How to Ace the Video Job Interview
Just when you thought you were prepared for the phone interview and the in-person interview, there’s a new format to master. More and more companies are now using video job interviews, especially during the early screening rounds of the job interview process.
For companies, the video job interview offers the convenience of the phone interview plus the bonus of being able to see you, even if you’re based thousands of miles away. In a 2012 survey by staffing agency OfficeTeam, 63% of human resources managers said their company often conducts job interviews via video, up from just 14% one year ago.
Companies handle video job interviews in different ways. Some may just invite a candidate to connect via Skype or a similar video chat software (Google Hangout, ooVoo, etc.) using their own webcam and computer. Other companies arrange to have the applicant visit a local video conference facility and connect from there. Still others have started using third-party video interview platforms and may even send an interviewee a webcam kit to use for the interview.
In all of these scenarios, the key is to prepare and be comfortable with the video interview format so that technical and logistical challenges won’t distract you from making a great impression. Here are our tips for acing the video job interview.
Dress to Impress
Dress for your video interview just as you would for an in-person interview. Focus on the top half as that’s what your interviewer will see (perhaps even just your face depending on the set-up). However, I would advise wearing pants just in case you have to stand to adjust the camera or grab your water bottle. I once heard a horror story about a candidate who inadvertently offered his interviewer a glimpse of the boxers he was wearing under his navy suit jacket. Guess what? He did not get the job offer.
As with an in-person interview, the safest bet is to dress conservatively. A black or dark-colored blazer or suit jacket over a crisp shirt is usually a great choice for both men and women. For some jobs, guys will want to go with a full suit-and-tie look.
Do a camera test on your home webcam even if you will be going to a video conference facility for the actual interview (read on for more tips on how to use your camera test to prepare for the interview). This will allow you to see how you look and adjust wardrobe and hair/makeup accordingly to avoid the embarrassment of a gaping button or shiny forehead.
If you will be using your own webcam set-up, remember to carefully plan what will appear behind you in the frame. Try to arrange a quiet spot (turn off the ringer on your phone) with a plain backdrop and lock the door to keep the cat, baby, roommate out.
Avoid an unprofessional or distracting background. You can adjust the camera to make sure your Justin Bieber poster and messy laundry pile aren’t visible behind you.
You should also plan to shut down any other programs on your computer (especially any programs that might unexpectedly make noises or launch pop-ups to distract you during the interview). Make sure you aren’t running any other applications that use your webcam (log out of Skype if you’ll be using another program for the interview, for example) as they can interfere with your connection.
Find Your Best Close-Up
Take advantage of the opportunity to play director in advance. Adjust the lighting and camera angle, zoom in or out, make sure your microphone and speakers are at optimum levels, etc. If you will be using a video conference facility, experiment at home so you know your best set-up, then plan to arrive early so you’ll have time to adjust the on-site camera and audio preferences as needed.
- Lighting: The right lighting can make a big difference in how you look. Avoid overly bright fluorescent lights — the effect can be harsh and some webcams will automatically compensate for too much brightness by shadowing your face. On the other hand, make sure there’s enough light to see you clearly. You don’t want to look like you’re peering out of the darkness at them. It can help to sit next to a lamp or fixture that lights you flatteringly from just above your head.
- Camera Angle: Play with the camera angle to find what works best for you. Avoid the up-the-nostrils cam and the forehead cam effects. Try sitting at a slight angle to the camera so you won’t look like you’re posing for a mug shot.
- Zoom In or Out: Find the right balance between too close (nobody needs to count the pores on your nose) and too far (make sure they can see your facial expressions).
- Technical Issues: Test all of the equipment out in advance to make sure that the webcam and audio settings will work well on the day of the interview. Ask a friend to do a trial run with you to test the equipment and get some feedback on the wardrobe, backdrop, and other issues described above. On the day of the video interview, your best bet is to reboot your computer and do another a last-minute test to make sure everything is still working properly.
Make Love to the Camera
Okay, not love exactly, but remember that looking into the webcam will translate to your video interviewer as direct eye contact.
This will feel unnatural at first, which is part of why practice (see below) is so important. Looking into the eyes of the person in the video image will feel more natural, so it may help if you can move the window showing your interviewer’s face as close to your webcam as possible. This will make it seem most like a natural conversation with real eye contact. With many laptops, the built-in webcam is located in the center of the monitor screen. On desktop computers, the webcam is often perched on top of the monitor. Try this out in advance and have your friend tell you how the eye contact translates.
If looking at the person’s face doesn’t translate well with your webcam set-up, you may just have to train yourself to look directly into the camera (and smile) if you really want to make a connection and give the impression of consistent, confident eye contact.
Warning: If the video software also displays your image on the screen (most do), be careful not to get distracted by looking at your own image too much. This will look odd to the interviewer and will probably just distract you with self-consciousness when you should be thinking about your answers. Also, be careful not to spend too much time looking at your notes or resume. This is the equivalent of sitting in an in-person interview and staring down at the table instead of looking at the person you’re speaking with.
You should be practicing your interview techniques already. However, if you’re new to video job interviews, it’s even more important for you to make time to practice your delivery via video.
Our training software Big Interview
allows you to practice with your webcam, record, review, and even share recordings for feedback with a friend or mentor. This approach will allow you to see exactly how you come across via video conference and work on any weaknesses (eye contact, posture, vocal, answer content, etc.).
This practice will also serve you well in preparing for upcoming in-person interviews. Recording and analyzing performance on video is a proven technique for improving your skills — it’s a tactic that has been used for decades by professional athletes, public speakers, and performing artists.
You could also arrange a Skype practice interview with a trusted friend or coach and ask for honest feedback. Make sure you choose someone with some knowledge of job interviews and what employers look for.
Interviewing Rules Still Apply
Don’t forget to spend time preparing to answer the interview questions. Looking good on webcam is important, but your answers to the interview questions are even more important. You’ll find tons of useful information on interview preparation on this blog — and if you really want to ace the interview, spend some time on Big Interview reviewing the video curriculum and sample answers and preparing with the video practice interview tool.
For an even more in depth treatment of video interviews, check out our Ultimate Guide to Video Interviews.
Photo Credit: Dezz