Video Interview Tips
When we originally wrote this article it was designed to help you prepare for video interviews, but much of the advice is also applicable to using video while working from home. Just substitute the word 'interview' for 'meeting' and you're good to go!
- Eden Scott, March 2020
Video interviewing is becoming an increasingly popular way for businesses to meet potential new employees. It has its benefits for both candidate and employer; you can interview for a position anywhere in the world from anywhere in the world, it saves both parties money, and it’s inherently flexible. You’ll usually face one of two types; a live interview with your potential employer or one where you’re asked pre-determined questions and your answers are recorded. With the latter, it's imperative to read the instructions very, very carefully before proceeding. Don't assume you know the format of the interview before you start the process - sometimes a small mistake can rule you out before you even get started! As with any kind of interview video comes with its own unique problems that you should be aware of before launching in. Here are our tips on how to make sure you nail your next video interview.
The environment you conduct the interview in is very important. Your surroundings will become an extension of your self as the interviewer will be experiencing you for the first time and, as we all know, first impressions count.
Before you start your interview make sure you have a clean, private space you can conduct the interview in. As charming as it may be in YouTube videos, it’s not a good look for an interview if your kids/parents/pets accost you while you’re trying to talk about your strengths and weaknesses. Make sure your monitor or external webcam is at eye-level; if you spend the interview looking up or down at the interviewer it can be quite uncomfortable for all involved. Check that whatever is behind you (and is in the frame of the video) is clean, appropriate and not distracting. Nobody wants to interview someone who looks like they live in their own filth!
As you would for any interview, make sure your phone is on airplane mode - even when it’s on silent an incoming signal can play havoc with your mic. Anything in the room that can beep, bloop, or make noise suddenly, silence it somehow. Make sure your Wi-Fi signal is strong and shut down anything that might be eating up your bandwidth; Netflix, Spotify, and so on. If you’re on a laptop, disable all desktop notifications so you don’t have any distracting Facebook messenger chats popping up all over the place.
As any photographer or model will tell you, lighting is critical. If your environment isn’t well lit, or if the lighting is quite harsh and monodirectional, it can make you look washed out or cast harsh shadows under your eyes, nose and mouth. Neither of these are a good look. To remedy this, position a lamp behind your webcam to evenly illuminate your face. If possible, use two lamps a few feet apart, both angled at your face. If you find that the lamps are too bright try taping some paper over them to diffuse the light. Avoid having any major source of light behind you (such as a window) as it may cause you to be nothing more than a silhouette to the interviewers.
This should go without saying, but well in advance of your interview make sure all your stuff works. If you schedule an interview weeks in advance and then find out on the day that something doesn’t work, it only reflects badly on you – not the offending equipment. Test everything, charge everything, and replace anything that doesn’t work. Most laptops have a built-in webcam which will do the trick nicely, but if you’re planning on doing a lot of video interviews you may wish to invest in a higher-quality external webcam and a microphone headset.
Before the interview, set everything up as you would for the main event and record yourself answering some standard interview questions. This will allow you to check the sound, video, framing, and lighting, and will help you see if there are any small issues you could fix or improve. It's also a good time to work on your own SWOT analysis to determine your strengths and weaknesses ahead of the interview.
If disaster strikes and you find yourself without a laptop at the last minute, depending on the model of your phone there’s a good chance the camera will be just as good as, if not better than, the laptop. Just make sure you apply the same rules to your phone as you would a normal webcam; place it at eye-level and make sure your lighting is spot on. We don’t suggest using your phone under normal circumstances as it can be difficult to make sure your notifications are entirely silenced without putting it on airplane mode.
If you find yourself having tech issues, make sure to mention them to the interviewer. It’s better to acknowledge any issues than to let them think you’re ignoring them if you can’t hear the questions or if there’s something wrong with the video feed. Just remember that unless it’s something fairly catastrophic, they’re unlikely to consider technical issues a mitigating factor for a bad interview!
When it comes to dressing for a video interview, treat it like you would a face to face one. Just because you’re at home and comfortable doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to let that seep into your professional demeanour. Dress smartly and professionally (even the bits they can’t see) to get yourself in the mindset of someone who is trying to land their dream job. Don’t wear anything too distracting (such as colourfully pattered blouses or ties) and make sure everything is properly ironed and clean; even a webcam will pick up on an unironed shirt.
Hopefully you’ll have recorded yourself beforehand and will have corrected any slight issues with your performance, but keep in mind all the usual interview no-no’s; don’t touch your face or hair, maintain strong (but not creepy) eye contact, and always practice engaged listening. The quality of the sound will depend largely on your equipment, but as you would in person, make sure you speak clearly and confidently. Don’t feel that because you’re interviewing remotely you have to talk loud enough for them to hear you across the country/ocean/sea. A normal “indoor voice” volume will be perfectly fine. If the interviewers mention that you’re a bit quiet, try moving closer to the mic or turning up the mic volume before resorting to talking louder (which can throw off your natural flow and cadence).
One of the great things about video interviews is that you can have notes in front of you without the interviewer having to know. It’s important not to read from the verbatim as that will make you sound robotic or unprepared, but flash cards of key points you don’t want to forget are very useful tools. If you’re facing a wall, try putting them up behind the webcam so you can read them without having to look down or to the side. It may help to switch your own video feed off in the chat display so you don’t get distracted by seeing yourself. Also, remember that “eye contact” in a video interview is actually between you and the camera, not the face on the screen. Depending on your setup if you talk to the person and make eye contact as you normally would, you might end up looking like you’re talking to their chin, which can seem a bit odd. Alternate between what makes you comfortable (usually looking at the person) and what comes across best on screen (looking at the camera). Check out these famous on-screen interviews for some tips about what to absolutely avoid doing.
To Sum Up
Video interviewing is going to remain an important recruitment tool for many organisations until something better comes along, like VR interviews or holograms - or teleporting makes the whole thing redundant. Until then, it’s best to make sure you’re prepared. If you feel you’re ready for the next step in your career and would like some advice, feel free to get in touch and we’ll help you find your dream job.