How to prepare for video interviews
While there are many aspects of interviews that are the same regardless of whether they are face-to-face or remote, there are a few factors that are unique to video calls. As with all interviews, preparation is important. You may not have the stress of travelling but there are still some key things to do well in advance of logging on.
Trial, error and practice
A practice call with a trusted friend or career coach can be really helpful to get honest feedback on how you come across on screen. This enables you to experiment with different options for lighting, position and location as well as practicing your pre-prepared answers.
Give some serious consideration to where you are going to sit. It needs to be a quiet space with few distractions, so avoid coffee shops, communal spaces and windows near noisy streets. Walking and talking on your mobile phone whilst in the park is not a good idea. This gives completely the wrong impression to the interviewer and the quality of sound will be affected by the slightest breeze.
If you share your living space with other people, have a chat to them about being out at that time or not entering the room and put a notice on your door. Shut out pets and, if you have a dog, ask a friend to take them for a walk. Similarly, have young children looked after for the duration of the interview.
Ideally, sit with a neutral-coloured wall behind you and take down any pictures. Whilst you may want to try to impress with a room which looks straight from a magazine or your great taste in art, it is a distraction. Your interviewer’s eye will automatically be drawn to the scene behind you, making it impossible for them to fully concentrate on you. If you feel your space needs enhancing, consider a plant or a vase of flowers in the background instead. After an initial glance, the interviewer is not likely to pay much attention to it. Also, try to avoid mirrors and highly reflective surfaces.
Some video packages give you the option of blurring or custom backgrounds. If you are going to use one, remember to keep it neutral and not too busy. Be mindful of the fact that you disappear into the background if you move around too much. Remember you are logging on to the interviewer’s system and settings, so you may not be able to have a virtual background. In case there are any technical glitches, ensure the real background is suitable.
Ideally, you need to be positioned in the centre of screen, with head and shoulders comfortably in view. Even online, people can feel their personal space is being invaded if all they see is your face and nose up against the screen. Ensure the camera is at your eye level or slightly above – but not so high that everyone can see up your nostrils! You can securely rest your device on a pile of books if needed. Remember to keep looking into the camera rather than at the picture of the person you are speaking to.
The best position for lighting is from behind your camera, although just one bright spotlight can cast shadows on the wall behind you. During your practice call experiment with different light options, including shutting curtains and blinds. I find switching on all the lights around me plus one main LED light behind the camera works well. Specialist lights, in varying sizes, for video calls are widely available at reasonable prices.
Have a good connection
Ideally use a laptop or PC. Even if you normally have a good WiFi connection, consider getting hold of an ethernet cable. These are widely available to buy in many different lengths and connect your computer directly to the broadband router giving you a good, reliable connection.
Test how you sound in the space you have chosen – listen out for an echo and check the microphone is picking you up clearly. Consider using a headset with microphone. This will help stop you getting distracted, and the interviewer can hear you more clearly, even if you talk quietly. Remember to ensure your headset and other tech gadgets are fully charged or plugged in before the interview starts.
A huge advantage of a video interview is the opportunity to use notes, but this needs to be done carefully. Avoid reading prepared text or having your notes on the desk below your eyeline. This will make you glance down too much, breaking ‘eye contact’ and alerting the interviewer to the fact you are using notes.
Instead, use sticky notes placed to the side of the camera or down the side of your computer, with trigger words to prompt your memory. For example, if you have a question on meeting tight deadlines, your preparation will have highlighted Project Y as your best example. Your sticky note would therefore read: Deadlines : Project Y or you could have your 3 key strengths listed organisation, negotiation, leadership. If your memory fails you during the interview, you can quickly glance sideways to your prompt, which will trigger your brain to answer the question as per your preparation.
And last but not least…
If you fiddle, find something soft and quiet to keep your hands busy out of camera shot. The constant clicking of a pen can be really annoying after a few minutes.
Dress from top to toe as you would for a face-to-face interview. Psychologically, this puts you in the right frame of mind and avoids any embarrassment if you need to stand up.
This article is written by Michelle Hiseman, Career Counsellor at CV Writers.
CV Writers are the official CV partner to ACCA Careers.