“Why do you want to work at our school?”
I’ve done my research. I give an impassioned explanation of how my educational philosophy is aligned with the school’s vision and mission statement. I explain what I have gleaned from their website and how I think I would be a perfect fit to join their team.
Beaming, I smile at the webcam hoping to come across as enthusiastic but not deranged. And what do I see?
A timer counting down the last five seconds of my time to respond to the question: 3. 2. 1. No nodding heads or the reassuring smiling faces of an interview panel. Then, the next question appears.
Automated interviews: how to succeed
I have been teaching overseas for seven years and have become familiar with remote interviews via video call – they are commonplace in recruitment for international schools.
But during a recent application process, I was faced with a completely new experience, with the first stage of interviews being conducted through an automated interview system.
With candidates for international positions often based all over the world, interviewing across time zones can be a challenge and arranging panel interviews to include all stakeholders is not always possible.
A number of schools are now utilising automated interview systems to facilitate the initial stages of the recruitment process. During an automated interview, predetermined questions appear on the screen and answers are recorded via timed video response.
But how can you be successful when you have no audience? Here are a few top tips:
1. Get your surroundings right
Just like all video interviews, you need to ensure the environment around you is conducive to giving off the best impression. Consider your background to ensure it isn’t too distracting. Make sure the lighting in the room isn’t off-putting and that you are clearly visible.
2. Check your technology
The website for conducting your automated interview will allow you to check your computer settings before beginning. This ensures your set-up is appropriate, including your camera angle, video quality and microphone settings. Make sure your connection is as stable as possible and other people and devices aren’t draining the internet bandwidth.
3. Set aside time to prepare
With an automated system, you are free to complete the interview at any time you like during the time period provided by the school – usually a window of three to five working days.
When the specific date and time of interview has not been arranged, it can be tempting to keep putting off the interview in order to fit in a little more preparation time. However, if you leave it too long, you risk panicking trying to complete it at the last minute. Set aside a dedicated period of time to prepare yourself physically and mentally to undertake the interview.
4. Make the most of the practice session
Most automated interview systems provide an opportunity to practise before the real, recorded interview begins. Don’t skip this step! The practice works just like the real interview but your recorded responses here won’t be shared with the school.
You are usually offered one or two practice questions, allowing you to settle your nerves and get used to talking to a laptop. The practice also allows you to understand how the timers work. You will get a countdown timer for reading the question and considering your answer, and then a new timer for recording your response. Get a feel for what two minutes of talking feels like, so you don’t get cut off mid-way through an answer in the real interview!
5. Consider your responses carefully
In a normal face-to-face interview, a question is asked and then you begin answering straightaway. In an automated interview, there is a period of reading time set aside for you to read the question and consider your response. This can be anywhere from 30 seconds to two and a half minutes.
Make sure you have a notepad and pen handy to jot down some notes for your answer during this time. This helps to calm the nerves and allows you to consider the structure of your response before you begin.
6. Pay attention to the timer
You don’t want to get cut off half-way through a great response, so ensure that you monitor the timer. This way, you can aim to wrap up an example before you run out of time.
It can be quite intimidating to see the countdown ticking away as you try to formulate an articulate explanation of your experience. Try to practise giving concise responses to some standard interview questions in preparation for this.
As there is no physical interviewer present, there will be no follow-up questions asking you to expand upon the points you have made, so it is important to capture the most important information in your initial response.
Although it may feel like you are speaking into a void, it’s important to remember that this is your opportunity to sell yourself to the school. Be sure to begin and end each recorded response with a smile, and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through despite the lack of visible audience.