviews and you’ve got somebody to look at the videos afterwards.
Great! You’re all set, right?
Not in the slightest.
It’s time to learn about the interview process itself. After all, if you don’t structure the interview, then whoever is looking in afterwards isn’t going to be able to judge the candidates objectively, are they?
What’s more, candidates can be affected unfairly by an unstructured interview. Your questions might be unfairly hard on one and unusually kind to another, just because of who they remind you of and even what time of day it is.
A systemized approach can counteract all that.
A checklist of all the things you should ask and mention is a good place to start.
Think you’re above checklists? So did many surgeons initially. Yet, when they were used in surgeries, patient mortality dropped by nearly 50% and complication dropped by more than 35%.
So use one and put all the questions you’re meant to ask on it.
Your checklist and list of structured questions to ask in an interview will change and evolve over time. Here are some of the top questions to ask in interview, according to Jobs America.
Don’t overvalue it
Most people perceive the interview as the make-or-break moment of a job application. It is here where people on both sides think they are deciding if the fit is right.
Of course, that’s not actually what’s being decided. What they’re deciding is if they like each other, which isn’t quite the same thing.
Clearly, likability will help with fitting in, but it’s not the same thing as ability. Anybody who’s had a friendly but incompetent colleague or boss can testify to this. Don’t fall into this trap.
The best way to avoid overvaluing the interview is by having other measures. Perform tests, get the due diligence done and give them a trail assignment (perhaps one you’ve already completed so that you can compare your solutions to theirs). Then judge them on a combination of these factors.
Note: we discussed some other video business specific interview issues in our article about Hiring an Assistant for Your Video Production Business.
Appreciate that the people you’re interviewing probably will overvalue the interview itself
It’s tough to sit down infront of people and have them judge you for a lengthy period of time. For some folks, it’s the kind of thing that nightmares are made of.
For that reason, it’s really not surprising that people overvalue the interview itself in the bigger picture of the job application process.
Use the fact that people overvalue the interview to your advantage. After all, the really good applicants are going to receive several offers, so why not make it more likely they accept yours?
To get them to do so, as a video production company, you need to sell them on three things:
Who you are
Just like you’re deciding if they have the ability based on how likable they are, they do the same to you. So take the time to make your business and yourself appear likeable.
In practical terms, this means not making them wait, letting them ask questions and making them feel appreciated.
That last one is very important. One of the greatest problems with job hunting is the dehumanization that it can make people feel. People can feel like mere numbers being churned out of a spreadsheet.
An interviewer being nice to an interviewee can brighten their day (and boost the number of people saying ‘yes’ to your offer) enormously.
I know this isn’t what people reading this necessarily want to hear (nor what they expected, probably), but for the right candidate this process is as much about selling your company to them as it is them selling themselves to you.
What you’re doing
You have to demonstrate enthusiasm, passion and faith that what you’re doing matters. People in the video industry, especially when they’re just starting out, are there because they’re passionate.
They’re sitting in-front of you and interviewing with you because they want to work for a company that will motivate them and advance their career.
Heck, sometimes when they do find a great company that they love, they’ll even be willing to work for less just to be a part of it.
That you’re competent
Aside from showing that you’re competent as a company — and we talk a lot about this from websites, intro videos and other marketing pieces — you’ll also need to demonstrate your competency with the interview process itself.
This will in part be reflected by you having a checklist of questions and know what you’re looking for in a candidate, for example.
Another way to demonstrate competence is by understanding the technical specifics of the role they’re applying for. If you’re going interview a sound technician make sure you, or somebody in the interview, knows a lot about sound engineering!
It may seem like common sense, but it bears mentioning.
Hiring is just as difficult as shooting a video
Remember when you first started having dreams of shooting video and making films? You thought it was just a matter of pressing a button and aiming a camera. You thought that a director’s job had something to do with the camera and possibly ordering people around loudly!
Over time, you realized there’s much more to it.
There are hundreds of things to keep track of, thousands of buttons to press and millions of unique problems to solve. We all know this now.
Hiring and managing staff is largely the same.
The two biggest differences are: One, all the buttons, knobs and dials are hidden inside people’s heads. Two, you’ve got the same filters and pre-settings.
To ignore that will get you into trouble sooner or later. You’ll either end up hiring somebody likable but incompetent, or even somebody who, after a while, you find out you disagree with on a fundamental level.
The best way to avoid that is to approach hiring decisions like you’re making a movie. Plan the processes, build the set, and realize what “filters” you’ll need to compensate for.
Oh, and most importantly, understand that what you see while you’re doing it isn’t going to be what you’ll see at the end.
I hope you’ve found this article on how to conduct an interview useful and illuminating. Let me know your thoughts, comments or questions in the comments section below this post. Thanks!
Cheers for this guide. I’ve never really interviewed anyone but know I will have to eventually.
What do you think about putting on like fake interviews to test out my interviewing skills? Like putting on a job that doesn’t exists so that I can gain experience? Like obviously I wouldn’t want to mess the candidates for the job around or another!
Thanks for everything you do here Matt!