By Heidi Scott Giusto, PhD
Video interviews—interviews occurring while using live video conferencing software—are increasingly common for many reasons: ease of use, preference over phone interviews, cost effectiveness, and the ubiquity of the software, to name a few. Because of these reasons, it’s imperative that job applicants are comfortable using Skype (or other video software, such as Zoom or GoToMeeting) and have strategies to help ensure the interview goes well.
The following tips focus specifically on the platform of a real-time or live video interview. Regardless of the platform, you’ll still need to come prepared with a strong message to share about the value you’ll bring to the organization. If you’re looking for tips on pre-recorded video interviews, please stay tuned for a future article.
Before the Interview
Place your device on a stable surface. Do not hold a phone or tablet during an interview because they are too unstable. Prepare by having a stand for your device, or use a laptop or other device that is not handheld. Also pay attention to the angle of the camera. You don’t want your prospective employer looking up your nose the whole time they are talking to you.
Ensure you have good lighting. Log in and see how you look. Is your face in the shadows? Turn on a nearby light to make sure your face is clearly visible. Do you look like you have a halo behind you? If so, close your curtains. The point here is that you want the interviewer to have a nice, crisp, clear view of you. Do not allow poor lighting to get in the way or become a distraction.
Maintain an uncluttered, distraction-free environment. After your interview, you want to be remembered—and not because the interviewer noticed how messy your surroundings were. Remember your environment also says something about you. Is the background neat and tidy or cluttered? Are stacks of paper and many wall hangings visible? Strive for simplicity. Especially if you are stating you possess organizational skills or attention to detail, let your surroundings show it.
Close all other applications on your device. Although it may be tempting to keep other applications open, close them prior to the interview to optimize the call quality.
Test your internet connection, and use a power source. Unfortunately, almost all of us have had technology issues, such as the dreadful “poor connection” notification. To minimize the chance of having a connectivity problem, test and troubleshoot well in advance. Also, plug your computer into a power source to ensure you have a full charge. If connectivity is still an issue, relocate closer to the source of your wifi signal or use a hardwired connection. If you relocate, make sure you still have good lighting and an uncluttered backdrop.
Silence phone and computer notifications. We’ve all heard dinging in the background of phone and video calls, and while it might not be the worst mistake, it still distracts from your effort to engage the interviewer and demonstrate your fit.
Practice and solicit feedback. As with any type of interview, you’ll be better prepared if you practice. This advice is even more critical for real-time video interviews—which can be unforgiving to a novice. An inexperienced user might not look at the screen, look down too much, or move around so much they look like a bobblehead. For this reason, consider practicing a requirement. Have a trusted friend or your career coach do a mock interview with you. Ask your interviewer for specific feedback: Did I sound enthusiastic? Could you hear me okay? Could you clearly see my facial expressions?
Once you have this feedback, truly embrace it and work on improving. (And remember…you can do all of this preparation before you even have an interview scheduled so you’re not rushed if you get an interview request on short notice.)
Have a Plan B. Just in case everything goes wrong … keep your phone nearby if a video call on a computer needs to turn into a phone call, and make sure your phone has a full charge. To this end, I recommend notifying the interviewer in advance by email of a secondary way they can contact you in case of connectivity issues, such as your phone number. Hopefully, this won’t be needed, but it also shows the interviewer you are prepared.
During the Interview
Use a standing desk, if you have access to one. When you stand, you have better posture and project your voice more effectively. You can’t go wrong with a standing desk (unless you sway back and forth…don’t do that).
Look at the camera rather than the screen. While it’s okay to sometimes look directly at the person interviewing you to try to feel like you’re connecting with them, remember also to look at your camera. This way, your eyes are not looking slightly down the whole time.
Use sticky notes, but don’t over-rely on them. Sticky notes can be great to attach to the edge of your computer to jog your memory of a few key notes you want to make, but don’t rely on them too much. Whatever you do, do not have a script to read. Remember, this is a conversation not an audition.
Remember to smile! An easy way to make the interview feel more personal and like a conversation is to smile. Demonstrate your excitement for the role and company by showing it. Also, when you smile, your voice tends to show positivity and enthusiasm.
Keep a glass of water handy. For the occasional cough or frog in your throat, keep a glass of water nearby but only take a drink if necessary.
After the Interview
Follow up within 24 hours. Send a thank-you note to the interviewer(s) that expresses appreciation for the opportunity to interview and reinforces your interest and fit for the position. Although handwritten notes are a nice touch, I typically recommend sending an email because it will arrive faster; a decision could be made in the hiring process before your handwritten note ever reaches its destination.
This article emphasizes and encourages prep work for a video interview for good reason: it can determine your success. Rarely will you hit a home run if you haven’t prepared properly. With such preparation, however, you’ll be confident and more likely to hit it out of the park!
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