Welcome to the second installment of my blog series on virtual job interviews, with some quick tips to help you prepare for a video conference interview. If you missed last month’s post on telephone interviews, you can catch up here. Next month, I’ll address the recorded video interview.
In the good old days, hiring managers relied on in-person interviews to screen and hire job candidates. As if that was not intimidating enough! Today, many companies are incorporating online video conferencing interviews using Skype, Zoom or Facetime into the hiring process. Virtual interviews are popular with employers because they quickly narrow the candidate pool, which saves the company time and money. But, they can add an entirely new layer of anxiety-provoking stress for job seekers.
Whether you are new to live video interviews or didn’t do well enough in your last one to proceed to the next round of interviews, you need to learn how to present your best self on camera. Here’s how you can prepare for, and ace, your next video interaction with a potential employer.
Cameras hate me! Do I really have to do a video interview?
Yes. If you want to land that great new job, you must be prepared for live video job interviews. If you avoid them, you may be limiting your employment options. Because more and more employers are relying on video interviews to evaluate candidates’ soft skills, it is to your advantage to become comfortable with this type of interview.
Would you rather walk into an interview with confidence or fear? You already know the answer: confidence, of course! If you properly prepare for and know what to expect in a video interview, you can gain an advantage over the other candidates for that job you are pursuing.
6 Steps to Video Interview Success
1. Create a New Skype Account Just for Your Job Search
If you don’t already have it installed on your computer, you can easily download Skype from Microsoft at no charge and set up a free user account. It is important that you use a professional-sounding username, just like your email address and LinkedIn profile, as well as a headshot. You don’t want a silly username or selfie to negatively impact the hiring manager’s first impression of you.
2. Understand the Technology
Don’t think you can skip the practice step! Be sure to install, test and PRACTICE with the Skype software a few days before your actual interview. Not only do you need to get comfortable with the software, you also need to make sure that everything is working perfectly. You don’t want to have technical issues in the middle of the interview! Ask a friend to do a few dry runs so that you can identify and fix any potentially embarrassing problems. On the day of the interview, be sure to set up at least 10 minutes early.
3. Use a Computer with a Webcam, Not Your Phone
Desktop and laptop computers usually have better audio and video capabilities than your cell phone so I recommend that you use the webcam on your computer. If you absolutely must use your phone, put it on a sturdy stand and turn off the ringer and message alerts! Of course, be sure not to miss the interviewer’s call if they are initiating the interview. Camera angle is important too. As you practice, position yourself so the other person can see you clearly without distraction.
4. Secure the Right Location
Don’t underestimate the significance of the next step: location, location location. Choose a place that is comfortable, quiet and has a reliable internet connection. Avoid busy coffee shops, your car or windy outdoor locations. Your home is probably best. Clean and declutter the room to get rid of any distracting objects in the background – including kids or pets. It would be very hard to recover from an interruption. Check your lighting to make sure you are not backlit or in a spotlight. Be sure that you have access to the space you have chosen and have absolute privacy; don’t assume conditions will be optimal.
5. Prepare Your Speaking Points
Do your homework and identify the 5 main points you’d like to make during the interview. While you don’t want to completely script your answers, do create some bullet points to incorporate into the conversation. Be prepared to introduce yourself, ask some questions and at the end of the interview thank the interviewer for their time. Some interviewers use small talk at the beginning of the conversation to put you at ease or to see how you act when you let your guard down. It does not have to be awkward or painful. Quick tip: asking a question will subtly turn the attention away from yourself.
6. Be Aware of Your Body Language
How you appear on camera is extremely important. Remember these important tips:
- Master the virtual handshake. You cannot actually shake the interviewer’s hand in a video interview, but you can nod, smile and say their name as you introduce yourself. This serves as a “virtual handshake.”
- Look into the camera to establish natural eye contact. It may seem unnatural but do your best to look directly into your webcam for the entire interview.
- Dress (and groom) to impress. Remember, this is a real interview and you must look professional. Even though you should expect to be sitting during the entire interview, please don’t wear sweatpants with your suit jacket. You don’t want to be distracted (“Hmmm… I wonder if they can tell?”).
- Sit up straight. Hiring managers are put off by a candidate who has bad posture – it makes you look lazy. Clenching your fists, tapping your foot and other types of nervous fidgeting will be emphasized on camera.
- Breathe normally, speak clearly and enunciate. Speak a little louder and slower than you normally would and try not to use filler words like “so”, “um”, “like” or “well”. This Harvard Extension School article recommends that you pause, think, then answer.
The Video Conference Interview – Your Opportunity to Shine
I hope these tips help you put your best foot forward in your next video interview. Remember, you must impress the interviewer to advance to the next step in the hiring process and win a face-to-face meeting. With proper planning and preparation, you should have no problem showing them you are the ideal candidate for the job. Good luck!
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 guides her clients through the job search process to make it less overwhelming and more successful. Contact Trish at (860) 658-6480 or firstname.lastname@example.org to see how she can help you gain the competitive EDGE.
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