12 Video Interview Tips To Crush Your Next Job Interview

You’ve probably used video chat to talk to a friend or family member at some point, or conducted business using video chat or watched a webinar whose host was on camera.

It’s a common option for both business and personal settings, and now video is an option for job-hunting as well. In fact, over two-thirds of HR managers either have used or are using video interviews to screen candidates.

It’s not just a fad. Video interviews provide real value to both candidates and interviewers alike. Interviewers can squeeze more interviews in a day, and screen candidates more effectively prior to bringing them in for the live in-person interview.

Candidates don’t have to travel all the way downtown (or wherever the office is located) to interview, and are more likely to win remote positions if they do well.

So don’t get caught off-guard if you’re asked to do a video interview, and don’t get intimidated either. You can still do well on your first time out if you make the proper preparations.

To simplify things, we’ve divided the preparations into three phases. Let’s tackle them now!

Phase 1: Set the Stage

modern office

Location (or, more accurately, setting) is a big factor in video interviews. You’re not going to the company’s office like you normally would, but are instead being asked to set up your own.

The aesthetics of your chosen location matters just as much as your own personal preparations. After all, what good is dressing up in your finest suit if your room is so dimly lit the interviewer has trouble seeing you? Or sees leftovers on the counter and toys strewn across the floor?  Not a very good first impression!

When you’re setting the stage, keep the following tips in mind:

Pick an ideal location

Make sure you set up in a place where you can comfortably talk.

Coffee shops are only acceptable if the place is empty – the background noise level of your average Starbucks is too high for comfortable conversation. If you’re taking the interview from your current workplace, don’t take it at your desk. And never take a video interview from inside your car.

The ideal location is a room in your home, in a library, or in a private conference room. Pick a location that is quiet, private, and well-lit.

Pay attention to what is behind you! Hide anything you don’t want the interviewer to see – pets, children, laundry, or clutter. If you don’t have any better alternatives, swivel the camera around to show the wall behind you as a neutral background.

Check the internet connection

Many public locations (i.e. coffee shops) have internet speeds that are fine for browsing websites, but absolutely horrible for video conferencing. Test your internet connection by having a video call with a friend first, and have your phone’s mobile data connection available as a backup if the internet goes down or is slow.

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Lighting

You don’t need a professional lighting rig with reflectors and sunlamps, but you do need to pay attention to how lighting affects your appearance in the video.  Natural light is always preferable, so try to conduct the video while facing an open window.

Don’t be backlit.  Backlighting is when the light source is behind you. You then appear as a dark silhouette, and the interviewer won’t be able to see your face. Use multiple light sources. If possible, collect a couple of lamps (using the same type/color of bulb) and set them up to either side of your camera. This evenly distributes the light across your face and makes you seem more alive to the other party.

To headset or not to headset?

Are you going to use a wire-style earpiece, a full-size headset and mic, or none at all and go with your computer’s regular sound system?

Each approach has its pros and cons. Using the standard computer/mic won’t encumber you or ruin your hair, but it risks picking up ambient noise and may degrade the quality of your audio. Interviewers generally don’t mind if candidates use headsets. The important thing is sound quality, so wire earphones should be an acceptable compromise.

Phase 2: Self-Preparation

modern office

All right!  Now that you’ve done what you can to prep your interview sound stage, let’s work on getting yourself ready.

Dress appropriately

Pick clothes that look good on camera, like solid blues or pastel colors. Loud colors may show up badly on camera, and all-black or all-white outfits may make you look washed out. Webcams also may have a hard time displaying prints or patterns, so keep those to a minimum.

Avoid any jewelry that might glint or sparkle on camera, and definitely avoid noisy jewelry that clacks or jangles. The microphone will pick up those sounds and make it harder for the interviewer to hear you.

A little makeup is good, but don’t overdo it. You’re going to an interview, not a night out on the town. Keep your makeup simple and tasteful, with a minimum of flair (unless that’s the personality you’re trying to exude).

Perfect your pose

When you’re recording from the comfort of your own home, it’s tempting to just lay back on the couch or your recliner and take the interview like you would any video call with friends or family.

But wait. Would you sit like that if you were in the interviewers interviewer’s office? Absolutely not! So you shouldn’t do that at home, either. Body language is critical in a video interview because the interviewer will be paying much closer attention to what they see than they normally would.

Set up your laptop/webcam at your desk and sit in a proper chair. Sit with your back straight and keep your hands in front of you. Test the positioning of your webcam so that all of you is visible on screen (you don’t want the top of your head to be cut off). If possible, elevate your computer so that you are eye-level with the webcam. This is so you don’t end up looking down on the interviewer.

Do dry runs

Once you’ve set your stage and figured out your wardrobe, do several practice runs. Pretend you’re speaking to the interviewer – or better yet, have a friend pretend to be the interviewer – and record yourself doing so.

Review the recording and see if there’s anything that can be improved. Do you say “um” too much? Do you tap the desk out of nervousness? Do you fidget in your chair more than you should?

Once you notice a negative habit, do another trial run and try to control yourself from doing that habit again. It may take you several tries before you can do so without sounding or acting awkward. But keep at it, because it’s worth the effort. You’ll look more confident and leave a better impression with the interviewer.

Phase 3: Nailing the Interview

girl on laptop sp

It’s showtime! You’ve done all you can to prepare, and it’s now time to chat with the interviewer. I’m sure you already know the value of doing research on the company and prepping your answers in advance, so we’re going to offer a few more tips for when you’re actually on the call.

Don’t Google

If you don’t know the answer to something, admit it. I know you have your cell phone at the ready but resist the temptation to start searching on Google. The camera is still on and the interviewer can see you typing. That’s like pulling out your textbook in the middle of a test. Don’t do it!

In a similar vein, do not switch application windows on your computer in the middle of the interview. The other person will see your eyes change focus and will see your fingers on the keyboard. You’re not being stealthy; you’re actually being pretty obvious.

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Keep eye contact

Most people look at the image of the other person when they are on a video call. To the other person, it appears as if you’re looking at their feet. But if you look directly at the camera, it will make it seem like you’re making eye contact with the interviewer.

Try clipping your camera to the top of your monitor (laptop webcams are already in this ideal spot), but also minimize the video window and move it to the top of the screen, just under the camera. This lets you see their reaction while giving the illusion that you’re looking them in the eyes.

Play it cool

Sometimes technical glitches still happen despite all of your preparations. Play it cool and act like it’s not a big deal.

Don’t start cussing and muttering if you can’t hear anything through your headset. The other person might still be able to hear every word you’re saying. Likewise, always act like the interviewer is on the line, even after you’ve closed the meeting application. We’ve all been on calls where the other person embarrassed themselves after thinking they hung up when they actually didn’t.

Have backups

Be ready with alternative forms of communication in the event something goes wrong. If Skype isn’t working, have GoToMeeting or Google Hangouts handy. If your internet goes down, have your phone close at hand with your interviewer’s number already saved. If worst comes to worst, you’ll at least be able to reschedule to a later date.

Let’s Review

Video interviews are intimidating, but so are in-person interviews. Each situation requires its own kind of preparation. As long as you set your stage properly and are aware of your appearance on camera, your chances of successfully landing a job are just as good as being there in person.

So welcome the opportunity when a company asks for a video interview. See it for what it is: a more convenient way to conduct an interview for your next job.