6 Tips for a Successful Video Interview

Posted July 30, 2012

Many companies, especially those with a global presence, interview job candidates via Skype because video can provide a deeper impression of a person than a phone call while eliminating the time and travel costs of on-site interviewing.

If you’re asked to participate in a video interview, make the most of your opportunity by following these recommendations:

1.  Watch what you wear.

“One thing candidates should be aware of is the 15 pounds that video formats automatically add -- of course, if your competitors are all having Skype interviews, everyone will be penalized equally in terms of video weight gain,” says Vicky Oliver, author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions and The Millionaire's Handbook.

“However,” she says, “it’s a bad idea to try to compensate for the weight by wearing black. Black is the worst color to wear on video as it creates shadows across the face and can be quite aging! Generally, light blue is a good color to wear if it looks good on you. Stay away from fussy prints as they can distort on video.”

Dress professionally, as you would for any interview. Make sure to be appropriate from head to toe. If for any reason you need to stand, you do not want to be seen without shoes.

2.  Safeguard against distractions.

Find a place that is away from any visual or audio disruptions. A blank background ensures you are capturing the interviewer’s attention, not your posters or that pile of dirty dishes in the sink.

Christine Bolzan, founder of Graduate Career Coaching -- a custom-counseling service for college students and new graduates, recommends being sure you will not be interrupted in any way whatsoever:  no barking dogs, cat jumping on the bed, doorbell/cell phone/landline ringing, roommate passing through the background in his underwear.

“I have seen all of these things happen!” she says. “There is nothing that will distract and dismay the hiring manager more than behind-the-scenes chaos.”

3. Speak slowly and clearly.

“Video job interviews are the next best thing to being there, but there is still a measurable time delay during calls,” notes Rob Byron, principal consultant in the New England Information Technology Permanent Division at Winter, Wyman -- one of the largest staffing firms in the Northeast. “Be sure to speak slowly, even waiting a few beats after you finish a sentence. Otherwise, you and the interviewer could be constantly talking over each other. Awkward!”

4.  Have materials ready.

Just as you would for a face-to-face interview, prepare notes and questions to ask. Keep pertinent papers nearby to avoid having to move around or shuffle through a stack. Bolzan recommends

having on hand a copy of your résumé, cover letter and the job description with keywords highlighted. Consider taping material on the wall behind your computer so that you do not need to rustle with papers or look down.

5.  Practice!

Above everything, experts recommend working out the kinks of a video interview before the actual call. “There is an awkwardness of seeing yourself on video,” Oliver says. “Try to practice in advance by Skyping a job-hunting buddy and rehearsing your answers.”

Byron agrees that practicing is the best way to get comfortable in front of a screen. “Grab a friend and do a trial run. Ask for honest feedback about how you come across, and fine-tune your presentation. Make sure your computer and webcam work properly. Adjust the settings (volume, view, etc.) in advance so you don’t have to fool with it during your interview.”

“Check the lighting so that the hiring manager will be able to see you clearly,” Bolzan adds. “When speaking/responding to questions, look directly into your camera. Do not worry about making ‘eye contact’ with the person on screen. You will in fact be looking to the side, which can be off-putting. Do not fuss with your own appearance as if looking into a mirror. Minimize your own image on your screen so that you are not distracted by watching your own performance.”

6.  Go with the flow.

Lastly, remember what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men. “Do not appear frustrated if there are technical challenges,” Bolzan says. “Keep calm and be very patient, especially if the technical issues are on the other end. If you need to resort to using a phone, have a landline accessible if possible as phone interviews are always better when not conducted over a cell phone with potentially spotty coverage.”

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