Video Interviewing 101: How To Impress In The Digital Age

You passed your phone screen with flying colors. Next up? The (often-dreaded) video interview.

A mainstay of the modern era, video technology is used by at least 60% of hiring teams. But while virtual interviews eliminate the need for time-consuming commutes, they also bring their own stressors—like spotty internet connection or unanticipated background noise. 

Wondering how to make a strong digital impression? Here are 12 practical, trusted tips for acing your next video interview. 

1. Inspect your (digital) self

Whether your interview is taking place on Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, or another video conferencing platform, it’s worth cleaning up your profile before the call. Does your Skype name date back to middle school? Consider making a new account rather than logging on as “raisinbran22.” While you’re at it, choose a professional photo for your account. It doesn’t have to be a headshot, but keep it classy. Finally, steer clear of video filters (and save yourself the embarrassment of morphing into a potato mid-call).

2. Dress the part

It may feel odd to dress up for a video call, but treat your virtual interview as you would an in-person one. There’s no set dress code since each company is different. For example, a startup interviewer might scratch their head if you wear a suit and tie, but dressing up would certainly be expected if you’re talking to a bank. Research the organization in question to get a sense of their corporate style and choose an appropriate video interview outfit. When in doubt, a button-down shirt is usually a safe bet for looking professional and polished. 

3. Check your tech

“You’re frozen!” 

Technical problems may not ruin your interview, but they can easily make for awkward situations. Be sure to take video calls somewhere with reliable internet, and test your connection well in advance. You can use a free online speed test to check your computer’s performance against the chosen platform’s recommended broadband speeds. For instance, Zoom recommends ​​600kbps for high-quality video calling, Skype recommends 500kbps, and Google Meet recommends 3.2mbps. If your internet speeds are too slow, consider logging on from a different location.

It’s also important to think about sound quality. 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 more reliable way to ensure better sound quality, so consider doing this even if you’ll be in a quiet room. If background noise is inevitable, whether from a whining puppy or nearby construction, try using a noise cancelling app like this one to preserve your peace of mind. 

​​Lastly, set up a short test call with a friend or family member to confirm that everything’s working as planned. Unexpected technical snafus can throw off your concentration and prevent you from bringing your A game—but this simple step helps stop them in their tracks.

4. Prepare for skills-based assessments

A popular component of the interview process, skills-based assessments help employers easily gauge your expertise from the start. To prepare, consider taking one of Hired’s many programming skills assessments. Beyond highlighting your abilities for prospective employers, doing so can also help you gain confidence and squash pre-interview nerves.

5. Set the scene

Unmade bed? Leaning tower of pizza boxes? Bookshelf teeming with beach reads? Video calls can give interviewers an unintended glance into your home life, so take some time to check your on-screen background and reorganize as needed.

Beyond that, you’ll also want to check your lighting before the interview. Poor lighting can make it difficult for interviewers to see you properly, posing a distraction from the conversation. If you’re relying on natural light, do a test during the same time of day as your interview to make sure the lighting you’ve envisioned lines up with where the sun actually is at that time.

Finally, think about what you might want to have handy during the interview. A glass of water, pen, and paper can all be helpful. Similarly, it may be nice to have a printout of your CV and any notes or questions you’d like to touch on in the interview. It’ll be obvious if you’re clicking around on your computer during the call, so print any documents you anticipate referencing.

6. Make a strong first impression

Remember: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Emotions can be difficult to read over video, so don’t hesitate to express energy and excitement during the call. For instance, a simple smile can go a long way in demonstrating that you’re enthusiastic about the opportunity at hand—and a nod here and there can show interviewers that you’re engaged throughout the conversation.

7. Stay focused

While in-person interviews require both parties to be actively engaged throughout the conversation, video leaves room for drifting focus by offering instant access to internet temptations. To avoid potential distractions, close any other windows and disable push notifications on your computer, then put your phone on silent mode and keep it out of sight 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. As with in-person interviews, it can be helpful to use hand gestures or other body language to keep the other person interested and emphasize points that might otherwise be lost. If you sense that your interviewer has turned 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.

8. Make “eye contact”

If you’ve ever seen recorded video call footage, 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) to give the interviewer the sense that you’re looking straight at them. 

In addition, be sure to expand your video to full-screen mode. 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.

9. Build rapport

It’s always important to build a relationship with your interviewer from the first interaction, regardless of platform or medium. Don’t skip over the niceties just because you’re speaking via video. Be sure to thank your interviewer for taking the time to chat, pay attention to everything they say, have some questions prepared, and let your personality shine through. You may wind up working with these people every day, so commit to authenticity throughout the entire interview process. 

10. Ask questions

Never forget that job searches are a two-way street. Too often, candidates concern themselves with wondering, “Why should this company hire me?” But the real question is, “Why should I work for this company?”

Take time to determine what you want from your next job (e.g. target compensation, remote work flexibility, a collaborative and inclusive company culture, proven professional development opportunities), then ask about each area during the interview. Not only will this help you stay grounded in your career goals—it’ll also make it easier to filter the best opportunities from the rest. 

11. Get a sense of next steps

Before letting your interviewer go, inquire about potential next steps. It can be helpful to know a rough timeline, whether future interviews will be in-person or over video, and who else on the team you might wind up meeting. 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 seeking clarity around timeline and potential future interactions.

12. Follow up

Never underestimate the power of politeness. According to one survey, 68% of employers say writing a short “thank you” note matters after a job interview. Take time to show your appreciation, personalizing each message with one or two lines about the opportunity in question. While a quick note may not turn a “no” into a “yes,” it’s a nice gesture that interviewers often expect and appreciate, whether or not they respond right away.

If you don’t hear anything within the timeframe your interviewer gave, don’t hesitate to send a polite follow-up email. Your interviewer probably has tons of other things going on—and a quick reminder might be the nudge they need to move things forward.

There’s no denying that remote work continues to rise. In early 2021, Fast Company boldly declared that “the office as we know it is over,” and a recent Gartner study showed that 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work after the COVID-19 crisis ends. 

The bottom line for job-seekers? Video interviews are here to stay, and strong online etiquette is a must in the modern era. By following the 12 tips above, you can log onto your next video call with confidence and impress companies across the globe—all from the comfort of your own home.

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