How to ace your video interview

ace your video interview raeng

(Image: This is Engineering)

When it comes to the interview, nothing beats a live, face-to-face interview. However, a video conference is considered the next best thing by many employers, and is becoming increasingly popular – particularly as we enter a period of social distancing.

Though you might expect a video interview to be more-or-less the same as an in-person interview, there are specific issues you need to prepare for. Here’s a rundown of measures to follow for success.

Before the interview

When the interview is being scheduled, ask these very important questions:

  • 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.

  • Who will be interviewing you? Ask for the names and job titles of the people who will be – or who might be – interviewing you. This allows you to address them correctly, and also to learn as much as you can about them. (Being interviewed by an automated system? Learn about them here.)

  • How long will the interview last? They should have an estimate, though sometimes (as in “live” interviews) it will run longer or shorter than expected.

Prepare as you would for any other interview: Do your research in advance about the employer and their services. Prepare 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.

Be sure to download any necessary software well before the interview is scheduled so you can set up an account and test your equipment. Be sure to test your connection and your comfort with communicating by web camera.

Also, consider what you’ll wear in terms of minimizing distractions over video. Some tips:

  • Avoid large plaids and prints which may be overwhelming on the screen.

  • Consider a pastel color rather than white, because white may glare.

  • If wearing white, add a dark jacket to cut down on glare.

  • Red should be avoided if possible for its tendency to "bleed."

  • Cut out flashy jewelry that will catch the light.

Also, try to avoid all-light or all-dark clothing, as a camera's automatic brightness control can be tricked by these. For instance, too much light-colored clothing can cause the camera to darken the picture, making your face appear shadowed.

Setting up your space

The best place to field an interview is at home. Of course, 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 makes interruptions more likely).

Assuming your video conferencing account is set up and your equipment is tested, your next concerns are the setting:

  • Put the computer on a solid surface like a table or desk, not your lap, so that you can move easily without shaking the image seen by the interviewer.

  • Place lighting in front of you, preferably somewhat above you (most of us look better that way), or let in outdoor light so that it hits your face (not on the back of your head).

  • Sit in front of a blank wall (if possible) so that the background behind you isn't cluttered or distracting. If you don't have a blank wall, stretch a plain blanket or sheet behind you.

  • Position the camera so that things beside you aren't visible. A picture or window behind you may be fine, as long as lights don't bounce off the glass and into the camera.

  • If you normally wear make-up, wear a bit more than usual.

  • Have the necessary documents in front of you: 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), and anything else that you may need during the interview.

It’s best to do some test runs with your equipment and talking points, particularly if you are at home for the interview.

During the interview

Consider these final tips for fielding the interview:

  • The camera is your "eye contact" with the interviewer. Look directly at the camera, not at your computer screen, when answering questions. Try to imagine that the interviewer is behind the camera lens.

  • Be aware of the transmission delay (typically about a half second). Pause for the interviewer to comment.

  • Be yourself: Speak naturally. Think of the interviewer as sitting across a table from you.

  • Keep the microphone muted when you aren’t speaking. Try not to shuffle papers, drum fingers, or make unnecessary noise near the microphone, which may cause the camera to shift to the site of the noise.

  • Avoid too much body motion as this may create blurry or jumpy images on the receiving end.

  • Have family members and friends out of the house during the scheduled interview time so you have no distractions. This goes for barking dogs and nosy cats as well.

  • Turn off your cellphone and any other regular alert noises to avoid interruptions.

  • Dress professionally from head to toe even though you can only be seen from the chest up. You may need to jump up to get something, or simply forget you are on camera – it has happened before, and it will happen again.

  • And again: Keep vital documents spread out in front of you – your resume, the job description, etc. – for easy reference.

As in any job interview, you’ll need to ask some questions at the end of the interview to make sure you know what to expect and how to stay in touch. Among the info you’ll need:

  • The name, job title, and email address of everyone who interviewed you. To send thank-you notes, you’ll need email addresses. Be sure you have the correct spelling of names and emails: Don't be afraid to confirm if you aren't sure.

  • The next steps in their hiring process. Will another interview be scheduled? When will you know about the next interview, if there is one?

  • Who will act as your main contact as the hiring process progresses. Again, be sure to get the correct spelling, and ask for their preferred contact method (phone or email).

It is very easy to forget these questions, which will leave you unable to continue the process smoothly and professionally.

After the interview

Promptly send your thank-you note(s) immediately after the interview, one to each person you spoke with. Don't send the same note to everyone: Make each message unique (and perfect – no typos or misspellings!), because they will likely be shared.

Video-based interviews can pop up for candidates at all levels, especially right now, and with potentially increasing frequency in the future. Practice the strategies above, and you’ll be a natural.

Laura DeCarlo is a resume and career coach, an author, and a writer for Job-Hunt.org.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on Job-Hunt.org.

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