How to Ace Your Video Interview

WorkCoachCafeJob interviews via video (typically Skype or Google Hangout) are becoming much more common recently. They enable inexpensive long-distance face-to-face discussions as well as quick discussions over short distances.

Video interviews may be used for screening candidates at the beginning of the hiring process or later in the process when the employer is getting ready to choose the finalists or make the actual hiring decision.

BIGGEST QUESTION to Ask When the Interview Is Scheduled

Be sure to get an answer to the question, “What video method will you be using?” If the answer is Skype or Hangout, immediately start with the preparation steps below using the appropriate network.

On the other hand, if the employer is using a private service or app, ask if you can test it before the interview actually happens. If they give you that information, be sure to use it for a test before the actual interview — and be VERY careful of what you show and say during that private network or app test!

Before the interview happens (and before your test), Google the name of the app to see if help has been posted. Look for directions (probably by the vendor) and, possibly, tips on how to do well.

Video Job Interviews Are Similar to In-Person Interviews — But Trickier

Unfortunately, video interviews are very easy to under-estimate and, consequently, to fail. In most cases, video interviews offer employers some of the benefits of an in-person interview. Video enables the employer to watch the person’s face and some of the body language  while they answer questions — a big improvement over a phone interview.

However, because most of us aren’t experienced with video interviews and because the technology adds uncertainty and some unreliability, succeeding in video interviews can be more challenging.

How Video Preparation Differs from In-Person Preparation

The good news is that you can have support in the video interview that you can’t often have in an in-person interview. Put  copies of the job description, your resume or application (as submitted), and other relevant documents laid out in front of you.

In addition, video interviews cause no worries about the physical location, how to get there, traffic jams, parking, etc. You do, of course, still need to be “there” (available, with all your technology working) on time.

The bad other news is that video interviews add several other elements to your preparation. Basically, be sure the technology works by testing it in advance:

1. Pay attention to where the camera is pointed. The background behind you, the lighting on your face (what makes you look best?), your distance from the camera, and how much of you is visible.

Remove distractions by hanging a sheet behind you or sitting in front of a blank wall. Move lamps around and open or close window coverings to get the lighting right for your face. Set up the camera so that it is stable and the right distance from you, preferably on a table, enabling you to lay out your documentation in front of you for easy reference.

2. Pay attention to the sound. The microphone and the speakers need to be on and set to the right volume. Often they are part of the camera set up, but don’t assume that they will be set to the right volume without testing.

3. When you talk, make your “eye contact” with the camera. Don’t watch yourself on your computer’s monitor. Talk to the camera with brief glances at your view of the other person. Try to position the camera so that you can look at the other person without obviously glancing very far away.

4. Set up and test an account with the appropriate service, if possible. Commonly used are Skype and Google Plus Hangouts, but private services also exist. You are responsible for making sure that you are properly set up to use the standard services, but help should be provided if a private service is being used.

Tape your practice session, and watch it. Re-tape until you get it “right” — at least the visible part of it.

5. Look your best on the day of the interview — plus a little more. Dress appropriately from head to toe, don’t stop at your waist, just in case you need to stand up for some reason or you knock the camera off the table. Have clean hair and teeth, too, of course. If you wear makeup, experiment to see what looks best. Often, you will need to wear a bit more makeup that you usually wear so that you look like yourself.

How Video Interviews Are the Same as In-Person Job Interviews

Video interviews are the same as in-person interviews in many ways.

1. Prepare just as you would for an in-person interview. Do your research as usual, and use that research in answering the questions. Read How to Knock Their Socks Off in a Job Interview to be well-prepared.

2. Be ready to answer the typical job interview questions. Typically, you will be asked the same questions you would have been asked in an in-person interview.

Read these Work Coach Cafe articles to be well prepared: How to Answer the Top 10 Job Interview Questions and 10 Steps to a Successful Job Interview.

3. Have your own questions ready to ask. Remember that a job interview is a two-way street, and you should have questions to ask to determine if you want the job. Read How to Ask the Right Questions for ideas.

4. Try to get a sense of the environment. Particularly if you haven’t visited in person, check out what you can see behind and in front of the interviewer. Are others behind the interviewer (if visible) dressed formally or informally, seemingly always on the move, answering phones constantly, or sitting quietly working at their desks, etc. Do you see a crowded messy desk and office or an orderly environment? If the person is in the location where you would be working and seems amenable, ask them to pan the camera across the surroundings (office, store, or whatever) and other employees.

Observe as much as you can about the interviewer’s environment to get a sense of what working there is like.

Before the Real Interview Starts

Don’t forget — spend at least 2 minutes in your “power pose” so that you are calm and confident for the interview. They sound kind of crazy, but they are the result of research at the extremely-pragmatic Harvard Business School.

Rinse and Repeat

Once you have perfected your process, you can re-use it for other interviews for next opportunities, perhaps an interview on network television because you’ve become such a big success at that next job. Just consider the possibilities!  😀

More About Succeeding at Job Interviews

Build Your Confidence for Job Interviews in Power Poses

How to Knock Their Socks Off in a Job Interview

How to Answer the Top 10 Job Interview Questions

10 Steps to a Successful Job Interview

How to Ask the Right Questions


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan also edits and publishes, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPostAOL Jobs, and LinkedIn.  Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.

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