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8 tips for your next video job interview
Mar. 21, 2016
Job interviews can be nerve-racking, especially if you’re meeting the hiring manager for the first time via webcam in your living room.
Since video interviews are typically faster, easier, and more cost-effective than an in-person meeting or long phone call, many companies are now using them to expedite the hiring process.
“Companies are implementing video interviews more and more, and people are actually getting hired faster now, because it’s less time and less aggravation on both ends,” says Paul J. Bailo, a digital executive and author of “The Essential Digital Interview Handbook.” “The key problem with video interviews, though, is that job seekers don’t know how to do them.”
Here are eight tips to improve your video-interviewing skills and land the job:
- Double-check your audio, video, and internet connection
Always test your video and audio right before an interview to ensure everything is working properly. Just because it worked a month ago doesn’t mean it’s going to work today, and you don’t want to risk the headache or embarrassment of technology issues during a conversation with a potential employer.
A stable wireless connection is also essential, so be sure to choose a location where you know spotty connection won’t disrupt your video.
- Pick a distraction-free background
You want the focus to be on your face and what you’re saying during the interview, so choosing a clear background that’s business-like and free of distractions is key.
Avoid windows and walls full of pictures, posters, or knickknacks. Clear all books and clutter off your desk — basically, you want to eliminate anything that could draw the interviewer’s attention away from you. If you can’t find a good backdrop at your office or at home, then just use a solid wall.
Choose a location that’s free from the distractions of children, roommates or pets. (And don’t even think of doing a video interview from a coffee shop.) Hang a sign on the door asking mail carriers and package deliverers not to ring the doorbell. Make sure the background is free from clutter and embarrassing items like laundry piles. Set up lighting that’s bright but not glaring, illuminating your face from the front. Natural light is best.
- Make sure you’re in a well-lit room and the interviewer can see you clearly
Pay attention to the lighting. You want the interviewer to be able to see your face clearly, so try a test video beforehand to make sure lights aren’t casting any shadows on your face. Bailo says people often have just one overhead light shining down on them from the ceiling, but this creates shadows and can be unflattering.
Aim to have one light coming from behind you, one light on your right, and one light on your left to create a glow around you.
- Angle and eye contact are critical
Where do you look during a video interview? It’s one of the most common questions people have, and it’s easy to get thrown off if you’re not used to video chatting. Although it may not feel natural at first, you want to speak to the camera, not the screen.
Maintain eye contact by looking directly into the camera instead of at the screen or at your own photo. Also, be sure to speak clearly so the microphone picks up your voice and the interviewer doesn’t have to strain to hear you.
Always position your camera at eye-level, not above or below you. “The angle is so critical,” Bailo says. “You don’t want the camera looking up your nose, and you don’t want the camera looking down at you. The psychology behind it is if I’m looking down at the camera, I’m looking down at the hiring manager, and they feel subservient.”
- Frame yourself from the chest up
Showing yourself from the waist or chest up is generally recommended for video interviews, so you don’t look like a floating head. You don’t want to be so close to the camera that the interviewer can count your nose hairs.
Bailo explains that the triangle formed from the top of your head down to your shoulders is the focal point, because all of your communication is going to be coming from your face — your emotion, your expression, your smiling — and that’s what’s going to get you the job.
- Dress for the job you want
While it may be tempting to do the interview sans pants with your nicest shirt, resist that urge. You want to dress exactly as if you were going for the interview in person. This can have a strong effect on your mindset, and if you’re too comfortable in the boxers or sweatpants you’re rocking out of frame, that will come through in your attitude and speech.
You always want to look your best for an interview, so wash your face, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and prepare the same as you would for an in-person meeting. Your dress and level of formality should match the industry for which you’re interviewing; if the job is at a firm where workers wear suits every day, you should wear a suit for your video interview.
Keep makeup natural-looking, and avoid wearing too much jewelry, which can be distracting and catch light from the wrong angle. Choose clothing colors that complement your skin tone, and make sure your clothing melds well with the background as well, Bailo advises.
- Keep your body language open
Just as with an in-person interview, it’s important to be cognizant of your body language in order to leave a positive impression on the interviewer.
It’s fine to gesture while you speak, but be careful to keep your hand movements contained and within the video frame, and be aware that your gestures aren’t always going to translate over video the same way they would in person.
It’s also crucial to maintain a pleasant facial expression during the interview. “You’re creating an image of yourself as soon as you turn on your camera,” says Barbara Pachter, etiquette and communication expert and author of “The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.” “You want the person to like you and hire you, so smile! If you look frozen or scared for your life, why would they hire you?”
- Think of it as a show
Bailo tells his clients to think of video interviews as one-man studio shows.
“With the audio, the video, the lights, and everything else, you want to realize that we’re building a studio,” he says. “And you’re the star — you have to prepare because you’re the sound person, you’re the light person, you’re the camera person, you’re the copyright person, you’re the makeup artist. You’re everything to put this show on, so you really have to think of yourself as a Hollywood star.”
- Hit pause
Digital connections can be delayed. To avoid talking over your interviewer or having your first few words cut out, let the interviewer finish the question and then pause for a few seconds before delivering your answer.
If you take the time to prepare your answers and follow these video interview tips, you’ll be more likely to make a great impression and hopefully score the job — or at least a second interview.