by Troy Norton
Many companies are now transitioning not only to online submission for job openings but to online interviewing as well. As companies have in the past spent thousands and thousands of dollars flying prospective candidates to their location be interviewed, they can now “online video interview” candidates from around the globe at virtually no cost.
While a video interview is not much different in “content” than a traditional in-person interview, there are some unique and important differences that can make or break your interview if you are not prepared. By spending just an hour or two of your time, you can feel confident that you will present your best self in the interview and that you can use this format to your advantage.
First, prepare for the content of your online video interview in the same way you would prepare for a traditional in-person interview. Learn about the job position you want and learn about the company. A little online research goes a long way. Also, think about the traditional questions you can expect to answer, such as: Why do you want this job? Why do you want to work for this company? Why do you think you are a good fit for us? Where do you see yourself in 5 years and how does this position/company fit into your plan? Why are you leaving the position you are in now? What makes you unique from all the other applicants we have? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How does your personality type function best in the workplace? How do you like to be managed? How do you manage others? Do you prefer to work individually or in a group? In a workgroup, what role do you usually take? Are you someone who prefers a lot of structure and communication or do you prefer to manage your own work? Try to think of any questions this particular employer may have or any questions you may have about the company or the position.
It is important to think through these types of questions prior to interviewing so you can articulate who you are very well. If you are insightful and honest about who you are, you will have the best chance to find a position that will be a true fit for you, which is a win for both you and the employer. And on the flip side, if you are honest about who you are and you are not a fit (the position requires you to work in teams and you work best on your own, for example), you will save yourself the frustration and disappointment of ending up in a position that works against who you are and makes you miserable. This “lack of fit” will inevitably result in having to start your search again for a position that will fit you better. Understanding yourself and communicating clearly about who you are in the workplace will go a long way to ensure you find the right position for you.
Once you have prepared your responses to the questions above, it is time to turn your attention to preparing for the unique aspects of the online video interview. First, pay attention to the date, time, and time zone of the interview. Many interviews have been missed, which creates a significant negative impression because the date or time was misread or the time zone of the interview was not noted. You can assume the interview is communicated in the time zone of the employer unless otherwise noted, so pay close attention to that.
Second, find the place where you will set up your online interview. Often people will interview from home, so think about a place in your home that lends itself to a “workplace feel” for your background. This usually rules out your bedroom, the kitchen table, and so forth. Set up your laptop, or phone/tripod, or whatever you are using, and look at the background. It should appear clean, well organized, and free of clutter. Remove things that are distracting or that offer information about you that would not discuss in a traditional interview. What does what you see in the background communicate about who you are? Add items if it helps create a pleasant background. Maybe you want to put a plant in the background or you want to add a piece of furniture or decorative item into your “shot”. Rearrange things until it looks right to you.
Third, test out the lighting. Take some video of yourself in your newly designed background and then see how it looks. You may need to adjust lighting to create a better video impression. Experiment with opening and closing blinds, moving a portable lamp around and using overhead light to get the best effect. Also, think about the time of day for your interview and be sure to make sure the lighting you have created works well at that time. (For example, if you set up beautiful natural light from nearby windows but your interview is in the early morning or late evening, the light will be completely different.)
Position your camera at eye level to you if at all possible. You are trying to recreate the feeling of meeting in-person. There is a great deal of research about all the subtleties of things like “chair positioning” and “height of the seat” and how all of the tiny details impact the feelings of people in meeting situations, but for interview purposes, you want to interact with your interviewer on a direct eye contact level. (In addition, the camera angle of videoing “up” at your face or down on your face is not as visually pleasing or engaging as positioning your camera at eye level.) Also, it is customary to zoom in to show from about a few inches below your shoulders up to just a bit above your head. The more of you you include in the shot (full length for example), the farther away the interviewer feels, and the less connected they will also feel.
Practice looking into the camera lens of your device as you talk, rather than at the screen. If you look at the lens, you are making “eye contact” with the interviewer. If you look at the screen, you will appear to be looking down and the interviewer will not feel as engaged with you. This takes some practice, so do not skip this step. If the screen that contains your image is distracting you and your eyes are drawn to it, close it so all you see if the person who is interviewing you. That’s all you would see in-person, so that’s all you need to see. It is too distracting to try to watch yourself and the interviewer at the same time.
Choose what you will wear to the video interview as carefully as you would to a live interview. While “business casual” is usually appropriate, try on what you plan to wear and see how it looks on camera. Some prints do not translate well or are distracting. Some accessories don’t work well on camera. Some colors look better on you than others. Some colors will fit your background better than others. You are creating a complete picture here, which is an advantage you do not have in a traditional interview scenario.
If you are interviewing at home, think about noise and interferences that can be detrimental to your interview impression. It is probably best to be home alone at the time of your interview. Roommates, spouses, kids, and pets can all unintentionally derail an interview with background noise or interruptions. You may need to make arrangements for them to be elsewhere. Also, be sure no one will come home unexpectedly or unintentionally walk into your interview space. Again, this is a factor that is unique to this type of interview, and it can be easily managed, but it needs to be managed in advance.
You also need to be aware of how you present on video. Many people have never seen video of themselves having a conversation. Successful Podcasters, Vloggers, and YouTube-ers often say they had no idea how often they said “ummm, like, you know” or how often they fidgeted or touched their face or hair until they did their first few recordings. Invest the time to video record yourself answering some of the interview questions and notice how you appear. (If you can, ask a friend or family member to ask you some of the interview questions while you answer them “on the spot”.) This is your opportunity to see yourself as others will see you. You will learn a lot about yourself, you will learn which questions may need more preparation, and you will have the opportunity to make any other adjustments you need to make.
Last, but also crucial, test your internet connection and your ability to access the designated platform for the interview. You do not want to fumble at the last minute to find or download the app you need to use or to struggle with how to use it. Practice with it. Also, be sure you have consistent high-speed internet access to prevent the video interview “dropping” mid-interview or having to restart the connection. If you do not have a good connection at home, for example, you may need to find another place to set up your interview. You may need to borrow a friend’s office or home or rent a conference room somewhere. It goes without saying that your device should be fully charged for your interview. Running out of battery is as bad as the traditional blunder of “showing up late for the interview”. Similarly, turn off any apps, notifications, or features that could interrupt your video. All of these technical factors, if not managed well, can work against you and increase your stress level during the interview, which undermines your ability to be your best. Manage them in advance, and you will feel relaxed, confident, and ready to focus.
Now it’s the day of your interview. Try to be well-rested. Make sure you have eaten and are well hydrated. Set aside a few minutes before your interview to calm yourself and relax. Take some slow deep breaths and relax your body. Get yourself ready to listen and engage. Put everything else on hold and just be in the interview. And remember this, the interviewer wants you to be the right person for this job because then their search is over. They are hoping you will be “the one”. So approach the interview with the knowledge that both you and the interviewer want this interview to be a success and want this to be the right position for you. You have done all your preparation. You’ve set the stage for success. There is nothing more to do but relax and have your best online interview. We, at Careerfitter, are rooting for you!.
George Martin, Head of Customer Relations for Careerfitter.com
George has been with Careerfitter for over a decade providing unparalleled leadership in customer relations for over one million users each year. CareerFitter has the number one online career test to help you find a career that fits your work personality.