How to prepare for and perform in a video interview
Video interviews are an increasingly important part of the recruitment process and regularly faced by individuals using our outplacement service. Here are some things to do – and avoid – when you are facing the prospect of a Skype interview.
1. Make sure you are sitting comfortably
You should sit upright, ideally on an office chair or, if you don't have access to one, a straight backed chair.
2. Position your camera correctly
The position of your camera is very important so take time to get this right. The camera should be level with your eyeline. Looking up or down into the camera won't give the most flattering result. If you are using a laptop on a table, you might like to prop it up on a pile of books to bring the camera lens up to eye level.
Make sure you are sitting the right distance from your camera lens. Too close and interviewers will see just your face, too far and they won't see anything at all. Position your camera so that it incorporates most of your top half. This will allow interviewers to see your hand gestures and make it easier for them to gauge your overall body language.
3. Look at the camera, not the screen
It is very tempting to watch yourself or your interviewers during a video interview, but looking directly at the video camera is the only way to maintain direct eye contact with your interviewer. Know where the lens is and try to look at it as much as possible.
Invariably you will look at the interviewers. If you are using Skype, consider making the video window slightly smaller and move it as close to your camera lens as you can, for example by dragging it to the top of your laptop screen. This means that even when you are looking at the interviewers, your eyes won't be focused too far away from the camera lens.
4. Prepare your surroundings
Pick a quiet place for the interview without an elaborate backdrop so that you can be the focal point on the screen. Remove anything distracting behind you and keep it neutral. If you are conducting your video interview at home it is preferable if you are alone so you won't be interrupted.
Another key aspect is your lighting. Make sure you're lit by as much natural light as possible. Natural light will make you and your surroundings look brighter and more inviting. However, where possible have any windows behind the camera and not behind you – this will make you look like a silhouette. If you do have to sit in front of a window, close the curtains or blinds and consider using a table lamp with a shade if you need to add soft light. Getting email or other notifications during your interview is distracting and unprofessional. Before your interview, make sure all other windows on your computer are closed, especially if they make noise.
Once you have everything prepared, preview how you look and make any necessary adjustments.
5. Keep your profile professional
Unlike a face to face or phone interview, your first impression during a video interview doesn't actually involve you. The first thing your interviewer will see is your Skype username and picture, so double check that they are both appropriate.
6. Dress the part
When it comes to what you wear, treat your video interview like a face to face interview and dress professionally from head to toe. A professional dress code with video interviews is expected, not excused.
7. Practice makes perfect
Doing a run through interview with a friend beforehand is helpful because your first few video interviews are likely to feel awkward, especially if you have to retrain yourself to watch the camera and not the screen. Understand how Skype or your video call software works so that when it's interview time, you can shine without being distracted by any technology.
8. Avoid a "can you hear me now?" situation
Nothing is more frustrating than only catching every other word a person is saying, so be sure to adjust the audio ahead of time to make sure you can both hear and be heard without difficulty.
If you cannot hear the interviewer due to interference or connection problems, there is no shame in asking them to repeat a question. If your connection is lost during the call, don't let it throw you into confusion. Simply call them back or wait for them to return the call and explain what happened.
9. But don't rely on them too much
Just make sure your notes are easy to scan so that you use them as quick reminders, not a script. While having notes is certainly a plus, relying too heavily on them isn't. An interviewer won't be impressed if they only see the top of your head as you repeatedly look down to read your notes during the interview.
10. Watch your body language
Not all physical cues translate from in person interviews to video interviews, which make the ones that do even more important. Be sure to have good posture and relax your shoulders to avoid stiffness.
Act naturally and professionally. This would include such things as maintaining appropriate eye contact (by looking at the camera and not the screen), sitting properly, nodding, not fidgeting, and paying proper attention to what the interviewer is saying.
11. Make sure the interviewer is engaged
Stop every once in a while and make sure your interviewer is engaged in what you are saying. Being aware of the interest level of your interviewer is crucial in a video interview since there may be other things where they are that direct attention away from you – such as other people or emails popping up on their own computer.
In day to day conversation we sometimes speak at the same time as someone else, but it's nearly impossible to communicate this way using video. So if the other person is speaking wait until they have finished before you say anything, otherwise both voices become unclear.
12. Follow up
A thank you email or letter is just as important after a video interview as it is in an in person interview. Take the time to compose something appropriate and send it to everyone who was present in your interview.