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How to Prepare for Your Video Interview

There is no question that video calls have become imperative in both our work and personal lives over the past year. It’s been a learning curve, but most people have adapted. However, interviewing for a job via video is different than chatting with your coworkers or family. In this post, we’ll explore the nuances of video interviewing and how to prepare for a successful virtual conversation with potential employers.

Before the Interview

Some aspects of interviewing don’t change in the virtual space. You still need to dress appropriately and be prepared to answer questions related to the job opening. But there are technical considerations and other details that deserve your attention.

Lights, camera, action! Okay, maybe it’s not a major film production but a lot of the same things go into preparing for a video interview. Go through this checklist before your next video interview.

  • Camera. Adjust your camera so that it’s at eye level. It’s important to look directly at whomever is speaking. It also helps you to sit up straight, which presents better and exudes confidence (you may not even realize that you’re crouching down because the computer is at the wrong angle). Also, if you use two monitors in your daily work, be sure to look at the one with the camera.
  • Sound check. Whether you will use a headset or earbuds, or the computer’s microphone, test your sound ahead of time. 
  • Meeting software. Companies use various video call platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams or Skype. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the software that will be used in the interview. Understand the different functions like muting, chat, screen share, volume, etc. Get to know the menus. 
  • The “set.” Give some thought to where in your home is the best place for the call. Be conscious of what will be in the background. Make sure it is neat and not distracting. If you can, create a plain virtual background in the meeting software. You also want good lighting and a quiet environment (no pets, children or people walking by). Try to set up in a separate room that has a door. All of this will help you be comfortable and focused.
  • Dress. Yes, it’s video but you still need to dress the part, as if you were going to an in-person interview. The joke is, “only from the waist up” but to put yourself in the right frame of mind, go the whole nine yards – clothing, hair, etc. Dressing the part makes you feel the part.
  • Props. Have everything you need at hand to support a good interview. Certainly, your resume or CV, a notepad and pen, and the job description. Highlight items on your resume that you want to mention specifically. If you know ahead of time who will be at the interview, do some research on their backgrounds. And a glass of water might be helpful too.
  • Electronic “noise.” Turn off anything that might distract you during the call. This means sound and banner notifications for email, phone calls and text messages. In fact, if you can, put your smart phone in another room.

It’s a good idea to set up at least 15 minutes before the call. Consider doing a dry run with your recruiter to be sure everything is working. 

During the Interview

When you meet someone in-person, you can feel their energy and see their engagement. Whereas, over video chat, it’s much harder to read. When you’re interviewing from your desk, at home, it’s just not the same as sitting in a conference room. Missing is that heightened awareness that you would feel in a face-to-face interview. 

So, it’s up to candidates to really make sure that they can articulate and illustrate their key qualities over a video call. For example, in sales, it’s crucial to demonstrate enthusiasm, communicate clearly and show drive and determination. 

Eye contact. This can have different meanings depending on the culture, but in Western culture eye contact is considered very important during an interview. People use it to gauge interest and overall engagement. But how do you do this over video? One way is to be sure you are looking into the camera. In some video software, you can choose to view all participants at once (“gallery”) or only whomever is speaking (“speaker”). With the latter, it’s easier to make eye contact with a specific person, as opposed to looking at several people at once.

Non-verbal communication. Much like being onstage, you need to ramp up non-verbal behaviors on a video call. You might need to use your hands more than you would typically if you were sitting in front of someone, or smile and nod more. The goal is to show engagement and interest, that you actually care about what the other person is saying. 

To accomplish this might mean going a little out of your comfort zone. If you’re an introvert, let’s say, this may not come naturally. So, jot down a few words to remind yourself during the interview, like “eye contact with speaker,” “sit up straight,” “smile,” etc. Just a glance can prompt you to stay on track.

Take notes. Note taking is key because it shows that you’re interested and engaged. It shows that you want to learn about these people you’re speaking with. I’ve had candidates ask me, “Oh, but it doesn’t look like I don’t know what I’m doing if I’m making notes?” On the contrary, it looks like you’re paying attention and trying to understand more about what they do.

Supporting documentation. One of the unique aspects of video calls is the ability to share documents with other call participants in real time. You could screen share your resume or CV during the call, for example, enabling you to speak directly to certain experience. If you want to do this, before the call, close all windows on your computer except the video software and your resume/CV. That way if you do decide to share your screen, it will be a smooth transition, not clicking through every open window.

Go with the flow. Even with all this preparation, stuff happens. That’s okay. It’s how you handle it. So, your cat decides to jump up on your desk and take a stroll across the keyboard. During this past year, we’ve all been there. Read the situation and make the best of it, getting back to the conversation as quickly as possible. Think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate your emotional intelligence and how you handle the unexpected.

The pandemic has dramatically changed how we communicate in the workplace. Some of these changes may fade away as we’re able to do more in person. Interviewing via video is here to stay, though. It saves everyone time and money. Make yourself stand apart by preparing for this unique environment.

Photo credit: fizkes for 123rf

by Terri-Anne Gray, Senior Recruitment Team Lead, Planet Pharma