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How To Ace Your Video Interview

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

April 16, 2020

The Coronavirus pandemic has led to a massive increase in the number of companies hiring remote workers, due to social distancing measures that prevent large workforces from being in the same room.

As a result of this, employers have discovered the benefits of flexible working, such as the ability to downsize physical premises and save on overhead costs, while many employees have relished the more relaxed conditions of working from home and the zero-minute commute at the end of the day.

Once COVID-19 is fully under control, it's likely that a large number of businesses will continue to capitalise on the cost savings and improved job satisfaction that come from employing more remote workers.

In turn, more of the recruitment process itself is now taking place remotely. During the peak of the pandemic, an increasing number of people were hired without an in-person interview at all, and again hiring managers are starting to recognise that it is entirely possible to continue this practice once the pandemic ends.

What is a video interview?

A video interview is not pre-recorded, but is a live video conference between the applicant and the interviewer (or interviewers, if there are more than one). You might find it easier to think of it as a webcam interview.

Video interviews use the kind of technology many of us are familiar with from lockdown. If you never used video conferencing software before COVID-19, it's likely you had at least one live video call with friends via Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom over the course of the pandemic.

In principle, there is no difference between a video interview and an in-person interview, except that a video interview takes place remotely. In practice however, the nature of the call can have an impact on how the interview proceeds - we'll look in more detail at this below.

You might not feel confident about appearing on camera, especially if video calls and video conferencing are not things you have done often in the past. This can be problematic even if you have plenty of experience of in-person interviews, and later in this guide we will look at some sensible preparation and video interview tips to help you find your confidence.

Related: 10 Types of Interviews & How to Succeed in Them

What makes a video interview different from in-person?

The differences in a video interview are not only about your own personal experience. As well as your conduct in the interview, there are certain extra responsibilities that you wouldn't normally face.

For example, you need to set up your camera and microphone, adjust your lighting and volume levels, and familiarise yourself with the software you will use for the call. Depending on the interview, you might also need to know how to share your screen or share a document.

This leads to three distinct types of differences between video interviews and in-person interviews. It's not an exhaustive list, but it's a useful starting point when preparing:

  • Personal: How you feel and behave differently on camera than face-to-face.
  • Practical: Sharing documents (e.g. your CV) on-screen instead of on paper.
  • Procedural: Taking responsibility for your own technology and connecting on time.

You can see that some of these elements are equivalent to real-world issues for face-to-face interviews, such as making sure you arrive on time, but the demand on you is different as rather than being in a physical location, you need to have your camera equipment set up and ready to go.

How can I prepare for a video interview?

A lot of video interview preparation is about getting your hardware and software set up and checking you know how to use it - we'll look in more detail at this below. In this sense, there are some very practical steps you can take to prepare:

  • Test your camera and microphone and install the correct conferencing software.
  • Find out how it looks and sounds from the other end of the call.
  • Prepare any supporting materials (e.g. digital documents to share, written notes).

One thing worth noting is that unless your camera moves accidentally, you have good control over what the interviewer can see at your end - so make use of the areas that are out of sight.

You could set up a whiteboard behind your camera, for example, as a handy place to write a few prompts for yourself that should be in your eyeline throughout the interview, without being visible on camera.

If your desk or table is not in view, written notes on paper are an easy alternative. It's usually acceptable to take written notes into an in-person interview anyway, but a video interview means you can have a lot more pieces of paper out of view. Just try to avoid rustling too much, too close to the microphone.

What should you not do in a video interview?

It goes without saying that there are many, many things you shouldn't do in a video interview, most of which are very obvious. As far as possible, apply in-person interview etiquette for the duration of your call.

There are some unique challenges to video interviews, due to the distance between you and the interviewer, as well as the technology involved. Here are three of the main things you shouldn't do in a video interview, if you can avoid them.

Related: 11 Things to Never Say in an Interview

Don't fail to connect

'Connecting' means more than just successfully starting a call. Communicating over a long distance, via a computer screen, is a new challenge for many people.

Try to keep your camera and screen in the same direction, so you don't have to look away from your camera to see your screen. With a built-in laptop webcam this should be easy, but if you have an external camera, consider clipping it to the top of your screen.

Lag can sometimes cause the video stream to come out of sync. If this happens, wait an extra second or two before answering questions, to make sure the interviewer has stopped speaking.

Don't dress down

There's a running gag that newsreaders don't wear trousers under their desk and in recent times, this has evolved into a temptation for video interviewees to wear pyjama pants at the bottom, with a shirt and tie up top.

Putting it simply, it's not worth the risk. If your camera falls or there's a disturbance outside that you have to get up to deal with, a pair of stripey pyjama bottoms does not send a good message to the interviewer.

Even if they never get to see what you're wearing below the waist, formal business clothes can help put you in the correct mindset for an interview, so dress the part from head to toe (shiny shoes optional for indoor interviews).

Don't forget to disconnect

A small but often overlooked technical point is how to end the call. Make sure you know in advance what video conferencing software the interview will take place in, and learn how to end a call.

This includes how to leave an active call without ending it, and you might also want to familiarise yourself with how to turn off your camera and/or microphone temporarily, if something unexpected happens inside or outside.

It's much easier to explain to the interviewer that you needed to step away for a moment to deal with a situation, than it is to recover from them seeing or hearing something bizarre with their own eyes.

Video interview tips

It's good to have a video interview checklist to cover all the essentials before, during and after your interview. Here's our top video interview tips to help you write your checklist.

Before the interview

You need a makeshift home studio where your video interview can take place uninterrupted, so give some thought to where you want to be situated.

A plain, light-coloured background is best, but a formal backdrop such as well organised bookshelves is the next best thing. Remember you should be lit from the front, so your face is not in shadow, so a very bright background (e.g. a sunny window) should be avoided if possible.

If your home is a busy one, make arrangements so that you are not disturbed during your call. You could put a simple lock or bolt on your door, to be absolutely sure, along with a hotel-style 'do not disturb' notice.

Set up your webcam and microphone or, if it's built into your laptop, make sure you're familiar with the best angle to get everything in frame without having to fiddle with your zoom settings once the call begins.

A trial run is a great way to check how things look from the other end of the call. If you have another computer, a tablet or a compatible smartphone in the house, you could set up a video call with yourself and take a look that way.

Alternatively, ask a friend to hold a troubleshooting video call with you and send you some screenshots, so you can see how you'll look to the interviewer.

Remember that a video interview is every bit as important as an in-person interview, so don't let your standards slip just because you're joining the call via webcam from your bedroom or kitchen table.

Related: How to Prepare for a Job Interview

During the interview

Once the interview is underway, don't forget to apply the skills you have learned from in-person interviews in the past. Many of the same rules apply, especially in terms of body language and engaging with the interviewer.

Some key things to remember and apply during your video interview:

  • Make eye contact - look at your camera lens for authentic eye contact, not just at your screen.
  • Smile - despite the physical distance, a warm and friendly attitude can still build rapport.
  • Pause for breath - speaking slowly and clearly (within reason) will help you to be understood if your microphone is not great.

The rapid rise in video interviews during COVID-19 means many candidates and interviewers alike are relatively new to this approach, even if you are familiar with the technology and software involved.

Be patient with the interviewer during any technical difficulties, be proactive about offering an alternative if necessary (e.g. a telephone call) but equally, try to avoid making any obvious basic errors on your end of the video call.

Related: 7 Interview Questions to Ask Your Future Employer Post-COVID-19

After the interview

First and foremost, before you say or do anything else, end the call. In most cases this will mean leaving the active call, as the interviewer may need to dial in a colleague or the next candidate. In some cases it might mean ending the call completely, depending on the software you are using.

Make absolutely certain that your webcam is no longer broadcasting, your microphone is no longer active and the call has ended. Close the video conferencing application to be doubly sure.

You've made it this far - don't get caught breathing a huge audible sigh of relief on a microphone that's still switched on!

Next steps

After the interview is over and the call ended, if there's anything you want to remember or follow up on, make some written notes. You can email them to yourself if you don't want to use paper.

If you have no more formal engagements for the day, change into some comfy clothes and relax. Interviews are stressful but when you're already at home, the relaxation can start immediately.

Follow up as you would with any normal interview. You could email the interviewer immediately to thank them for their time, or wait until the following Monday to send a message and politely ask if there is a decision or any feedback yet.

Don't expect an instant decision - these things still take time, even when the interview happens online - so try to leave a reasonable interval between chasing for a response.

Last but not least, don't despair if you get rejected. Online interviews mean it's possible for interviewers to see many more candidates, including those from further afield, so hold your nerve and make your performance the best it can be, until you land the job you want.

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