When actively looking for a job you’re bound to have at least one video interview during the hiring process. Mastering the technology and technique for this specialized type of interview is important – but can be tricky. While most first interviews are conducted over the phone, many companies use video for their second or third interview and reserve them for a more senior member of the team, possibly your potential boss.
Companies use video interviews for three main reasons:
- To deepen their understanding of a candidate’s background
- To further assess if you’re a good fit for their team
- To see your demeanor. They want to assess things such as: overall presentation, mannerisms, eye contact, disposition, personality, and how you engage in the conversation.
A video interview is important because it may be the first time a company representative will directly interact with you. Knowing what your interviewer is looking for will help you to prepare with purpose. You’ll need to know your “stories” by identifying examples of when you’ve performed activities that are on the job description and practicing your answers to make sure they’re detailed and concise, but also making sure you’re creating an engaging experience for the interviewer. It can feel like a complicated process with many steps, but breaking it down into Technology and Set-Up, Video Presence and Environment can help you take it step by step.
Technology and Set-Up:
Pre-call preparation is essential for a video interview. Having everything ready to go for your interview will take some time and keeping a checklist can make you feel more in control of all the steps. Be sure to check and double-check all your to-do’s before you go live.
Wi-Fi: Having a strong and stable Wi-Fi connection for this interview is crucial. A weak connection can lead to the screen freezing on your side (usually it’s in the most unflattering pose), or not being able to hear or see your interviewer because of a choppy connection. This article from Consumer Reports explains how to ensure a secure connection with some simple workarounds.
Audio: Check for a clean and strong audio connection before you get on the video call. Make sure your mic is enabled (see this article from Life Hacker) and that there is no feedback. In a pinch, you can always use the video link for the call and dial in through your phone. Viewers will see you on the screen and hear you through your phone, but they won’t be able to notice the difference.
Lighting: The lighting needs to be bright enough to see your entire face. Avoid “half lighting;” don’t place the light next to you so one side of your face is illuminated and the other side looks dark or hazy. Being “front-lit” is best: have the light source, like a window or lamp, in front of you so your face is visible. If the light is behind you, your image will appear too dark and the contrast can be distracting to the viewer.
Camera: Clean your computer camera. Put it in the right position so you are framed in a way that is not distracting and looks professional. You don’t need to show your entire body, from the chest up is fine. Prop boxes or books under your laptop if you need to get the camera higher. Have your face and body fill most of the screen in a natural-looking way, so the interviewer is focused on you and not your background. As with the audio, check that your camera is working before the call by testing out the software you are going to use, like Skype or Zoom.
Eye Contact: Once the technology is ready, you can focus on your video demeanor. Eye contact is one of the most important things recruiters and hiring managers are looking for, so practice looking directly into the camera every once in a while when speaking. You don’t need to look into the camera at all times. It’s okay to look at the screen and converse normally, so you look relaxed and attentive, but make sure you aren’t looking down or away, as this may affect how confident you look.
Posture and Voice Control: Make sure your back is straight, with your shoulders back and relax. Your feeling of relaxation can be sensed by the interviewer.
In my post about acing a phone interview, there are tips on posture and voice control. You may want to take a look, since those same tips apply for video interviews.
Interview Attire: Dress for a video interview the way you would dress for an in-person interview. Don’t just dress from the waist up. There are too many interview bloopers where people need to get up and are not dressed to impress from the bottom down. I suggest to all my clients that they dress fully because this also helps your confidence and gets you into the right state of mind.
Setting: Make sure your background is not distracting. Clean up or move any paper piles, extra furniture, kids’ toys, or other items that don’t look like they belong in a professional setting. If you are interviewing from your bedroom, keep the bed out of the camera frame.
Frame the Shot: Look at yourself in the frame to see if any plants are sticking out behind your head, any reflective lighting or open doors behind you. Remove any of those distractions.
You can look your best by checking that your background and clothing are complimenting your face. Avoid using light or dull colors that wash you out or make you fade into the background. Here are a few tips on picking the right colors for your skin tone, as well as some interview colors that make everyone look good. Your environment should be calm, clean, simple, and professional. This will help your interviewer focus on you and help you feel clear-headed about the interview as well.
Outside Noise: Silence your cell phone and make sure the ringer for your home phone is off. Don’t schedule your call around the time the noisy landscaper or garbage truck makes a regular stop at your house. Make sure all pets are out of the room (and ideally far away) and the door is closed.
Busy Places: Be in control of your environment as much as you can for a video interview. If you have to take the call at a cafe or library or other busy, public place, try to minimize noise and audio distractions as much as you can by wearing headphones. Make sure your back is to a wall or other fixed backdrop, not a window or other exposed area. If you have to take the video call from your car, make sure you’re parked in a well-lit area with minimal traffic around you. Also, use the audio on your phone, not through your hands-free device in the car, which tends to pick up more static and background noises.
Practice Makes Perfect: Be as prepared as possible for this interview by practicing your answers and creating the professional persona you want them to see, for a smooth and effective interview.
Ace your video interview and be confident in your preparation by making sure all these steps are done well ahead of your interview. Once you begin to prepare, you’ll feel like you have more control of the situation and will be ready to have a successful interview.
Stay tuned for our next blog- How to Handle the In-Person Interview!
Other blog posts you might find relevant:
Julia Holian of Holian Associates is a Career Strategist and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals pinpoint what that want to do with their career, then showcase their talents in order to move up in their chosen field or re-enter the job market. Julia leverages her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients navigate the nuances of asking for new projects or a promotion, networking, interviewing, creating a job search plan, negotiating compensation, and successfully assimilating into a new role. Learn more about Julia on our website and at www.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolian.