Video Interviews – Here to Stay

These days, with COVID-19 still running rampant in many places, video meetings, classes, and activities of all kinds are daily occurrences. Video has replaced in-person interactions out of necessity, but many people are realizing that it’s really not that bad for many purposes. It frequently saves time, money and hassle. Because video usage is so commonplace, from now on, it will be assumed that you can easily navigate the basics. For job interviews, you need to elevate your video skills if you are going to stand out.

First and foremost, you need to prepare for a video interview in the same way you would prepare for an in-person meeting. Though it may seem less formal, a video interview is still your shot to impress an employer so they keep you in the running for a position. So do your research on the employer, position and interviewer just like you would for an in-person interview. The difference here is the delivery mechanism and how it can skew perception and interpretation.

The best thing you can do before a video interview? Practice. Do a mock interview with a friend using the same video platform you’ll use for your interview (if possible). If you record this test interview, you’ll have a chance to see how you look and sound to make sure everything is how you want it to be. In video, facial expressions and tone of voice take on heightened importance since many other nonverbal cues are missing. Use active listening techniques so you don’t look frozen on the screen – smile, nod, change your facial expression. Try not to verbalize agreement as you are listening because sound can mute the speaker’s microphone and create awkward stops and overlapping.

Use reliable technology that you have tested in advance. Make sure you have a solid wired or very strong wifi connection. Choose the best camera you have, not the best display. You want to make sure you look your best for the employer, so how the employer looks to you matters less. All batteries should be fully charged. Set your audio at an appropriate level so you can speak at a normal volume. Make sure your audio is reliable. Bad video is understandable but if the audio is bad, you’re sunk.

Select a location and chair that is comfortable for you. If you’re uncomfortable, it will show. It should be a quiet location. If there are roommates or family members around, tell them you’re interviewing so they will know to be quiet. Close/lock the door to the room where you are and leave any pets outside the room. Make sure windows are closed to minimize noise from outside.

Of course, you need to dress for success. From head to toe. Yes, that means real pants, not jammies! Select a camera-friendly wardrobe and make sure it goes well with your chosen background. Avoid very bright colors and busy patterns. If you wear glasses, adjust the lighting and angle to reduce glare. Take a look at your outfit in the video interview frame to ensure it’s the look you want. Your outfit and grooming should reinforce the professional image you want to project.

Check your image in the video frame. You should have a neutral background. Make sure your face is well-lit with no weird shadows. Your light source should be in front of you to minimize shadows, not behind. Don’t sit too far away or too close to the monitor. Your shoulders and upper chest should be visible, plus a little bit of room above your head. You don’t want to be a talking head.

Make sure you close programs and tabs you are not using. Turn your phone’s ringer off and turn off social media and email alerts.

Just before the interview, take four or five slow deep breaths. It will help you feel more centered and focused and hopefully calm any butterflies.

While you are talking, make sure you are looking straight ahead at the camera, not up or down. This will simulate eye contact. Sit up straight – maintain good posture. Face the screen with shoulders squared, head straight, and feet flat on the ground. You will convey optimism and genuine interest with your open body language. Good posture also makes your voice stronger and easier to project which is important online. Another side benefit is that good posture not only looks more confident, it also makes you feel more self-assured.

During the interview, make sure the other person is finished speaking before you jump in with an answer. Jumping in early mutes the other person’s microphone and cuts them off.

Just like in-person interviewing, you want to use silence wisely. It’s fine to pause after the interviewer asks a question to think about your answer. And it’s okay to pause after your answer and let the interviewer finish notetaking and catch up. The silence may sound deafening to you, but it’s never that long to the interviewer — don’t fall into the trap of trying to fill all the silence with chatter. If it helps, come up with a few catchphrases you can lean on to buy yourself time (e.g., “Hmm…that’s a good question”).

Since video is a more difficult medium for establishing rapport, sprinkle your questions throughout the interview instead of waiting until the end. It turns the interview from an interrogation into more of a conversation. If you are asked about something related to a question you want to ask, pose your question when you finish your answer.

Plan ahead and follow these tips. Spend as little time as possible during a video interview focused on the video part. Make a connection and be your best self.

Until you read again…