How to Ace Your Video Interview

posted by Brian Krueger under interview #video-interview #skype #phone-interview #mistakes #preparation

Video interview between employer and candidate
Video interview between employer and candidate

A more recent tech element in job search is the use of the video interview or Skype interview. While in the past the interview process typically proceeded from phone screen to onsite interview, many employers are now inserting a video interview either as an intermediary step or even as a replacement for the onsite interview.

Why? The primary reason is cost. It is cheaper and more efficient to interview a candidate over video or Skype than to bring the candidate in, especially if the candidate is out of town. But cost is not the only reason. Many employers are aware that some onsite interviews are over relatively quickly based on information which could not be gleaned from a phone interview, but could be gleaned from a video interview. Does this mean that the employer is discriminating? No, simply that there are visual cues and indicators that are not present in a phone interview. Nonverbal messaging, evident in a video interview or onsite interview, is typically not present in a phone interview.

So the video or Skype interview will provide these employers with one additional level of screening. Which bring us to the two types of video interviews:

  1. Screening video interview.
    If the interview is a gating step before bringing the candidate onsite, it is a screening interview.
  2. Final video interview.
    The video or Skype interview can be used as a replacement for the onsite interview. This can often be the case for summer internships and even for entry level jobs, where the candidate may be coming from a distant college or university where the employer has no physical presence. And rather than bringing the candidate onsite for the interview (or interviews), the interviews are conducted via video.

Here is what you need to ace your video interview:

  • Use a laptop or desktop whenever possible.
    Although the camera on your mobile phone typically gives better quality video than a laptop's built-in webcam, the smaller screen puts you at a disadvantage for picking up on the nonverbal cues of a conversation. It can also be challenging to securely position a phone at a suitable angle, location, and height. If you must use your mobile, make sure you have a high speed connection, preferably wifi, to avoid any interruptions. And always use landscape orientation.
  • Make sure your account name or Skype ID is professional.
    Just as with email addresses, keep it professional and interview-worthy.
  • Test your equipment in advance.
    Not just the technical test provided by Skype to make sure your video and audio are working, you should also do a test call in advance with a friend, especially if you are new to Skype.
  • Know who is calling and when.
    It’s not enough to simply set the time of the call, one person has to initiate and the other needs to answer. If you are in different time zones, make sure you clarify which time zone is being used for setting the time of the call.
  • Set your background.
    The interviewer will see not only you, but also everything in your background. Try to avoid windows in the background due to backlighting. Remove any personal effects which might be a distraction to the call.
  • Get front lit.
    In many video interviews, it is difficult to see the candidate’s face due to backlighting. Get a separate light positioned in front of you so that you can clearly be seen by the camera (and the interviewer).
  • Dress as you would for any in person interview.
    And while it might be tempting to not dress up from the waist down (since it is typically off camera), don’t do it. Part of dressing the part is the psychology of being dressed for the job. Be fully dressed, not partially dressed.
  • Focus your eye contact on the camera lens.
    Do NOT look at your image on the screen other than to make sure you are in frame. And don’t look at the video of the interviewer except when the interviewer is speaking and occasional glances for nonverbal feedback during the interview. Get used to focusing on the camera, which should be positioned at the top of your screen. Make that your primary eye contact focal point and keep the interviewer in your peripheral vision.
  • Gesture subtly and sparingly.
    Your video feed may slow or freeze with too much movement, which the video software may not be able to handle in real time. The camera focus should be your talking head, not an occasional hand or arm flailing across the screen.
  • Tape your resume to the bottom of your screen for reference.
    Yes, I know I told you to keep eye contact, but this is the exception. You should be able to comfortably glance briefly from the webcam lens to the bottom of the screen when you need visual cues from your resume. However, do not keep papers off to the side to reference during the interview. That will clearly tip off the interviewer that you are referencing other documents. Another option, if you are comforatable enough with the technical aspects of video interviewing, is to pull up your resume file and arrange the windows on your screen so that you can easily glance at your resume content. Be careful to avoid staring too long at or reading directly from your resume, though, it's just there as a quick reference.
  • Plan for a quiet and private environment.
    Let others in your household know that you are interviewing and that you will need total privacy, without interruptions. There should be no sounds or images intruding in the background.
  • Follow all the rules of face-to-face interviewing.
    Smile, be engaging, provide positive nonverbal cues (if you’re not sure what they are, read more about them at our site) and be ready to answer each question with a behavioral S-T-A-R answer: Give a situation or task, the action you took and the results achieved.

As with any interview, always end with “What is the next step in the process?” to keep the process moving forward. Some candidates are surprised to find out that the video or Skype interview is actually the final step in the process and the next step will be to make a decision regarding an offer. Especially where time and distance are involved, the video or Skype interview is playing a larger role in the interview and evaluation process.

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