With the advances in video technology and the related time and cost saving benefits for both employers and candidates, video interviews are becoming a permanent aspect of most organisations’ recruitment strategy. Whether the notion of a video interview strikes fear into your heart, or whether you embrace the convenience factor of interviewing from your own home, it is important to recognise not only the essential similarities and differences with a live interview, but also five crucial things to avoid:
Choosing a noisy or public location
In many ways the prevalence of video interviews since COVID has made the process fundamentally more honest, and meeting candidates from home online has provided an enhanced insight into the individual for the interviewer. Despite this, there are elements of your domestic setting that should never be shared with the interviewer, so choose a location where you can escape unwanted distractions and background noise such as children, pets, music, television, and the doorbell. Don’t forget to make your family or flatmates aware of your need for privacy at the allocated time and silence or turn off your mobile phone to remove the temptation to glance at incoming notifications, as this is a sure-fire way to exude disinterest!
Select a quiet, closed environment with a light, neutral background that is free from distracting ornaments which could give a negative or biased impression. It goes without saying that interviewing from a shared space such as a café, train or shopping centre is an absolute no-no! Ensure that you are facing the light, or you will appear silhouetted onscreen, and make use of additional (flattering) underlighting, if necessary.
Do not allow interviewing from home to lull you into the false sense of the video interview being any less formal than its live counterpart. Get into the right frame of mind by dressing professionally and bear in mind how your outfit may be perceived onscreen. This means wearing smart business attire on the bottom as well as the top half of your body – if you stand up during the interview and are seen to be wearing pyjama bottoms, it will be hard for the interviewer to take you seriously. Remove any obvious face piercings or oversized jewellery and avoid very bright or patterned colours that may dazzle your interviewer, or sombre, monochrome ones that cause you to meld into the background.
Leaving the technology to chance
While designated software for video interviews is designed to be user-friendly, if unfamiliar to you then you should test its functionality in advance so that logging in for the interview is effortless, and stress-free. Other technical problems which may cause personal anxiety, irk your interviewer, and reduce the overall likelihood of success include poor visual and audio quality, inconsistent internet signal and jaunty camera angles. To test the reliability of your camera and speaker, make a practise call to a friend or family member several days before the interview and if either are found to be faulty then consider purchasing an external microphone or camera. Don’t forget to check the framing of your camera to avoid appearing too close or distant from the screen and make sure on the day that your lap top battery is fully charged. Internet signal strength can be tested online and, if found to be inconsistent, stabilised with the use of an ethernet cable and/or adapter. If you find on the day that there is a delay in transmission during the interview, then a good tip is to pause clearly when you have finished speaking and therefore avoid awkward interruptions and talking over the interviewer.
Failing to prepare
Like any interview, the key factor to appearing professional and competent lies in the preparation. Your energy should be focused on mapping out answers to the type of questions that you are likely to encounter, as indicated by the ‘Essential Criteria’ of the job description, as well as learning as much as possible about the company, its products, services, and ethos by viewing its website and related online articles. Research who you will be meeting with and what the format will be, whether competency, strength, value-based or blended. Consider using spider diagram formats such as Mind maps to structure and develop your examples and avoid writing them out long-hand and learning by rote, as having the flexibility to answer the question at hand is crucial. Finally, do not forget to practise out loud with a friend or in the mirror, as this will help develop a clear, confident, and fluent delivery. Remain composed and fight the temptation to get answers over with by rushing them. Smile, pace yourself and try and let the ‘real you’ come across – portraying a perfect façade may appear disingenuous to the interviewer, who will want to meet the actual person that are to work with.
Failing to engage with the interviewer
The unnatural feeling of being onscreen combined with interview nerves can make it harder to relate to your interviewer than it would be in person, and conversely it can also be more difficult for them to perceive your enthusiasm and body language. So, remember to sit straight, look alert and, without exaggerating, make a mental note to smile throughout the conversation and vary the tone of your voice to avoid sounding robotic or monotone. Knowing the location of the camera and making direct eye contact with it also helps to relay the impression that you are both assertive and interested. A way to ensure eye contact with the camera is to move the video display window as close as possible to the top of the screen. To better concentrate you may also want to hide your self-view and therein remove the temptation to adjust your hair or glasses. Try to minimise nervous or fidgety movements such as touching your face and expressive hand gestures, as these can appear magnified especially if you are being projected onto a boardroom screen! Holding a pen or stress reliever in your lap under the table may help you to otherwise occupy those hands.
Other video interview tips
- Have an appropriate Zoom or Skype username, jokey or inappropriate handles can appear unprofessional and off-putting.
- Make sure that you are logged in a few minutes early for your interview, so that you have the time to combat any technical glitches or feelings of being flustered.
- If necessary, you can subtly refer to brief, bulleted notes but do not rely on these; you should have completed adequate preparation beforehand and constantly pausing to look down will leave the impression that you are unprepared or diffident. You can also write brief notes during the conversation to both register your interest and assist you in preparing for any subsequent interviews.
- Have a glass of water to hand to relieve dry mouth; pausing to take a sip also allows valuable extra seconds of thinking time!
In summary, treat your video interview seriously and act as professionally as you would in any other interview, this is your opportunity to shine!