With most of us keen to avoid the wrath of a certain airborne virus right now, it’s no surprise that video interviews have become the new normal. For some people, this might be a huge advantage in terms of practicality and using apps like Facetime and Zoom are second nature. While for others, as soon as that call connects, so does the tendency to crash and burn.
If the latter is you, don’t despair you’ll be applying confidently in no time. Learn how to nail your next video interview in 5 easy steps that even the most steadfast technophobe can master.
Step One: Master the technical aspects
This step is fundamental to nailing a smooth video interview. Nobody wants to end up looking like a troll sitting in terrible lighting, with pets/children running wild in the background (think Professor Robert Kelly on BBC News). So before you switch that camera on, make sure you have polished up on all of these aspects:
- Make sure you’ve got an optimal camera setup - Ideally you’ll want to use a webcam or built-in laptop camera. Although phone and tablet cameras can be top notch these days, they’re much more difficult to control and keep stable. Placement is key, so to begin with, figure out the most flattering angle to use (hint, just above your eyeline works wonders and a stack of books can help you with this). Make sure you check everything is working perfectly well beforehand, you don’t want to be blindsided by faulty technology.
- Prioritise decent lighting - This is what will make the difference between you looking fresh and polished and looking like a swamp creature. You’ll want to minimise any visible shadows and wrinkling, as much as possible. If the natural light in your environment doesn’t achieve this, you can fake the Hollywood effect by putting two lamps on either side of your desk (ideally at the height of your camera). You’ll go from a blobfish to Jessica Alba at the flick of a switch (or two).
- Factor in your background - Don’t underestimate what is visible in the background to your interviewer. Dirty underwear or an unkempt room isn’t going to make an ideal impression. Neither is a half naked flatmate walking through when you least expect it. Try to keep it as plain as possible e.g. a blank wall, screen or somewhere the unexpected can’t pop up behind you and the interviewer’s focus will be solely on you. The more distance between you and the background the better (2 metres is ideal).
- Consider your audio options - If your built-in microphone is particularly bad and going to make a bad impression, consider using a headset. This will give you more control over your audio, especially when you are trying to be persuasive in an interview. If a headset isn’t an option, make sure you’re free from external distractions e.g. pets, children, televisions and noisy neighbours. Also, make sure to shut down any other apps running in the background that could embarrass you. You’ll want to sound as confident and clear as possible when answering questions. If you do find yourself having connectivity issues, let your interviewer know as soon as possible.
Step Two: Choose appropriate attire
You know what they say “dress for success” and all that. You should dress just as professionally for a video interview as you would for a face-to-face interview. While it may be tempting to dress business on the top and pajamas on the bottom, don’t risk it! You never know when you’ll be caught off guard and have to go grab a document or something. The general rules to go by are:
- Keep it simple, don’t wear any busy patterns that can be distracting on camera (pinstripe, houndstooth, herringbone etc).
- Avoid plain white or plain black clothing. Both of these colours can wash you out on camera when worn alone.
- Stick with soft colours that enhance your skin tone in the unnatural lighting. Blues are often said to work well on most people.
- Avoid wearing too much jewellery as this can be a distraction too.
- If you wear glasses, make sure there’s no obvious glare on the lenses so the interviewer can see your eyes and expression.
If choosing the right attire is totally beyond you, try an app like Trunk Club where a personal stylist can point you in the right direction. Also take a look at this ‘Business Casual Vs. Smart Casual’ guideline for your reference.
Step Three: Put in the same interview prep
Do the same amount of prep work as you would for a face-to-face interview. Don’t let the setting of your interview fool you into thinking it’s less formal. This means:
- Researching the company you are interviewing with.
- Researching the role you’ve applied for and how you fit into the criteria.
- Preparing answers to possible interview questions, both behavioural and industry specific.
- Having your own questions ready to fire off and show your enthusiasm.
- Making sure you have a good grasp of all the technology you’ll be using in your video call.
- If you’re not familiar with the programme your interviewer will be using, do a few practice runs beforehand.
Step Four: Be aware of your body language
Regardless of what is coming out of your mouth, your body language will, unfortunately, always betray you. This means it’s extra important that you:
- Maintain decent eye contact - (Note: confident, not serial killer). Just like a face-to-face interview, this is important in establishing that you are feeling confident and engaged in what the interviewer is saying. If you find that you appear to be looking away from the interviewer on camera, resize and move their picture so that you are looking at them at eye-level.
- Keep your expression relaxed and smile - This is a good way to bond with the interviewer and influence their reaction towards you. There’s a fine line between intense nervous smiling, and relaxed, enthusiastic smiling...so try to be as natural as possible, without overdoing it. If you can feel your face stretching into something manic and Joker like, you may want to rein it in.
- Keep the fidgeting under wraps - if you’re like me and prone to a few twitches and tics when stressed out or nervous, you’ll want to try hard to minimise them on camera. You’ll also want to rein in too many hand gestures or verbal tics such as ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ which can be very distracting too. Unfortunately, this call is essentially a close up of your face. So if you’re concerned about this, a good idea is to record yourself on camera a few times. This way you can see exactly how you appear to others and what you need to be more aware of during the interview.
- Check your posture - You know the drill, good posture helps us to bluff confidence. So sit straight, shoulders back, try not to cross your arms and legs, lean into the conversation and nod sparingly.
Step Five: Treat it the same as an in-person interview
Our last step is to remind you to treat video interviews with the same attention and priority as face-to-face interviews. It might feel a significantly less formal sitting in your lounge than a stuffy office, but all the fundamentals still apply like:
- Being on time - Make sure all your tech and gadgets are set up well ahead of time and be ready to log on early. You never know what unexpected glitches might pop up. Nobody wants to waste time waiting around for someone else, whether it’s at home or in the office. So, make a good impression by being punctual.
- Factoring in time zones - If you’re being interviewed by someone in a different country/continent, make sure you’ve got a good grasp of the time difference. You don’t want to end up embarrassed and 5 hours late to your interview. If you want extra reassurance, you can use apps like Spacetime.am or Everytimezone to manage your meeting times.
- Taking the time to introduce yourself - It’s important that you put the same effort into your introduction as you would do face-to-face. Make sure to read the interviewer carefully, so you don’t interrupt and speak over them. After initial greetings and courtesies, follow up with a brief background about yourself. This means highlighting your strong suits and skills, rather than your hobbies.
If you’re now feeling better equipped to nail your next video interview, why not check out the latest job opportunities awaiting you, here!