Tips for Nailing Video Interviews

Nobody quite knows how our “new normal” is going to shake out in a post-pandemic world. One can only suspect it’s going to take awhile for folks to be comfortable in crowds, but people will shuffle back into their favorite restaurants sitting at a careful distance from others, they’ll patronize their local businesses again, and they’ll look for work. But what will the post-pandemic job search be like?

Networking events and one-on-one meetings will take back-burner status for a while, but during the pandemic you may have kept in touch with key contacts in your network online. (Hint: if you haven’t, it’s not too late. Send a quick note asking how they’re doing.) The interview process itself will change, as well. Video interviews aren’t anything new. But they’ll likely become more important, perhaps even eclipsing in-person interviews altogether.

How sharp is your video interview game? If you’re not sure, now is the time to polish it to perfection. Here are a few tips:

Choose an appropriate background. Your interviewer isn’t just seeing you. He or she is also seeing what’s behind you. Yesterday’s laundry waiting to be folded, a messy room, or other distractions won’t do you any favors. Try several spots until you get a compelling, neutral background. Another tip: face a window, don’t have it as your backdrop. The light will wash you out.

Practice with the technology. Whether you’re using Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, or another video chat platform, your important job interview should not be your first time using it. Get with a friend and make sure you know the ins and outs of the application.

Make sure your devices are charged and your internet is working. Do this an hour prior to your interview so you can course correct if necessary.

Look into the camera or close by. When you are meeting in person, you want to look at the person you are meeting with and make a fair amount of eye contact. But, when video interviewing, looking at the person and making eye contact are two different things. The best way to address this is to arrange the video display as a small box as close to your monitor’s camera lens as possible – typically the top middle of your display. This makes it easier and more natural to oscillate between looking at the person and looking into the camera.

If you are using mobile technology, this is less of a challenge, but you still want to try to arrange the interviewer’s image to be near the camera, and to be sure to glance directly into the camera’s lens with some frequency.

Hone your video storytelling skills. You’ll need to talk about yourself through compelling stories. The better you are at doing this, the more memorable you’ll be. GetFive executive job coach Tom Rice’s advice? Practice on your smartphone. It’s a devilishly simple trick to practice and hone your storytelling skills.

Rice asks his clients to use their smartphones to record themselves answering questions as though they were in a job interview. People have very little idea of how they come across to others, he says, and seeing it in the palm of your hand is a powerful way to hone the impression you’re making. The first step is to come up with a list of possible interview questions (think outside the box here) and craft a story for each answer. Practice those answers over and over and over so you don’t even have to think about them. They need to roll off your tongue.

The next step is to grab your phone and record yourself answering those questions. When you’re finished, view the recording in three ways.

  • Audio off. Just look at the visuals of how you’re coming across. What is your body language? How is your posture? Is your head bobbing around while you talk? Are you twitching? Doing weird things with your hands? Does your facial expression look like you’re at a funeral or are you smiling?
  • Audio only. Listen to your voice, your inflections, the speed at which you’re talking. Does your voice sound monotone? Are you stammering? Using “um” or “like” too much? Are you stumbling over words or does your answer sound concise, to the point, and convincing?
  • Audio and video. Look at the whole package of sight and sound.

“You’ll be horrified,” Rice laughs. But that’s OK. Because it’s only you seeing it, not your prospective employer. Now you’ve got a baseline and can see where you need to improve. “Do it 25 times if you have to, to get it right,” he says.

Using these tips, you’ll sail through your video interview like a pro.


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