This past week I was a guest for an experts interview series called Corporate Rebels. It was a Skype video interview and half way through the connection was lost, my hosts picture was frozen and I was talking away to myself (which can happen at other times occasionally!).
Luckily we were able to reconnect, finish the interview and with the wonders of editing the end result will hardly show a cut. But it struck me how many steps I had to take to ensure that the 30 live minutes were the best they could be.
I thought this experience would be useful to help you the next time you are getting ready for a video job interview or podcast;
It is important to have everything set up way ahead of time. The last thing you want to be doing, when you are trying to get ready for an interview is stumbling and fiddling and not thinking about the task in hand.
Natural light is ideal. If not, then ensure that there are lights casting enough illumination on you from more than one angle. You do not want only one side of your face showing or to find that the sun is shining right behind or across you, and the interviewer cannot see you. Windows or any source of light should be in front of you. If they are behind you, the viewer may only see your silhouette.
You want your interviewer to be focused on you so do not have anything like last weeks laundry hanging up in the background that could distract them. Stark blank walls are too bare. Plan for a pleasing backdrop like, perhaps a plant or tidy book case.
You might use this set-up for future interviews or business meetings. Use set up marks for your computer, lighting, and chair or standing position. That way for the next call, you can set up quickly.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” My first ever sales role was in telesales, and we had small mirrors hanging on the walls in front of us. This was to remind us to smile whilst on the phone. It makes a difference in how you sound and feel.
Use a laptop or desktop computer for your interview so that your interviewer has a steady and fixed view of you. If you have to use a smartphone or tablet have it mounted in a stand so there is no shaking or movement.
Skype and video conferencing generally is better than a few years ago, but it still has glitches and dropped calls, as I found out. In part this is due to the internet connection. If you can, connect with a hard wire directly in to your computer versus relying on wifi. If this is not possible, arrange it so there isn’t anything else running off that connection.
Amazingly for such a widely used platform and increasingly common usage, Skype themselves do not offer any type of audio/video test where you could record yourself and playback to see how you look and sound. Ideally you do not want to be wearing headphones in the interview although I have noticed more people using ear buds for listening. Make sure that the sound and audio levels are good.
If you have the capability and technical skills, record yourself and watch the playback looking and listening for any areas that may need addressing before your live interview.
Call a Friend
If you cannot record, then once everything is set up and ready to go call a friend. Have them take do a mock interview and critically review you. Make the necessary adjustments.
Now you are ready for the interview. But before you jump in there are a few more steps:
During the actual interview you want to be fully focused on the questions being asked, your answers and not distracted or worrying about anything else. You need to prepare for that and cover all the bases.
Double check and go back through your set up list, especially for the technical elements, lighting aspects and the backdrop. Also give the web cam a quick wipe over removing any dust or finger marks.
Eye to Eye
Ensure the cam position is correct, looking at you at around eye level or slightly pointed down and not up your nose!
Decide whether you are going to be sitting or standing. When on podcast interviews, and often throughout the day with phone calls, I like to stand. Certainly this is physically healthier but also there is definitely better voice projection.
Who’s Calling Who?
This may sound obvious but it is amazing how many times I have heard of interviewee and interviewer both waiting at the end of a camera expecting the other to call. Platforms like Skype can be connected ahead of time by inviting or accepting an invitation. Confirm who is calling and send a quick email or message the day before reconfirming the date, time and who is calling who.
In Case of Emergency
A dropped call or a technical glitch can happen. Have a contingency plan to ensure all parties involved know what to do if something happens. It will help your peace of mind, shows planning skills and not have you showing becoming flustered. Make sure laptop batteries are fully charged in case of a power failure.
Do Not Disturb
Make sure that you are not going to be disturbed, online and offline. There is nothing more distracting than a ping on your computer or if you are distracted and look away from the screen. Turn off all other programs and alerts. Put all phones on mute , including the cell phone, Put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ on the office door. Let people know you are on a video call.
Have a full glass of water to hand as this is a nervous situation for many of us, you are doing a lot of talking and may start to get a dry mouth. Have handy any necessary documents such as your resume, some talking points to your accomplishments and a list of questions for the interviewer. Have a pad of paper and at least two working pens available to make notes.
OK it’s showtime! All of this preparation may sound like over kill but the worst thing going in to any type of interview is having your mind somewhere else. Knowing that everything is covered and prepared will ensure that you can be fully focused on the task in hand and, make the right impression.
The video interview can feel a little of a false situation but it’s very similar to the real thing except you do not get the full benefit of body language and physical connection.
Body Language Above the Waist
Make sure you maintain eye contact. No need to stare but keep looking at the interviewers to maintain the energy and not get distracted.
Be aware of hand gestures. Because of the physical disconnect feeling we sometimes think we are not being heard and tend to emphasize more. This may involve waving the arms a little – resist. However don’t be a cut out dummy though, a few gestures will help.
Use that mirror you set up – remember to smile!
As with any interview, do a review of what went well. Was there anything specifically in relation to the video interview that you need to change for next time?
Finally it amazes me how often I hear candidates ask if it is necessary to send a thank you note?
Technology may have changed the way we interview but there is no replacement for common courtesy.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS send a thank you note to each interviewer. I am still a big fan of the hand written note but it’s not for everyone, so email can work. Recap the positives, cover any areas you felt were not handled so well and tell them you look forward to meeting in person.
Then wait for the call to invite you to the 2nd interview. Good luck!
What advice or tips would you add to this list about video interviews?
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