In the 2013 job market, we have been receiving an increasing number of requests from our clients to schedule video conferences with prospective candidates (both with us and with the hiring managers). Video interviewing, while not necessarily a new thing, is an art form of its own and requires careful attention and focus. I have worked with many people who are technically qualified for a job and are ultimately passed on because they chose to treat a video interview like an unimportant stepping-stone to an in-person meeting. Many candidates figure that as long as they show up on-screen, they will be able to “wow” the interviewer with their technical expertise and will have the position in the bag (with the added benefit of not having to wear shoes). It’s very common to assume that video interviews require less preparation and commitment than an in-person meeting, but doing so would be a mistake that could cost you your dream job.
1. Location, Location, Location
Setting up your video interview in a garage with poor lighting, in your living room with a TV in the background, or in a rec room covered in “John Smith – Beer Drinking Champions” plaques will not convey professionalism. Be sure that you scout your home (or office, if applicable) for an appropriate interview location Choose your home office or a private, clean and minimally decorated room with strong white or natural lighting. Avoid having the light source in view of the camera.
2. Minimize outside distractions
Beforehand, be sure to handle things that could potentially cause a distraction during the interview. Take your dog for a walk. Make sure that your children are cared for and (if they’re old enough) that they know not to burst into the room. If possible, try to set up your video interview in a place where outside noises such as people, traffic and nature will not be heard. Turn off your cell phone and unplug your land line (if you use one). Do not schedule a pizza or furniture delivery on the day of the interview.
3. Perform a test run (and make it count)
This is perhaps the most important step in preparing for a successful video interview. Enlist someone you trust (perhaps from your professional network) to give you a valid opinion on professionalism and have a mock video interview with them, using whatever conferencing software you will be using during your actual interview. Don’t be satisfied by simply placing the call and having your friend or colleague say that they can see you. If possible, have someone else stand in your place and start a video conference with them from another location so that you can see for yourself how your chosen location and pre-arranged webcam and audio settings will appear to someone else.
Confirm that you have your webcam set at a great viewing angle; try to have your camera lens level with your face rather than putting it above or below your eye level. Make sure that the audio quality is crisp and clear, and that there is no echo or delay in sound. Be sure that you can hear the other person speaking clearly. Invest in a high quality camera; you want to be sure that your interviewer can see YOU and not a grainy, pixelated troll-person that defies the laws of physics by moving its mouth three full seconds before any words come out. The cost of high quality camera, speaker and microphone equipment will certainly be worth it if the video interview lands you the job!
4. Dress professionally
Although you may be in the comfort of your own home, you want to make a great impression, especially if this is the first time you are meeting with an interviewer face-to-face. Dress professionally! This will require time, effort and attention. Select a clean, freshly pressed business suit/suit and tie (tailored to fit, if possible). Choose conservative colors, accessorize modestly and avoid showing any tattoos or unconventional piercings.
5. Be on time
One of the most epic failures you can commit in an in-person interview is showing up late (or not at all). Treat your video interview with equal importance and make it a point to be on time. Start up your conferencing software a good ten or fifteen minutes ahead of schedule; you can use this time to go over your interview notes, prepared questions, your resume, and the job description and/or company information.
6. Treat a video interview as if it were an in-person interview
With the exception of a solid handshake, you should do your best to treat a video interview as if you were actually meeting with the hiring manager in-person. Speak clearly, show great posture, mirror your interviewer’s body language, and don’t fidget. Maintaining eye contact may be a bit awkward in a video conference, but give an occasional glance-and-hold to the camera lens (but don’t stare!) while you are speaking so that the person interviewing you can have a more personal and engaging experience of speaking with you face-to-face. Hopefully your interviewer will do the same; while it is not really possible to look one another in the eye due to camera lens placement, this method is a good alternative.
What else can you do to maximize success during a video interview with a prospective employer? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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