Skype and Zoom have made it so easy to video chat over PCs and mobile devices that more employers are using video to replace some in-person interviews, especially with the pandemic.
It makes sense: From the company’s point of view, a video conversation can save both time and money, very similar to a phone interview but providing a view of the candidate.
And, of course, the Coronavirus pandemic dramatically increased the use of video interviews, making video interview skills more important for job candidates.
Video interviews provide a convenient way for hiring managers to have an initial conversation with a candidate, before committing to the time and expense of tests and additional interviews.
Also, recruiters say that, as the competition for talent becomes more intense in technology centers like Boston and San Francisco, companies there are becoming more open to the idea of hiring remote workers in secondary markets. Clearly, the pandemic has increased that interest.
Video interviews are an invaluable tool for screening those candidates.
How to Ace Your Video Interview
As with any interview, the key to a successful vieo conversation is planning. The difference is you need to prepare more than your answers and what you’re going to wear. You must consider the technical issues involved in using video properly.
Yes, the software is easy to download and install and, yes, webcams and microphones today are plug and play or already built into your computer.
But neglect the simple aspects of using video, and you will end up looking amateurish and unprepared.
Here’s how to make sure you are ready:
1. Set up and test ahead of time.
First, be sure you have downloaded, installed, and tested the software well before your interview is scheduled — the sooner the better.
Have video chats with several friends to make sure everything is working properly on a variety of systems.
Set up your camera so that your face is nicely framed.
Try positioning the camera so that the lower edge of the frame is in the upper part of your chest, roughly in line with the third button of a dress shirt or a couple of inches below your collarbone. Position the top of the frame about a hand’s width above your head.
Try not to be looking down at the camera. You may need to position the camera so that it is on a box or stack of books at roughly the same level as your face, with a light above and in front of you, not behind you.
Test your microphone.
For sound, your voice should come through without any echoes, hums or buzzing. If in doubt, invest in a headset. It is better to wear one than to have poor sound quality that will distract from what you say.
Check the lighting.
Your image should be plainly visible without being too bright. While it’s true you’re not making a feature film here, get your skin tones to appear as natural as you can by adjusting the camera’s settings, the angle of the room’s lights and the window shades.
If you wear glasses, minimize your computer monitor’s reflection in your glasses.
Change the monitor’s angle, cover it with paper, or possibly turn it off during the interview. Or, consider removing your glasses if you are sure you won’t need them during the interview. Whichever approach you take, test it out before the interview itself.
Prepare the room.
Set up a professional-looking background that won’t distract from the conversation.
Don’t have a basket of laundry on the sofa behind you or an open door that reveals a hallway full of trash bags. Avoid using your bedroom: Having your bed and nightstand in the background is a little too personal.
Careful set-up — in advance — is very important for a successful interview.
This is a key to any successful interview, but being comfortable with the technology is especially important with video. Not only do you want to make sure you can maintain your poise despite any question you get, you want to be comfortable talking to the camera.
Bear in mind how you will appear from the interviewer’s point of view.
You will look them in the eye by looking into the camera, not by watching their image on the monitor. Practice talking to the camera and find the position where you are the most comfortable, so you can sit that way for a long period of time.
Provide your friends with a set of questions you expect to be asked, and have them run through them with you, hopefully using the same video technology as the interview. Ask them to mix up the questions, so you can field the questions in any order. Having your friends add in their own questions will prepare you to deal with unanticipated topics.
3. Prepare your environment.
When the time comes for the interview itself, be sure that you will not be disturbed. Try to find quiet space where you will not be disturbed by the environment.
If you have kids, you will need someone to mind them. If you have pets, put them out of the room.
Turn off the clothes dryer so its alarm does not go off in mid-sentence, and turn off your landline and cell phone, too.
4. Dress up.
Put on the same clothes for a video interview that you would wear if you were going to interview in-person. If the company is formal, wear a jacket and tie for men or a suit jacket for women. If the organization is more laid back, wear a business casual shirt or blouse.
Don’t give into the temptation to dress up only above the waist. First, wearing the complete ensemble will help you stay in the interviewing mood. Second, if you have to stand up for some reason, you don’t want your shorts or jeans to ruin the impression you’ve made.
5. Get in the zone.
You have to pay special attention to what’s going on during an interview. The interviewer can see you, but picking up on their visual cues is more challenging when you are trying to keep your attention focused on the camera. So, do not forget to look at the screen often to see what the interviewers are doing — smiling, frowning, looking at notes, or where ever their attention is focused.
Pay attention to your video interview body language.
- Focus on sitting up straight and making eye contact, which is a lot more difficult than it may appear.You’ll be tempted to keep your eyes on the monitor, but focus instead on the webcam. When you do, interviewers will see you looking at them directly.If the camera is built into your computer monitor, use a sticky note to point to the camera’s lens, if you cannot easily see it.
- Lean forward, and nod during the conversation so the interviewers can see that you are engaged.
All of this is in addition to the preparation you’d do ahead of a telephone or in-person interview.
For example, research the employer so that you understand its business, and write out a list of questions of your own so you can envision how and where the job fits into the organization.
After the session, be sure send the interviewer a thank you note.
The Bottom Line
Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, and the other video platforms are relatively simple to use, but you might need to take some time and practice to make your video look and sound clean. Prepare for your interview well ahead of time and you wull look good to the hiring manager, and save yourself a whole lot of stress.
If your field is IT, the standard is higher. Employers expect IT professionals to have technology that works flawlessly.
More About Different Kinds of Interviews:
- Ace Your Video Interview
- 12 Keys to One-Way Video Interview Success
- 10 Keys to Success in One-Way Video Interviews
- Smart Answers to Interview Questions
- Guide to Writing Thank You Notes After an Interview with Sample Thank You Notes (and Emails)
About the author…
Mark Feffer has written, edited, and produced hundreds of articles on careers, personal finance and technology for leading business and career sites. He is currently writing for JobsinME.com, JobsinRI.com, JobsinVT.com and JobsinNH.com, the top local resources for job seekers, employers, and recruiters in New England.