If you’ve never been asked to participate in a video interview during your job hunt, you will be soon. The way we work, and the way we compete for work, is radically changing. So is the hiring process for an ever-growing number of job seekers.
Whether you're an old hand with years of traditional interviewing experience, or this is your first time on the job market, video interviews don't have to be a stressor. Yes, there are distinct nuances to understand. But with some practice and the right mindset, you can put yourself in a position to shine just as easily as you would in a face-to-face interview.
These tips will help you overcome the unique challenges inherent in video interviews so you can put your best foot forward.
Prepare Like You Would for an In-Person Interview
This may seem like common sense, but just because your interview is happening over Skype (or some other platform), doesn’t mean it’s not a real interview. Other than preparations to travel to the interview, you still need to prepare the same way you would if you were going into the office. That means researching the company and role, preparing to answer common interview questions, and coming up with questions to ask your interviewer in return. Your interviewer is still looking for someone they can see themselves working with and who is passionate and knowledgeable about the role they’re applying to—be ready to show them why that’s you.
Dress To Impress
When you get dressed for a video interview, you want to be just as formal as you would be for an in-person interview at the same company (and yes, that means from head to toe.) The urge to be less formal because you’re in your own home is understandable, but it might send the wrong message about how interested you are in the role. At the end of the day it doesn’t hurt to get dressed for one hour but not getting dressed up can absolutely hurt your chances at scoring another interview.
You also want to make sure your outfit looks good on camera. Try it on in front of the same platform you’ll be using for the interview. Additionally, avoid bright colors and patterns and opt for softer colors instead. If you are wearing a tie, wear a solid color rather than a patterned one. If you wear glasses, adjust the lighting in the room to reduce glare from the lenses.
Practice And Check Tech Set Up
This needs to be a priority during your preparations for your video interview. While a technical glitch or two may be glossed over during an interview, anything significant can have the interviewer remembering you for the wrong reasons. Cut down on technical difficulties by testing out your setup ahead of time using the same platform, internet connection, and hardware you’ll be using for your interview. Have a friend video chat with you to make sure you can hear and be heard and see and be seen. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the program and make sure you know the basics—especially how to mute and unmute your microphone.
Set Up Your Shot
When you go into an office, the company and your interviewer are in charge of the physical setting, but for a video interview, you are. Make sure you create a good impression with your physical shot.
Choose a quiet area and set up in front of the most neutral background you can—either a blank wall or a room without a lot of distracting clutter or decoration. Make sure you’re well lit (natural light is best) with your light source behind your computer or phone, not behind you. (And if you have to use a phone, prop it up rather than holding it in your hand.)
Also make sure you don’t sit too far or too close. Just like you wouldn’t sit three inches or eight feet from your interviewer in a conference room, you don’t want to sit an uncomfortable distance from your computer. When you’re setting up your chair, you’ll want to make sure you don’t end up looking too tiny or too huge. To be well proportioned, make sure there’s a bit of empty space on the screen above your head and check that your shoulders and upper chest are visible.
Check For Glare
Before you’ve finalized your outfit and location, see if anything in your shot is reflecting or giving off a glare that might be distracting to your interviewer. The main culprits are usually watches, jewelry, and eyeglasses, and solving the issue might be as easy as removing one accessory.
Of course, not everyone can take off their glasses for an interview. Try a few of these tricks to reduce the glare as much as you can:
Move your lamp or point it at a wall behind your computer instead of at yourself
Experiment with adjusting your lampshade or removing it entirely
Turn yourself and your computer
Raise and lower your laptop screen or adjust how your phone is propped up
Hint: You should do this around the same time of day as your interview will be held (or right before) especially if you’re using natural light.
Write Out A Few Notes But Don’t Rely On Them Too Much
Because your interviewer won’t be able to see everything you have on your desk (or on your computer screen), it might be tempting to have a lot of information in front of you for a video interview. But be careful. Make sure you only have a few quick notes in front of you and be sure to only glance at them sparingly. Write down key figures and other small snippets, not whole answers. You don’t want to sound like you’re just reading. One of the main reasons someone decides to hire you is because they feel like you made a connection during the interview, which can be hard to do if you’re distracted or simply reading off notes the whole time.
If you’d like to have a few sparse notes for your interview, make sure you also have them out during your practice. Not only will this show you whether you can use them without it disrupting the flow of the conversation, the more you read them over, the less you’ll end up having to refer to them.
Minimize Distractions And Take Them In Stride
Do whatever you can to cut down on the chances of being interrupted. If you can, set up in a room where you can close the door and inform anyone you share a space with that they shouldn’t disturb you during your interview (and give yourself a cushion on either side.) Check your space the day before for any unexpected distractions. You don’t want to be caught off guard by an ongoing construction project, for example. And make sure you turn off or silence your phone or any other electronic device that might make noise and pause any notifications on your computer.
However, if there’s a high chance of you being interrupted by something outside of your control, mentioning it at the start can prepare your interviewer and show them you’re proactive. It can also help settle your nerves about the situation. For example, if you have a dog in the next room that might start barking, you can make your interviewer aware of that possibility.
Remember, it’s not about erasing the fact that you’re in your home, it’s about being as professional as you can given the circumstances.
Explain Any Long Pauses
Because of the various limitations of video calls, it might not always be clear to your interviewer what you’re doing if no one is speaking. Tell them if you’re pausing to write down a few notes, pull up some information for them, or even just formulate your answer to a question. This shows that you’re aware of their experience while also reassuring them that no technical glitches have occurred.
Let The Other Person Finish Speaking
This is good life advice in general, but over video chat, jumping in with your response too soon can mute the other person’s mic and cut them off entirely—making you seem rude even if you didn’t intend to be. Plus with internet lag, it’s not always immediately apparent whether someone is done speaking or just pausing. So once you think your interviewer is done, take a beat before you answer. If you have trouble with this, get in the habit of muting yourself while the other person is speaking—that way the action of turning the mic back on forces you to give them a little extra time to keep talking.
As a job seeker, you have the same goal in a video interview and an in-person interview: to show that you’re the right person for the job. Ultimately, you want to spend as little time as possible during a video interview focused on the video part. What counts is the connection you can make with an interviewer.