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Work & Purpose

Video Job Interviews: 10 Ways to Shine

Advice for putting your best face forward when the interview is virtual


Job interviews are increasingly being done by video. Sometimes, it’s because applicants and interviewers are in different cities. Other times, it’s because employers find video interviews an efficient way to “meet” multiple candidates. In certain cases, job seekers film answers to questions and the hiring managers can watch anytime. If you’ve never sought a job this way, however, you may be a little nervous.

Unlike a face-to-face interview, you need to deal with video software. Recording yourself talking into the air can be disconcerting. Even when you’re doing a video with an interviewer, there’s little chance for interpersonal chemistry. I spend time on the low-tech end of preparing professionals for video interviews and can promise that virtually everyone faces virtual challenges.

The secret to overcoming them is to change your job-prep priorities. When you have an upcoming video interview, the key is to spend time in advance, so you’ll be ready to put your best face forward. Here are 10 ways to do it:

10 Tips for Video Job Interviews

1. Understand the type of video interview you’ll be doing. “Live” interviews are ones where you talk with, and see, a person on the other end of the connection. They’re often conducted on Skype, Google Hangout or similar applications. For a video you’ll record answering questions you’ve been given by the employer, expect to be asked to use a site like HireVue or SparkHire. Find out in advance who the video-interview tech person is at the employer and how to contact him or her, in case you run into technical difficulties either on the employer’s end or on yours.

On video, there’s a fine line between maintaining eye contact and staring an interviewer down as if you’re in a fight club.

2. Don’t prepare at the last minute. To steal some entertainment industry vernacular, you’ll want to build in some “pre-production” time before the video interview session. Download any software you need and test it. I’ve seen many job candidates think that because they have the software loaded on their smart phone, tablet or computer, they’re set to go. But there could be a glitch with the software which they won’t know until the interview is ready to start.

3. Plan your attire. Even though you’ll probably be sitting down during the job interview, you may need to stand up (if you need to retrieve something during the interview, for instance). So, don’t dress too casually below the waist. And, of course, make sure you present yourself above the waist as you would on an in-person job interview.

4. Be aware of body language and facial expressions. You do this during in-person discussions, of course, but it’s even more important on video, because the interviewer is constantly looking at you. On video, there’s a fine line between maintaining eye contact and staring an interviewer down as if you’re in a fight club. Smiling is great, but don’t come off as too jubilant. As corny as it sounds, practice a few expressions in the mirror.

5. Arrive early for a video interview you’ll do from home. You may be tempted to use the minutes leading up to the interview to let the dog out, grab the laundry out of the dryer or write a quick email to someone. Don’t. Sign on at least five to 10 minutes before your actual time and stay ready to begin.

6. If you’ll be doing the video interview at home, use a device you’re comfortable with. I spent time with one job-seeking manager who couldn’t understand why his Skype wasn’t working. I soon realized he was trying to use a just-downloaded application on his smart phone. When he switched to the Skype he’d been using on his laptop, he had no problem. Go with what you know.

7. For a home-based interview, test the software. After you’ve installed it, opened it and are sure you are registered, do a practice video call with a friend or relative. If your interview will be live, use the application (such as Skype) designated by the employer. If you will use a service with pre-recorded questions, go to that site, read the instructions and watch sample videos such as the one on HireVue (which is really great for a chuckle, too). Don’t forget to ensure that your internet connection is secure, not spotty.

8. Consider the background for a video at home. You may look your personal best, but make sure the interviewer won’t see stacks of laundry or your unmade bed in the background. Eliminate anything unkempt or distracting, such as a giant family portrait. When you test your Skype or other application, ask the person helping you to tell you what he or she sees in the background. And do a few mock answers to get your helper’s honest appraisal of how you’re coming off.

9. Limit distractions for home-based video interviews. Some interruptions are unavoidable — an earthquake (it happened to me once during a video interview), a doorbell ringing or a garbage truck rolling by outside. There are measures you can take to minimize them, though. Turn the ringer off on your phone (and don’t check your phone during the interview!), banish the dog to a different room and keep the windows closed. If kids or even other adults will be in the house during the interview, tell them in advance that the area where you’ll be is off limits.

10. Keep a glass of water next to you when doing a video interview from home. That’s the ideal “prop” if you need to take a few seconds to collect your thoughts. Excuse yourself, reach over, take a quick sip and set the glass down carefully. Don’t substitute coffee, tea or a different beverage. If you spill, you want to make sure you can get on track easily, not scream in agony due to a burn or despair because of a major stain.

Nancy Dunham
By Nancy Dunham
Nancy Dunham is an award-winning freelance journalist.

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