Welcome to the third installment of my blog series on virtual job interviews. In my last blog, I shared tips on mastering Skype interviews. If you missed it, you can catch up here.
Employers are continually looking to make the hiring process more efficient. To this end, they have started using recorded job interviews as a quick way to screen candidates. In a recorded interview, also known as a one-way video interview, the company sends you pre-scripted interview questions that you answer on video and submit by a specific date. When you record your answers to the questions, you cannot see the interviewer, but they will scrutinize you when viewing and listening to your answers.
Getting Ready for Your Close-Up
A recorded interview can feel uncomfortable, since it feels like you are not having a “real” conversation. But don’t worry – there are things you can do to prepare that will not only help you feel comfortable speaking to your webcam, they will also help you deliver a 5-star performance and win that all-important in-person interview.
1. Set Up a Video-Friendly Space
Where and how you appear on video is just as important as your answers. Well before you record your interview, be sure to:
- Use a laptop or desktop computer – not your phone.
- Position your webcam at eye-level.
- Declutter the recording area.
- Position yourself in front of a neutral-colored wall, avoiding backgrounds with visual distractions such as patterns, mirrors and wallpaper.
- Adjust the lighting for optimum effect. Background lights should be the brightest in the room. Windows should be closed and there should be no glare on your computer screen.
- When it’s time to record your video, eliminate background noise and all possible interruptions, including your cell phone.
2. Do Your Research
With so much information available online, you can easily learn everything you can about the company, including its mission, history, goals, competitors and products. Tying this information to some of your interview answers can really help sell you as a good fit for the position. Just as you would for a traditional in-person interview, review the company’s website and press releases so you know who they are and where they are going. As I mentioned in my blog on telephone interviews, Glassdoor is a great resource for information.
Don’t forget to review the job description and note the alignment with your qualifications. In your interview answers, focus on how you meet the requirements of the job and will help the company achieve its goals.
3. There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Practice
Let’s face it; speaking to a camera is not natural for most people. That’s why it is so critical to practice looking and speaking into the camera just as if you were talking to a person sitting in front of you. There’s no shortcut – you simply must practice until you feel comfortable in front of the camera.
When you practice, keep these tips in mind:
- Always look directly into the camera when answering questions to maintain “eye contact.”
- Never look at the computer screen when you speak. Interviewers watching your video will simply see you looking down.
- Sit up straight, lean slightly forward, smile and speak in a clear voice.
- Don’t whisper, mumble or fidget.
Your video answers need to look and sound as natural as possible. It helps to write down the key points that you want to get across in your answers, and then practice answering each question. Like an actor rehearsing lines in a script, the more you practice, the easier it will be to memorize your answers and get comfortable in front of the camera.
4. Make the Best Impression
Like any type of job interview, you need to make a strong first impression. Here are some tips to help you:
- Beat the deadline. Recorded interviews typically have a deadline for completion. If possible, beat that deadline by several hours, or even better, a few days. Don’t put off your recording until the last possible moment; you may have technical difficulties and miss the deadline. Another reason to start early: many systems let you view your completed video and rerecord your answers, so you want to give yourself this opportunity to improve your performance. [Tip: when viewing your recording, don’t focus on how attractive you look. We are our own biggest critics. Rather, pay attention to the lighting, audio quality, your posture, facial expression and pace of speech.]
- Look professional. Just as you would for any job interview, be well dressed and well groomed, and avoid wearing anything visually distracting like prints, bright colors or flashy jewelry.
- Prepare your answers. If you’ve received the questions in advance, write your answers down and practice, practice, practice! Your answers should be clear and concise examples of your accomplishments. Rather than writing long paragraphs, which can be time-consuming and difficult to remember, write down the key points that you want to make. I like to compose answers in Microsoft Word, so you can finesse the wording. Make sure you use a large font so you can read them with a quick glance. In the event that you don’t receive the questions in advance, be prepared to focus on challenges you have faced in the past, actions you took to resolve them and the results you achieved.
5. Present Your Best Self
In general, companies see an interview as a preview of what it might be like to work with you. They want employees with enthusiasm and passion. “To a certain extent, we want to use the video to understand how you deal with people and what you think your strengths are,” says Matt Doucette, head of global talent acquisition at Monster.com. “But don’t use this video interview as a platform to talk about how great you are.”
Here are some things you can do during the interview to deliver a star performance:
- It’s okay to use cheat sheets. During the filming of the movie “The Godfather,” famed actor Marlon Brando had his lines written on pieces of papers positioned in front of him off-camera. While you may never win an Oscar for Best Actor, you can still take advantage of the space in front of you that the employer won’t see. Write the main points of your answers on Post-it notes and stick these to the outside of your computer screen or, if available, on the wall in front of you.
- Be yourself. Employers like candidates who have a personality, so try to be yourself when you record your answer. Don’t speak in a monotone voice with no emotion and try not to mumble or fidget. Above all – be likeable! You can have the greatest credentials in the world, but if the other person does not like you, you will not make it to the next round of interviews. It may not be fair, but it is true.
- Don’t rush. It’s normal to feel pressure in a recorded interview, so many people rush their answers. Pause between sentences and breathe naturally. With repetition, you can learn to stay calm and not hurry your answers.
You Can Master Recorded Interviews
Remember, a recorded interview is really just like any other interview, except you’re not having a live conversation.
Don’t let the process intimate you. Before you record your answers, it’s a good idea to reflect and consider what impression you want to make. Then, when you’re recording your answers, you can focus on telling the employer how your experience and skills perfectly match the job and the company.
Always keep in mind that the purpose of the recorded interview is to get to the next step in the hiring process: an in-person interview. Be confident in yourself and your answers. With practice, you can be a star in your video and make a great impression on the employer.
An inspirational career consultant, Trish McGrath has been helping people develop the tools, strategies and confidence to build satisfying careers since 2009. An experienced career transition coach, resume expert and job search strategist, she makes sure her clients are well prepared for a successful job search. Contact Trish at (860) 658-6480 or email@example.com to see how she can help you gain the competitive EDGE.
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