How To Nail A Video Interview

Like it or not, digital interviews are an increasing reality. A recent survey by workforce consulting firm Right Management reports that 18 percent of applicants participated in a video interview within the past year, more than double the number in the year prior. And six in 10 recruiters currently incorporate video into their interview process. While video interviews allow more candidates to get consideration and are thus advantageous to recruiters, the impersonal and unfamiliar medium can put job applicants at a disadvantage.

Consider these true stories of recent video interviews gone awry:

You’re Calling From Where? “A friend, an HR Director of a local firm, had an initial interview with a candidate via Facetime. The candidate apparently thought it appropriate to interview from her bathroom. The interview was very short.”

Screenshare Oops. “I interview a lot of remote workers for my business. In my previous positions, I have also interviewed potential candidates from out of state. I am a technical manager and typically interview software engineers for software development openings. Perhaps the most egregious Skype mistake I’ve seen is when I am doing a coding interview and ask the candidate to screen share with me so I can watch and they can talk me through it. I’ve seen candidates have chat windows open where they are asking friends for help during the interview, or searching Google for help. That’s not even the worst of it, though — there are actually candidates who are actively complaining about the interview via chat to their friends, while they are on Skype with me and conducting the interview!”

Like a Scout: Be Prepared. “I was Skyping a prospective employee who I was very interested in hiring. In the middle of the interview, her battery died and we reconnected on Skype. Unfortunately, it happened again… I know technical glitches are bound to happen, but the fact that her computer didn’t have adequate battery power for the interview made me feel she was unprepared. Since preparation is a must for the marketing director position she was interviewing for, I was unable to justify hiring her.”

A Little Too Loose? “Before starting my own business there was a period of time I was actively looking for any kind of work I could get. I stumbled upon a great opportunity from a company expanding to the U.S. and sent my resume. They liked me. I made it to the video interview. I have no problem with face-to-face interviews, but this video interview made me a little edgy. I decided to have a glass of wine (or two) so I could appear relaxed. Ironically, my interview was a little too relaxed! Then on top of that the lighting in the room I was interviewing in was rather yellow and dim. Needless to say, I did not get the job, but it was definitely a professional experience to remember.”

So in light of the many potential issues that can arise and mistakes that can be made, how does one successfully navigate a video interview? Here are a few basic tips:

1. Make sure your face looks beautiful. Wash your face – a shiny face is not good with a light in front of you. Comb your hair. Clean your nails. For women, use a little makeup—not a lot.

2. Take your time in composing answers. Match your rhythm to accommodate the possibilities of a transmission delay. Use a visual nod to confirm you’ve heard the question, then wait three seconds before you respond. Pace yourself based on the speed of the technology – don’t use your regular rhythm when there’s an Internet connection involved. This is a big thing. People are moving too quickly, and the bandwidth can’t handle it.

3. Avoid using the camera and microphone on your computer.

4. Backgrounds are important. Most people think the great background of their office or their library is a wonderful thing. It is not. These things will only serve as distraction. Choose a blank background – paper, a board, or even a solid color shower curtain. Make certain that when the video starts, the focal point will be you.

5. Dress well – not too informally – and make sure your clothing doesn’t blend in or conflict with the background you choose. Stay away from reds and ‘hot’ colors as they don’t translate well on the other side of the screen.

6. Test every aspect of the equipment and the set up in advance. Conduct a rehearsal interview from the equipment you intend to use and evaluate everything you see from the other side of the screen. Imagine your video being set up on a screen next to others as hiring officers narrow their decision down to the final choice. How well will you fare based on what they can see?

7. Lighting is critical. Two lights in front of you and one behind you is good. The one way to be certain of the lighting’s affect is to take the time to see the prospective result from the other side of the screen in advance.

8. Make sure the interviewer has all materials needed in front of them 10-15 minutes in advance, and double check all connections and that the equipment, the sound, and all elements are working properly in advance. Have ample battery power, or better yet, use a standard outlet. Turn off your phones. Alert family members that the interview is happening, to keep ‘photobomb’ surprises such as children, pets, and unexpected visitors from disrupting the focus of the discussion.

9. Look at the camera, not the screen, as the interview happens. This gives you another advantage as well—you can put your key points and story line on the wall behind the camera so you can see them readily without interfering with the eye contact you should strive to maintain.

10. Camera angles are important. You shouldn’t be looking up or down at the person you’ll be addressing.

11. Clean the camera lens. The slightest smudge can create a terrible distraction to the quality of the image on the other side of the screen.

12. Turn the sound off and put a post-it note over the lens until the interview begins to avoid accidentally transmitting your preparation.

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