The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way the world works. There has been a bigger shift to digital platforms and a greater reliance on technology. More of us are connecting via virtual means, be it social or for work.
When it comes to our careers, many of us in 2020 has experienced the occasional video meeting. Zoom and Google Meets are all the range. As we start off 2021 in lockdown, what happens when you find a new job? You may have got a job interview invitation. Is it a video interview and how does one prepare for that?
Below we have compiled a cheat sheet of tips to consider for a job interview if it is being held online via video. Here is how to make a good first impression and one that lasts:
1. Test Your Technology
Knowing your technology is key. Familiarise yourself with the platform you will be using for the video interview. Know where the buttons are, particularly the mute button. This is vital to keep any unwanted sounds out, such as typing if you are taking notes. (We expand more on this in point 6.)
Get the basics right. Ensure the camera frame is straight and you are aligned in the centre. Leave a few inches of space between the top of the screen and your head, and show your shoulders and upper chest. This should mean that you are looking at the person on the other side of the video at eye level.
Call a friend or family member to test the microphone works and the lighting is right. They will be able to point anything out to you and can also test the sound and volume. If there are any echoes or buzzing, invest in a good headset, so your voice is clear and easy to hear. You do not want to have the interviewer ask you to repeat yourself. Unless this is due to time lag from the video platform, make sure you also test your internet connection. This will avoid any speed issues and miscommunication caused by an unanticipated pause.
If you have two screens, place your webcam (if it is not in-built) onto the top of your higher screen. This will avoid you from looking down towards your lower screen at an angle. A full-frontal view is ideal and better than the interviewer staring at your forehead. You want to establish a connection by first starting with eye contact. Conversation follows next.
2. Check Your Environment
Scout your surroundings. You want to control your physical setting. Choose a plain wall or an office setting, for instance, a bookshelf. (Remove any unwanted books whose book spines can be visible.) Ensure there is no clutter — no laundry — keep it tidy and neat.
Natural light is best. Of course, the time of the day may differ between timezones. If you find that you are in a nighttime setting, don't sit directly under a light source. Shine the light behind your computer webcam or phone camera. This will avoid light refraction and glare. Your face will also be visible and not sitting in the shadows.
To the best of your ability, keep children and pets out of the room for an undisturbed period of time. This will allow you to fully focus on the video interview at hand.
If you cannot clear what shows in the camera frame, check to see if the video platform has a virtual background. This will mean you can create an ideal environment for your interview. Your own clutter also will not distract you as you see yourself on the screen.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
Prepare for the job interview like any other face-to-face interview. Do your research on the company and remember the job description. Bring up keywords tied to the role that will help you bring up past work experiences or your skillsets. Think about questions the interviewer will ask and practice them with a friend on video. This is so that you can be comfortable with the technology and also so that you can practice sitting. You will be able to find the most comfortable position for you that will work with the real video job interview.
Get your posture right. Dressing the part will do nothing for you if your body language says something else. Do not slouch over your keyboard or screen, and do not puff your chest out either. Maintain a neutral stance that shows you are comfortable in your body. This will show that you are ready to tackle the interview but are not too confident.
4. Look Smart
Dress to impress as you would for a real-life face-to-face interview. If the role is corporate, choose formal dressing — jacket and blouse for women, suit and tie for men. If the company is more informal— wear a blouse for women, and a casual long-sleeved shirt for men.
Jewellery should not be flashy or overbearing. You do not want to draw attention away from your face. Your face is the focal point. Large or small shiny pieces of jewellery can detract from your face, but also catch the light.
For women, do not wear heavy makeup. Natural makeup is a good way to go to bring out some colour and definition, while evening out your skin tone. Remember, the lighting in your surrounding can affect how you look over video. Bring some colour to your complexion, so that you do not blend in with your background.
Get into work mode with a full outfit. You never know if for whatever reason that you might need to stand up. It will also help you get into the interview mindset as a potential future employee.
For women — you can bring colour into your look with tasteful earrings that will make you look dressed up. For men — you can add colour with your tie. Choose a demure shade that does not pop too much. All-in-all, avoid red as an intimidating and overly bold colour.
5. Be Early
It never hurts to dial in a few minutes before the scheduled video interview. This will give you time to test your final body positioning in front of the camera and your microphone. You can also check to see if your tie is wonky for instance, or if something else is out of place. Extra time will make you feel more relaxed because you are not rushing. Have your notes or interview questions ready, be it flashcards or digital notes. Get in the zone.
Make sure your phone is on silent, turned off vibration, and facing downward, so you are not distracted. The same goes for having any communication platforms open on your computer or laptop. Close all browser tabs to avoid distraction. This also makes it easy should you need to show your personal website or portfolio. You can load it before the video interview and minimise the screen. If you share your screen, you can simply pull it up and maximise the window.
6. Be Strategic with Notetaking
There could be a second or follow-up interviews, so you might want to take notes. If so, there are two ways to do it:
Pen & Paper
If you are taking notes in a traditional manner, make an extra effort to show that you are still listening. Nod your head and continue to make eye contact. You want to ensure your interest in the role you are being interviewed for gets across. The hiring manager will see that you are taking an active interest. Do not keep your eyes down for too long at any one time.
If you find it easier to crush some keys, make sure you mute yourself while doing so. You do not want the interviewer listening to you typing. They also do not need to know every second you pause. To maintain eye contact with the interviewer, pull up your digital notes to eye level. If you have two screens, make sure you are typing on the screen that the webcam is on or built into. This will help level out the line of sight.
Tell the interviewer that you are listening but would like to take some notes. This shows interest and gives them a heads up on your body language and movements. As they may not be able to see beyond the camera frame, so it is worth letting them know.
Be natural and act like yourself while remaining professional. You want to leave a lasting impression of yourself in a positive manner with the hiring manager. Build rapport during the video interview and change it up so the conversation does not go stale. Avoid a scripted routine where you end up alternating between questions and answers. Comment on some of the things the interviewer says and sign-off with a courteous thank you.