Whether you’ve exhausted your local job market and are taking your search abroad, or you are planning a big move across the country, chances are you will find yourself engaging in a video interview at some point. Aside from the obvious benefits of circumvented cost and anxiety associated with travel, you also get the comfort of home field advantage. But don’t be fooled into the “open-book test” phenomenon of thinking it will be easier than the traditional style.
Just like their in-person counterparts, video interviews require some careful preparation and a tech-savvy approach. If you're given the opportunity to interview via Skype or any other video chat program, take care to follow these four tips to secure the position from afar.
Become comfortable with the technology beforehand
As ingrained as technology has become in our working world, it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with the video conferencing service before the day of the interview. If you are familiar with Skype, but the interview is on Zoom, be sure to install the requisite programs and troubleshoot any issues well ahead of time. Being “late” to a scheduled video interview due to a technical glitch is the old-school equivalent of getting lost on your way because you failed to get or follow directions. If it could have been resolved beforehand and avoided altogether, it is nobody’s fault but your own and will be viewed negatively by prospective employers.
If you take the time to become acquainted with the technology first, you will come across more confident, prepared, and polished. Failing to do so will leave you more vulnerable to “operator-error” which employers may perceive as a tech weakness. Whether or not that is actually the case, perception trumps reality.
Pro tip: Seek out a computer-savvy friend and ask them for advice or assistance. Take it a step further and schedule a test run with them.
Be aware of your surroundings
When interviewing on-site, surroundings are dictated by the hiring entity. In video conferencing, you have control over your environment. Though this can be a huge advantage, it's also easy to make a mistake if you don't approach it mindfully.
Before joining the interview, make sure to do a “background check”. Examine your surroundings. Make sure the room you are in is clean, organized, and neutral, just as you would a workspace. Also be sure to “disconnect” from your other devices. Turn off your cell phone or set your home or office phone to “Do Not Disturb” to avoid an unexpected ringing. This rule applies to your beloved pets and housemates as well. Be sure to schedule your interview at a time, and in a place, that is not fraught with distraction. And if you can't have the house to yourself, set ground rules for the duration of the interview that will prevent interruptions.
What happens if you fail to take this step? Employers may see it as a free preview of someone who is unorganized. Constant distractions send a message that the interviewer’s time is undervalued. Again, perception is key. And worse, distractions will detract from your interview performance and hurt your chances at presenting yourself as the best candidate for the job.
Pro tip: Turn on your webcam and take a look at your backdrop prior to the interview. This will allow you to see what the interviewer sees, and make adjustments accordingly.
Avoid allowing yourself to be too comfortable. Just because you are interviewing from the comfort of your office or your own home doesn't mean you should lean back and relax. Go through the routine to prepare yourself just as you would for an in-person audience. People meeting from home have the tendency to put less effort into appearance. A well-groomed presentation is just as important in this situation as it is in person. This goes for professional language as well. Dressing down your language gives the impression that you are not taking the interview seriously.
Allowing yourself to take a shortcut on professional dress in a video interview will likely put you at a disadvantage when compared to other applicants who may have applied on-site. Dressing and speaking professionally keeps you at a level playing field.
Pro tip: Present professional posture as well. Be mindful of your camera location, and make sure it is stationary and at a comfortable distance for the interviewer.
Avoid the temptation to have everything at your fingertips
I recently served on a search committee which offered a video interview to a very qualified candidate. The applicant was very thorough and detailed – almost to a fault. In fact, when asked questions in which data could be found, she paused while she looked up the answer on her second monitor. Resist the urge to be complete to a fault. Interviews are also designed to assess your skill in quick decision making and how well you respond on your feet. At times, consulting data or superiors is obviously called for, and even beneficial. However, doing so on every interview question may send a message that you are unable to make snap decisions on your own.
Pro tip: Rather than using dual monitors or other devices to look up specifics on the last project you spearheaded, maintain eye contact with the interviewer and answer the question with confidence, to the best of your ability, and with a strong explanation for your reasoning.