….how to perform well with video interviews

Last time I addressed the major differences between video interviewing and face-to-face interviewing. Now, I’d like to address how to do them and the mistakes that most people make.

Zoom, Slack, Skype and any other videoconferencing interviews are becoming more the norm and more popular. Sophisticated videoconferencing equipment, usually in a company’s office or satellite office, are relatively professional and don’t require much “coaching” other than treating it like any other interview. But most of this kind of interviewing these days is done on a PC in a person’s home or their home office. They can be treacherous and, more often than not, go wrong. I don’t really like them, but a candidate may not have much choice if the employer insists on an interview in this manner. Here are some dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t even attempt to use the excuse that you don’t have a Skype account, or know how to use Zoom. A year or so ago, you could get away with this excuse, but now If you try to avoid this type of interview by claiming that you don’t have this kind of technology or don’t want to do the video interview, you’ll likely be eliminated. ( I have even had companies to interview my candidates via “FaceTime.”)
  • If you haven’t used any video conferencing type product, fairly often, you better practice with it before the live interview. It takes some getting used to. Just because you have Face Timed with people on a casual basis, doesn’t mean it will work in a professional setting.
  • Do not schedule the interview at your local Starbucks or any public place. They may have free Wi-Fi, but it’s noisy and a lousy place to conduct this kind of interview.
  • Practice the right lighting. Fluorescent lighting has a tendency to make your face look shiny, especially your forehead and even worse, the top of your head if you’re bald. Practice with the light in front of you and coming at you slightly above your forehead. The light should bounce off of your face into the camera. Practice with soft light until you get it right. A very light layer of makeup will keep the shine to a minimum.
  • Dress like you would for a normal interview. Most of the time dress suits for both men and women respectively. ( sometimes a white shirt or blouse can cause a little glaring, so my suggestion is to wear light blue ones. Red colors are too bright. For women, jewelry that reflects any kind of sparkle can be way too distracting ( i.e. large, bright, dangling earrings)
  • Be sure to make eye contact with the webcam. One candidate told me that he put a picture of his wife and kids on the top of the computer and looked at them during the interview. If you watch yourself on the screen, you will be looking down to the person on the other end of the call. A couple of minutes of that and you will be eliminated as a candidate. By maintaining eye contact with the webcam you appear to be maintaining eye contact with the interviewer.
  • There is an inherent problem with not being able to really “see” the other persons eyes and face and looking back and forth from your camera to their face can be distracting. One way to deal with this is to sit back far enough from your camera to where you can also see them on the screen. The problem with this is that, if you’re that far back, they cannot see your face very well. This is why practices so important.
  • This takes a bit of practice, but you need to make sure your body language expresses that you are engaged in the conversation. Leaning forward slightly helps and hand movements to emphasize the point will keep you engaging. Too much animation is distracting while too little is stoic and stiff. What little body language shows up in the videoconference interview has to be engaging.
  • Be sure to have a professional username for your Skype account, if you use one. “Imastud,” or “stilllsexy,” will kill the interview before it starts.
  • If you normally will wear glasses, try not to wear them during a video interview. Unless you just simply can’t see without them, they are terribly distracting because they reflect what ever light source you have in front of you. It’s already difficult enough for the interviewing authority to see your eyes, but with glasses on, that are reflecting even the dimmest of light, seeing your eyes is virtually impossible. You will not be aware of this problem, but the person on the other side of the interview will. Unless you’re almost blind without them, don’t wear them in the interview.
  • Make sure the background behind you isn’t distracting. It should be a blank wall with a light, neutral color that doesn’t compete with your wardrob. Pictures on the wall or bookcases will be out of focus and could be very distracting. For some reason, people are a lot more distracted by videoconferencing backgrounds than they are in person backgrounds. The simpler, the better. The best ones I’ve seen have a soft light, maybe a lamp behind or over one shoulder and a picture with soft colors behind the other shoulder and that’s it. A busy bookcase with pictures of your family or anything else seemed to be really distracting.
  • If you office from home, make sure everyone in the house knows that you are doing a video interview. Any noises, young children in the background or a dog barking at anything will blow it. (I had a candidate who was interviewing in his home office with the door shut. His dog was yelping outside the door and so his wife, not knowing he was interviewing, let the dog in and the dog jumped on his lap while he was trying to interview. He didn’t get hired!)
  • Turn off notifications on your computer.
  • Practice, practice, practice! Practice with a friend… Even record the practice session. Repeat the process until you have it down perfectly. Make sure your technology works, at least on your end. If you haven’t used your video technology in some time don’t wait until it’s time for the interview. Fix it now!
  • Make sure you smile and have pleasant facial expressions. Sitting in a room, alone, relying on technology, wondering if it’s working or not, can keep you from focusing on the interview.
  • As with the phone interview, practice listening.
  • As technology advances there will be less of a problem with this, but often the Internet connection between your system and the interviewing authority system can be poor and the picture can freeze or the sound can be one or two paces behind the speed of the image. Any problem like this can be terribly distracting and is the first step towards disaster. If the connection starts out this way, try to reconnect. Try this is many times as you have to to get a good connection. If you get stuck with a bad connection, you might want to postpone the interview and find better technology.
  • If you have a headphone set with a talk piece, use it. The microphone in your computer can pick up lots of background noise. A headset will make sure that you are speaking clearly.
  • Remember, this is a job interview. Dress for a job interview. Treated seriously. Don’t drink anything but water and only if your throat gets dry. Don’t eat anything while you are interviewing. (Don’t laugh! I’ve had a number of candidates over the past few months who were eating their lunch, munching on candy as well as chewing gum during the interview.)

Make sure you have your resume and notes of things you want to mention in front of you, just like a telephone interview. Also be sure to have a glass of water with you in case your throat or mouth get dry.

Again, practicing video interviews with friends or family is not hard to do. If you practice correctly, you’ll be prepared.

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