Video Interview Tips & Best Practices

Be prepared — especially with the spread of the Coronavirus!

When it comes to the interview, nothing beats a live, face-to-face interview.

However, with the Coronavirus pandemic issues, use of video for interviews has increased greatly.

Add the amazing growth of “remote work” jobs, and succeeding in video interviews is not optional today.

Video is considered the next best thing to in-person interviews by many employers.

Of course, because technology is involved, they are often not as easy or simple as we expect.

Is It a Video Conferencing or a One-Way Video Interview?

The “video conference” interview is exactly what it sounds like: an interview performed long distance by video conferencing with people speaking directly to each other over the Internet.

The attendees maybe only the job seeker and the interviewer, typically the recruiter or HR person, or, with the Coronavirus pandemic, several interviewers are becoming slightly more common — like a “conference.”

A one-way video interview is typically when you are the only person on camera recording your responses to a set group of questions.

While not necessarily a new function in interviews, video is becoming increasingly popular in the times of the Coronavirus pandemic. It also dramatically cuts the travel costs of initial interviews while adding the perks of seeing you in an interview, an improvement over a phone interview.

There are two basic approaches:

  1. Communicating using your own technology such as a video camera and microphone on your computer, laptop, or smart phone, which is most widely used today, OR
  2. Traveling to a facility where the employer has video conferencing facilities established.

Very likely, you will be communicating using your own technology rather than going to a video conference facility.

Questions to Ask Before the Video Interview

When the interview is being scheduled, you need to ask questions so you can be well-prepared to succeed.

In addition to the date and time, you also need the following very important information:

  •  Which technology do they plan to use?  

    Many different options exist, and you need to know which one is being used so you can be ready when the interview starts. The options include Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting, Apple’s FaceTime, Google’s Meets, HireVue, SparkHire, etc.

  •  Who will be interviewing you?  

    Ask for the names and job titles of the people who will be — or who might be (if they aren’t sure) — interviewing you. This allows you do address them correctly and also to do your pre-interview research to learn as much as you can about them.

    If you are being interviewed by an automated system, rather than a liver person, this is known as a “one-way video interview.” Learn more about them: 12 Keys to One-Way Video Interview Success.

  •  How long will the interview last?  

    They should have an estimate of the time frame needed, although, as with “live” interviews, sometime the interview is longer or shorter than expected.

  •  If the interview is at a video conferencing facility, what is the facility’s address?  

The answers to these questions give you the basics so you can be well-prepared.

How to Handle a Video Job Interview

Prepare as you would for any other interview. Do your research in advance about the employer and their products and services. Prepare your answers to the most common interview questions in a way that emphasizes your fit for this job. Have your own questions ready to ask the employer to demonstrate your interest in the opportunity.

 Prepare in Advance  

When asked to participate in a video conferencing interview, be ready in advance —

  •  From home:  

    If you are connecting from home be sure to download any necessary software, and test your connection and your comfort with communicating by web camera.

    Typically, Skype is used for these interviews, but Google Hangouts or a proprietary method may be used instead. (If you are interviewing with Apple, expect to use Apple’s FaceTime service.)

    When the interview is scheduled, ask what method is being used (Skype, etc.) so you can set up an account, test your equipment, and be well-prepared.

  •  At a video conference facility:  

    While these are becoming more rare, be prepared. If you need to go to a facility, be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early (or the time designated by the interviewer) for orientation to the equipment and process.

Do NOT do this interview from your workplace if you currently have a job. That can be a quick way to lose your job and also more likely to have interruptions ruining the interview.

What to Wear  

What you wear is important to avoid distractions:

  • Avoid large plaids and prints which may be overemphasized on the screen.
  • Consider a pastel color rather than white, because white may glare.
  • When wearing white, add a dark jacket to cut down on glare.
  • Watch out for red as it may “bleed” and should be avoided if possible.
  • Cut out flashy jewelry that will catch the light.

Of course, colors like red can be too powerful for many interviews and flashy jewelry and big prints detract from you and what you have to say, so they are never a best first choice for any interview!

Try to avoid all-light or all-dark clothing as a camera’s automatic brightness control can be tricked by these. If too much light-colored clothing is worn, the camera will automatically darken the picture, which can make your face appear shadowed.

Set-Up at Home  

For the best results, pay attention to the background behind you and to the lighting in front of you.

  • Set up an appropriate account with the video conference provider and/or install their software, if necessary.Some providers need you to set up an account and install any necessary software, if you have not already done that (recently). Test to make sure it works before the day of the interview, if possible.
  • Test your equipment, particularly the camera and microphone being used.Well before the interview is scheduled, test so you can make any necessary adjustments in advance or replace your equipment. Sites like Zoom and GoToMeeting give you a test option to use before the interview: Zoom Test Meeting and GoToMeeting system check.
  • Put the computer or phone on a solid surface like a table or desk.Do NOT have the computer in your lap or, if using your phone (not a good idea!), do not hold the phone in your hand. You want to be able to can move easily without making the image the interviewer sees jiggle wildly. If you are using a phone, set it on a solid surface, too.
  • Put the camera at your eye level or a little above your face. Most of us do not make a good impression when we are looking down at a camera, so place the camera on a solid surface (box, shelf, or stable stack of large books) so you are looking straight at it or up to it.
  • Have lighting in front of you, preferably somewhat above you.Most of us look better with the light on our faces. Or, facing a window, open the curtains and shades to let the outdoor light in so that the light shines on your face, not on the back of your head.
  • Sit in front of a blank wall (if possible).You don’t want the background behind you to be cluttered or distracting. Some video conference providers (Zoom, for example) offer you the ability to change the background behind you using their system.
  • Position the camera close enough to you so that things beside you aren’t visible. A picture or window behind you might be OK, if the lights behind the camera do not bounce off glass back into the camera. If you do no have a blank wall, consider stretching a plain blanket or sheet behind you.
  • If you normally wear make-up, wear a bit more than usual.
  • Have the documents in front of you. Have the job description, the resume and/or application you submitted, the names and job titles of the people interviewing you (plus any notes you have about them), examples of your work (with URLs, if appropriate), your list of references with their contact information, and anything else that you may need during the interview.

The best approach is to do some test runs with a friend or family member, particularly if you are at home for the interview.

During the Interview…  

Final tips to consider, whether you are on your web camera or at a facility:

  • The camera is your “eye contact” with the interviewer(s). VERY important!Look directly at the camera not at your computer screen when you are answering the question. Try to mentally imagine the interviewer is behind the camera lens. Or tape an arrow to your computer where the camera is located so you can easily find and focus on it during the interview.
  • Be aware of the transmission delay (about a half second). Pause for the interviewer to comment.
  • Be yourself.You should speak naturally, and think of the interviewer(s) as sitting across the table from you.
  • Keep the microphone muted if no one is speaking. Try not to shuffle papers, drum fingers, or make unnecessary noise distractions near the microphone as any of these issues may cause the camera to shift to the site of the noise.
  • Avoid too much body motion. Motion may create blurry or jumpy images at the receiving end.
  • Be alone in the location. During the time the appointment is scheduled, avoid having family members, pets, and friends in the same room (or same location), if possible. Be alone so you have no visible (or hear-able) distractions. This can go for barking dogs and nosy cats as well.
  • Turn off your cellphones and any other regular phone ringers. To avoid other noisy interruptions, be sure to shut off all of your other telecommunications devices..
  • Dress professionally from head to toe.In other words, don’t think that just because you are sitting at your desk and can only be seen from the chest up that it is OK to have on shorts or worse, just your underwear. It has happened, and it can be very embarrassing – you jump up to grab something forgetting you are on web cam… Don’t let this happen to you!

Once you have done a few of these interviews, this will become easier and more instinctive for you to do.

Questions to Ask at the End of the Video Interview  

Just as for a “real” interview, you need to collect important information at the end of the interview so that you know what you may expect and so you can stay in touch appropriately.

  • If you don’t already know, ask for the name, job title, and email address of everyone who interviewed you.You need the email addresses so you can send your thank you notes (below).Be sure you have the correct spelling of names and email addresses. Cindy Smith could be Cindi Smyth or some other unique spelling. Don’t be afraid to confirm the spelling if you aren’t sure.
  • Ask about the next steps in their hiring process.Will another interview be scheduled? When will you know about the next interview, if there is one?
  • Ask who is the person who will act as your main contact now.This is the person you will stay in touch with as the rest of the hiring process progresses (or not). Again, be sure to have the correct spelling of their name. Also ask for the preferred contact method, phone or email, and the appropriate phone number or email address.

These questions are very easy to forget to ask, and then you are unable to continue the rest of the process smoothly (and professionally).

 After the Interview  

Immediately after the interview, send a thank you email to each person. Because so few job candidates take the time to send a thank you note, you will stand out from the crowd with this action.

Research has shown that the vast majority of interviewers prefer email rather than hand-written or printed and snail-mailed.

Do not send the same email to everyone. Make each message unique and perfect (no typos or misspellings!) because they will very likely be retained and shared as the hiring process continues.

Read After the Interview: Thank You Note Email for more information and sample thank you messages.

The Bottom Line on Video Interview Tips

Video-based interviews can pop up for candidates at all levels, but are more expected for mid-level professional positions, technical positions, and telecommuting jobs. If one comes up for you, just follow the easy strategies above and you will be a natural.

Also, be sure to check out FlexJobs’ article for Zoom interview tips.

Some of the Frequently Asked Interview Questions:

More About Different Types of Job Interviews

Laura DecarloAbout the author…

Laura DeCarlo is recognized as the career industry’s ‘career hero’ making a difference to both job seekers and career professionals as the founder of Career Directors International. She possesses 11 top-level certifications in resume writing, career coaching, and career management; 7 first place resume and job placement awards; and has written three books on interviewing and job search including Interview Pocket RX, Interviewing: The Gold Standard, Resumes for Dummies,and Job Search Bloopers. Follow Laura on Twitter at @careerhero.
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