Navigating your job search: Nailing the video interview

How to succeed at video interviews, including our top ten tips and a few mistakes which will cost you the job.

Navigating your job search: Nailing the video interview

First impressions

An interviewer makes their mind up within the first seven minutes of an interview. Most of us will be well versed in how to make a good first impression in a face-to-face interview (strong handshake, confident smile), but video interviews are a different ball game. In March 2020 there was a *67% increase in the use of video interviews, and that figure has been rising ever since (*source: Monster).

Whilst not always a great experience for candidates, video interviews do work and are here to stay, at least for early-stage interviews. They are COVID-secure, cost-effective, overcome geographical boundaries, and are often easier to manage in busy calendars.

Here’s a summary of what we have learnt over the last year from candidates and clients about what to do and what to avoid with video interviews.

Be prepared, do your research

The content and structure are likely to be the same as a face-to-face interview so prepare in the same way. Do your research about the job, the interviewer(s), and the company and this will immediately impress.

Timekeeping

As you would for a face-to-face interview, be on time, and don’t have to rush off anywhere afterwards. Reschedule if necessary.

Video interviews are often shorter than face-to-face interviews, but make sure you are up and running 15 minutes early to test all your technology. Also, add 15 minutes onto the scheduled end of the interview in case it over-runs.

Technology and environment

Ensure that you have a quiet space with limited distractions – and if you are interrupted (dogs, children, Royal Mail) it’s better to quickly apologise, mute your microphone and deal with the situation rather than struggle on.

Avoid any communal spaces, and ensure you’re in a quiet room with the best possible internet connection. If you are near a busy road, keep the windows closed.

Put your phone on silent, and close unnecessary web browsers, documents and applications. Postpone any software updates that could interrupt you, and fully charge your device.

Make sure your background is not distracting (best to avoid virtual backgrounds if you can), and that you have good lighting. Sun shining through the window behind you will cast you in a shadow and will blind the interviewer. Sunlight shining on your face may feel nice but will have you squinting at your screen. Be careful of glare from glasses – adjust your lighting to avoid this. Set up your position before the call.

Practice with a friend – this will mean that you’re confident on the day.

Make sure you have a professional username as this might be the very first thing that an interviewer sees – be wary that children or other family members might have logged on to devices and changed your screen name!

What to wear

Again, treat your appearance the same way you would for an in-person interview. Research the company culture so that you have a good idea of what’s appropriate.

As a general rule, you should dress professionally – when on camera avoid bold patterns – stripes and houndstooth fabrics are uncomfortable to look at through a screen. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you will only be seen from the waist upwards – you may need to stand up to answer the door and no one wants to see your pyjamas.

Position the camera so that you are in the centre of the screen.

Body language

Trying to get a personal connection through a screen can be hard, but you can keep the interviewers engaged and convey optimism with your body language.

Ensure you have good posture, with your back straight and your shoulders open. Keep your feet on the ground and rest your arms on the desk or in your lap. Try to avoid crossing your arms.

Eye contact is critical during a face to face interview, but can also be used during a video interview to create rapport. When you speak make sure you look at your camera or the interviewer’s face, rather than staring at your own image.

When you’re listening, nod and smile when appropriate so that they know they have your full attention. Using some hand gestures is fine but keep them small, and avoid fidgeting or gazing away.

Speak clearly and try not to interrupt. Don’t be afraid to pause and have time to think – the temptation on video is to fill any silent gaps, but it’s more important that you give considered answers.

As with any interview, have a few questions about the role, the organisation and the company culture to ask at the end of the meeting. Interviews are a two-way process. Plus, asking questions shows enthusiasm and indicates to the client what is important to you.

If your interview was organised by a recruitment consultant, call or email them with your feedback. If you arranged the interview directly with the client, send an email thanking them for their time. This leaves a good lasting impression.

Top ten tips for a successful video interview

In summary here are our top ten tips for interviews, video or not:

  • Do your research
  • Be on time and not rushed
  • Test your technology. Test it again
  • Remember confident body language, good eye contact, and appropriate dress
  • Think about your background and any possible interruptions
  • Listen and ask questions.
  • Don’t be afraid to sell yourself. Let them know what you did, not just what your team did
  • Be clear about the impact of your work on the business. Interviewers want to hear about results
  • Have clear reasons for all the gaps and progressions on your CV
  • Have a copy of your CV and the job spec next to you so that you can reference if you need to.

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Bloopers

Lastly, treat your interview with a recruiter as you would with a potential employer. You don’t want to be this guy.

We want to have an honest conversation with you to understand the context of your search and what motivates you. But we also need to be confident that you will perform well and be professional during an interview.

At Comms Leaders we have seen a whole range of video interview scenarios – pets, children, deliveries, unusual backgrounds and outfits. We are sympathetic and understand these are often an unavoidable part of pandemic life.

But we have had candidates light up cigarettes, vape, chew gum and – in one case – enthusiastically pick their nose thinking they were off-camera during an interview. Please don’t do that.

Also, make sure the call has completely ended before you sigh, slump or swear!

Have a read of our other blog posts about CVs and networking – and let us know if you’d like us to cover other recruitment topics.

Best of luck!

Vicki
Vicki@commsleaders.co.uk
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