Everything You Need to Know About (Preparing) for Your Next Video Interview
So, you’ve made it past the initial phone screen for a new role—and they’re asked for the next step to be an (often dreaded) video interview. Interviewing can be stressful enough in the first place, not to mention the added uncertainty of how well your internet happens to work on the day, unanticipated background noise, and the risk that your body language looks weird over video, just to name a few. But fear not, as this guide will walk you through everything you need to know before your next video interview, leaving you ready to tackle what should be the bigger and more exciting challenge: meeting the team in person.
Examine your (digital) self
If your interview is over Skype, Google Hangouts, WhatApp video, or any of the other platforms that support video conferencing, clean up your profile before the call. If your Skype name is from middle school, for example, consider making a new account rather than sending a Skype request from ‘sportzgurl_123’. Perhaps even more importantly, choose a professional photo for your account. It doesn’t have to be a headshot, but keep it classy.
Dress the part
It can feel weird to dress up for a video call, particularly if it’s in the morning and you have yet to leave the house, but treat your video interview as you would an in-person one. There’s no hard and fast rule as to what you should wear, as it’ll depend on the company and role. If you’re interviewing with a startup, for example, it might be weird to wear a tie for your video (and in person!) interview, while this would certainly be expected if you’re talking to a bank. You’re likely the best judge of how the team would expect you to dress, so use your experience and common sense to decide on the best video interview outfit.
Check your tech
Technical problems won’t likely be the make-or-break of your interview, but can easily make for awkward and frustrating situations on both ends. Be sure to take the interview somewhere with reliable internet, and test your connection beforehand. You can use a free online speed test to check your broadband download and upload speeds, and then compare those to the video platform’s recommended speeds. Skype, for example, recommends 500kbps (both download and upload) for high-quality video calling. If your internet speeds are too slow, consider looking for a different location to take the interview.
It’s also important to think about sound quality and the best option for your call. If you’re sure your surroundings will be quiet, go ahead and use your computer’s built-in microphone, but keep headphones nearby just in case. In general, wearing earbuds with a microphone is a pretty reliable way to ensure better sound quality, so consider doing so even if you’ll be in a quiet room.
Lastly, set up a short test call with a friend or family member to double check that everything’s working as planned. The last thing you want is an unexpected technical snafu to throw off your concentration.
Set the scene
Video calls can give your interviewer an unintended glance into your home life (unmade bed? Bookshelf full of beach reads?) if you’re not careful, so take some time to check your on-screen background and reorganize as necessary.
Additionally, poor lighting can make it difficult to properly see you, so check your lighting beforehand as well. If you’re relying on natural light, do a test at the same time of day before your actual interview to make sure the lighting you’ve envisioned lines up with where the sun is at that time.
In addition to what your interviewer can see, think about what you might want to have handy during the interview. A glass of water and/or a pen and paper for notes can be helpful, as well as a printout of your CV and any notes or questions you’d like to touch upon in the interview. It’ll be obvious if you’re clicking around on your computer during the call, so print any documents you think you might reference.
During the interview
Remember that first impressions still count
Just because you’re speaking virtually doesn’t mean that you can be lax about first impressions (which makes a seamless connection—including video and audio—all the more important). While you obviously won’t be able to shake hands, be sure you’re ready when you receive (or place) the call, and introduce yourself as you would in-person.
One main difference between in-person and video interviews is that the former pretty much requires both parties to be actively engaged throughout the conversation, while video leaves room for drifting focus to emails or other temptations on the internet—not least because you’re both already on your computers in order to conduct the interview. To avoid potential distractions, close any other windows and turn off push notifications on your computer, as well as turning your phone to silent mode or simply keeping it out of reach and view for the duration of your call.
The more difficult part of this puzzle is ensuring your interviewer remains engaged, which you have less control over. In addition to what you’d do in person, it can be helpful during video interviews to use hand gestures or other body language to keep the other person interested, and to add emphasis to points that might otherwise be lost. If you sense that you’re losing them to emails or other distractions, don’t shy away from asking if they’d like a moment before continuing—you deserve their full attention just as much as they deserve yours.
Make “eye contact”
If you’ve ever seen footage of yourself on screen, you’ll know that tiny things—like whether you’re looking straight into or just above the camera—can make a huge difference in how natural you appear. During your interview, look directly into the camera while you’re talking (rather than looking at the screen), as this will give the interviewer the sense that you’re looking directly at them. When the roles switch and you’re not speaking, feel free to watch your interviewer on the screen, as this is your chance to evaluate their body language and disposition.
In addition, be sure to expand your video to full-screen. If you keep it as a tiny box in the bottom corner, you’ll have to keep looking back and forth between there and the camera, which can be distracting to your interviewer—and darting eye movements can even make you appear uneasy.
While this may be more difficult over video, don’t write off the importance of starting to build a relationship with your interviewer from the first interaction—regardless of which medium or platform it occurs on. Don’t skip over the niceties just because you’re speaking via video; remember to thank your interviewer for taking the time, have some questions prepared, and really listen to the questions being asked—and don’t be afraid to let your personality to shine through.
Get a sense of next steps
Before letting your interviewer ring off, ask for a general sense of next steps should both parties decide to go ahead with the process. It can be helpful to know if your next interview might be another video call or in-person, as well as understand who else on the team you might be asked to talk to. Ask the question tactfully, as you don’t want your interviewer to feel pressured into giving you a decision on the spot—but don’t feel bashful about asking for clarity on timeline and potential future interactions.
As with any interview, it doesn’t hurt to send a thank you note after you finish—and try to do so in a timely manner. While a quick note won’t likely turn a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ (or vice versa), it’s a nice gesture that interviewers often expect and appreciate, whether or not they respond to you right away.
If you don’t hear anything within the timeframe your interviewer gave, it’s always worth sending a polite follow-up email. It can be difficult not to feel that you’re pestering, but keep in mind that your interviewer inevitably has tons of other things going on, so a quick reminder might be the nudge they need to move things forward.