How to rock a video interview

The idea of a video interview can be daunting, especially if you’re not used to this particular format of communication. Video interviews (i.e. over free platforms such as Skype) are becoming increasingly common in the recruitment industry because of their convenience. People are willing to travel greater distances for better job opportunities and a video interview means you don’t have to worry about travelling across the country –or abroad even – to attend the initial interview.

Employers can also interview more people using this method. You might think that a video interview is far easier than a face-to-face one, but don’t be fooled. There are a lot of aspects to consider when facing a video interview that you normally wouldn’t have to think about.

Your video interview may be the second or third stage of the recruitment process. In theory, you should have made your first impression by now (maybe via a phone interview). However, you’ll most likely face completely different people in the video interview.

Either way, you’re going to be making another first impression. Your appearance in a video interview is extremely important – potentially even more important than in a regular interview. Do you know anyone who already works at the company? What do they wear? What’s the company culture like? If you’re not sure, spend some time checking out their social media channels and their website.

You can generally get a feel for how corporate the company is and you can then dress accordingly. Don’t be tempted to wear your favourite tracksuit bottoms because you think they won’t be seen. If you need to stand up to adjust equipment or for any other unexpected reason, you won’t give a good impression at all! Another reason to dress from head to toe is because it will naturally put you in ‘professional mode’ and you’ll feel more formal.

Ladies: it’s tempting to wear more makeup than usual for a video interview, because the focus will naturally be on just your head and shoulders. Don’t fall into this trap. Avoid over-accessorising and applying layers of foundation and lipstick. Unless you’re applying for a role in the cosmetics and beauty industry, it’s probably not appropriate.

Choose your setting carefully. Avoid public locations at all costs; they’re unpredictable and distracting for the interviewer(s). Make sure you have a clean, decluttered and neutral backdrop. It doesn’t need to look like an office, but it shouldn’t look like your utility room either. If you have personal items lying around, it shows that you don’t have good organisational skills. At the same time, don’t try to be too clever by strategically having a framed copy of your degree hanging on the wall behind you or your trophy cabinet on show. The employer will see through it and these achievements should already be listed on your CV.

Practise makes perfect and although you may feel a bit silly, it really does pay off to do a practice run. Try filming yourself answering some mock interview questions for a few minutes or set up a Skype chat with a friend to test your systems and the lighting conditions. The last thing you want when you have a video interview is to face technical issues or a dark room where you can’t be seen clearly. You want to appear proficient and organised for this interview. A friend or colleague may also be able to point out things that you’ve missed.

If you do get technical glitches, don’t ignore them! Be honest and address the issue with the interviewer, because they can probably tell if you’re having technical problems. Politely interrupt the conversation and try to solve the problem as quickly as possible. This in itself is a test and if you ignore technical issues, you may be giving the impression that you don’t know how to act appropriately when things go wrong. The employer will understand – they’ll probably have technical problems, too!

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Just because the area behind you should be kept neutral doesn’t mean that the area in front of you (and behind the camera) has to be the same. Take advantage of space that the employer can’t see and keep notes and questions to hand. It’s also useful to keep a copy of your CV and a copy of the job description handy, too. Any talking points or answers you’ve already crafted should be accessible to you. These items can really help keep you focused during the interview.

If you have any personal qualities that you know would be best avoided or suppressed (such as talking too much or going off-topic) keep little reminders close by. Be discreet when reading these notes, because the interviewer will see your eyes diverting all over the place otherwise. When you’re answering a question, look directly at the camera, not at your own face in the corner of the screen!

As you’re not in their offices, you may have questions about aspects of the job that you would usually find out from being there face-to-face, e.g. parking, company culture, office space such as hot-desking arrangements and other specific workplace questions.

Most importantly, stay calm and don’t talk too much! Look for indicators that the other person is ready to speak and don’t be hasty with your answers. Video interviews frequently have lagging issues which means there might be a slight pause between you and the other end. Have a glass of water to hand and make sure you’re in a room where you can be sure you’ll be left alone for the duration of the interview. You don’t want to be disturbed or get distracted by people walking past behind you. If it’s in your control, make sure you address it. Good luck!

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