How to Prepare for a Video Interview was originally published on Idealist Careers.
Editor’s Note: When this post was originally written, we admittedly did not have the understanding we have now of the severity and extent of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). But with more employers encouraging social distancing to control the spread of the virus, we are expressing our support for precautions like work-from-home and virtual interview opportunities whenever possible. For advice on how to ask for a virtual interview accommodation from a potential employer, check out yesterday’s post.
Are you applying for a job in another state or country? Are you applying for a job that’s fully remote? Is your potential manager a globetrotter? Whatever the case, video interviews are becoming more common for their cost and time efficiency, as well as convenience.
Here are some tips for ensuring that your next video interview runs smoothly.
Types of video interviews
When you agree to a video interview, you will either be given a link to join a video conference, or you will be called directly via a video-calling software (e.g. Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Zoom).
In rare cases, your video interview may be pre-recorded. This usually means that questions will be asked in a text presentation format: when one appears on the screen, you record your answer as if you’re directly speaking to a person.
When you think of a video interview, you may assume that it means you’ll be interviewed via your personal computer from the comfort of your own home. That may be the case, but there is a chance you could be invited to have an in-office video interview. If your potential employer has a local office, but your hiring manager is either traveling or located elsewhere, you may be asked to come in and interview via an office computer.
Though video interviewing seems very different from old-fashioned, in-person job interviews, your success depends on familiar, common-sense factors.
Before the interview
Aside from your usual research and preparation, here’s what to do a few days before your interview:
- Choose a quiet, clean, distraction-free location. If you’re having a remote video interview, choose a place at home, or at another location of your choice, that is quiet and distraction-free. Make sure your background and anything else within your video camera’s field of vision is clean and minimal, so that the focus is on you.
- Test your equipment before the big day. Make sure you have a smooth internet connection, that you have the correct video-calling software installed, that your audio and video are up-and-running, and—if applicable—that your computer is charged and ready to go. Test the position of your video camera as well. Your interviewer may not see you clearly, or may get an unflattering view, if your camera is positioned too far below or above your face.
- Dress for success. Interviewing from home isn’t a license to be casual. Choose the same type of appropriate, head-to-toe outfit you would wear for an in-person interview. You won’t only look professional, but you’ll feel professional, as well. To feel extra confident, do a test run with a friend to see how your outfit reads on-camera since certain colors and prints may be more distracting on video.
The day of the interview
At this point, you are prepared for the content of your interview, but there are logistical details to oversee so you can perform at your best:
- Be old-school. Just like you would with an in-person interview, keep a hard copy of your resume in front of you, as well as pen and paper to take notes and a glass of water.
- Exit all unnecessary applications. Your interview is not the time to have several applications running in the background or countless tabs open in your web browser. The only thing that should be open is your video-calling software.
- Double-check your space. This means making sure that there’s nothing loud or distracting in your background or foreground, and that any lighting you use shows you clearly on camera.
- Silence your phone.
- Shut any windows. Block out any potential noise sources—such as traffic, sirens, or loud neighbors—as much as possible. If you must keep a window open, let it be only a crack.
- Close the door. If you’re interviewing from home, let anyone in your household know when you’re not to be disturbed. Make it easy by keeping the door closed until you’re done. If it’s necessary, throw together a little sign to hang on the door to let family and/or roommates know that “an interview is progress.”
During your interview
Here’s how to ensure you’re making a positive, professional impression on your interviewer:
- Give the okay. Verify that your interviewer can see and hear you clearly before you begin. Do the same for her as well. Before you get started, ask your interviewer for a phone number you can reach her at in case of a bad internet connection or audio/video equipment failure.
- Be aware of your body language. Make eye contact by looking at the camera (not at your own face!). Don’t slouch or fidget. Be relaxed, but sit up straight and rest your hands on your desk or lap—wherever feels most comfortable.
- Answer clearly. Since you already tested your audio, be mindful of what volume to speak at so your interviewer can hear your responses loud and clear. You can mute your microphone every time your interviewer speaks so she doesn’t hear any distracting sounds from your end.
Use your past experience
As you can see, most of the best practices for video job interviews are the same as in-person or phone interviews. If you have any doubts, don’t be afraid to ask a trusted family member, friend, manager, or mentor for advice.
And don’t underestimate yourself: look at your own successful interview experiences and adapt any tips that have helped you feel confident and perform well to the video interview setup.
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