Ten Tips to Ace Your Video Interview

The age of video interviewing has arrived. In response to the current global pandemic, we have quickly entered a virtual world by leveraging video systems like Zoom/Skype/Google Hangouts/MS Teams/etc. in place of traditional onsite interviews. While video conferencing is nothing new, the thought of a fully virtual hire before the spread of COVID-19…whereas a candidate is offered and given employment without ever shaking hands with the hiring manager or ever stepping foot onto company property…rarely happened. Despite the jobless claims and a down economy, companies are still actively hiring. Yes, the questions you will be asked during a video interview are similar to those of a traditional onsite interview.  However, the virtual interview often just “feels” different…and, can quickly go off the rails. Interviewer body language and facial expressions are more difficult to read over video. You do not get a feel for the corporate office culture/environment/location/etc. It is often easier to “connect” with people while in-person versus virtually. This is especially true if you are not accustomed to the video conferencing world. 

So, what do you do? A little preparation will go a long way toward reducing your anxiety and ensuring you come across on camera as comfortable, articulate, and confident. Below, please find 10 common sense tips when it comes to virtual interviewing:

  1. Interview preparation. Properly prepare for the interview. Do your homework. As you would with any onsite interview, research the company and interviewing manager beforehand. Be prepared to answer why you want to work for the organization, how you are a great fit, and the value you can bring to the company/position. Remember…practice makes perfect. Practice answering “traditional” interview questions while on a video conference with a friend or family member beforehand. And, have a few questions prepared to ask the interviewer as well. Beware: Refrain from reading the company description verbatim directly from a company website when asked what you know about the company. Research beforehand. Paraphrase. Find recent positive press articles and be ready to recite. Since you are in a virtual environment and not in the hiring manager’s office to see pictures, sports teams, hobbies, etc., use intel gathered from their LinkedIn profile and social media to connect with them.
  2. Restart. What is the first thing any IT professional will tell you if you call the help desk? Yes, reboot your computer. This simple act will clear your computer and close any unnecessary web browser tabs and applications. Beware: If you do not restart beforehand, you run the risk of unwanted noise and/or applications interrupting your interview or connection.
  3. Test everything. Test your computer, the video platform technology, your webcam/microphone/headset, and your internet connectivity well beforehand. Test the camera position and lighting. Beware: Do not “wing it!” Last minute preparation is not an option here. Technology is a fickle beast at times and will bite you at the most inopportune time. Prepare for the worst. Test everything the previous evening and at least an hour before the interview. I also suggest being online and ready for the interview at least fifteen minutes before the scheduled time.
  4. Equipment. Consider investing in a high-quality webcam ($40-$100+), video conferencing lighting ($20-$60+), and a high-quality microphone ($20-$130+) from Amazon or another retailer. This investment may very well help you land a great opportunity and set you apart from your competition. Beware: Do not sit in a dark room with an aging webcam and microphone. If you cannot afford a passable setup, borrow equipment from a friend or family member.
  5. Location. Location. Location. Pick the right place for your video interview. Again, prepare for the worst and plan. Position yourself in a neutral, noise-free, well-lit, and clean space. And remember…a locked door is your friend. When you interview as many people as I have, you literally hear…and see…it all. Now, as a hiring manager on a video interview…we are given a somewhat intimate view into your personal life/space. If your residence looks to be an episode of “Hoarders” in the making, find the one clean spot to do this interview. And remember, the interviewer can and will see everything behind you. Plan accordingly. Beware: Do not be these people. Google “Zoom conferences gone wrong.” As you peruse, you will notice all sorts of pets, kids, spouses, roommates, etc. in all variations of moods/fits/crying/barking/meowing and stages of chaos and disrobing. Remember…you were warned!
  6. Dress professionally and appropriately. Yes, everywhere…not just from the waist up. Yes, just as you would for an onsite interview. Refrain from wearing shorts/sweats/pajamas or worse where you think a virtual interviewer cannot see you. Dressing the part will make you feel more professional, competent, and confident. Beware: There are tales of virtual interviewing managers asking the candidate to stand up so they can see their attire. Again, you have been warned.
  7. It is all about the angle. Make sure the webcam is placed at approximately the same height as the top of your head and angle it downward slightly. This is typically the most “flattering” angle and will also help you keep correct posture during the interview.
  8. Relax! Breathe and be yourself! Smile. Make eye contact. Remember, many hiring managers are looking for the right personality/behavioral fit for the position as well as the technical competencies needed for the position. You must leverage soft skills like body language, proper communication, voice inflection, interpersonal skills, and the ability to adapt to convey your confidence and personality over a video interview. Beware: Do not be a monotone robot devoid of personality during the interview. Relax. Breathe. And enjoy the experience. 
  9. Consider conducting a mock interview. Becoming comfortable with this skill set is difficult for some. Practice makes perfect. Get a family member or friend to do a practice interview ahead of time. Ask for feedback on communication (speaking cadence and volume), camera angle, lighting, location, overall appearance, and the quality of your interview answers. Beware: Do not go into your first virtual interview without rehearsing. Record the practice session if possible. Look for body language, posture, articulation, and your room environment.
  10. Follow-up. As you would with any onsite interview, follow-up with the hiring manager to thank them for their time and to express your continued interest. At a minimum, do this via email. However, a handwritten note may well differentiate you from your competition. Beware: Do not “stalk” the hiring manager. Express thanks, your continued interest, get in and get out. Try to be patient. Find the line of being persistent and interested versus a nuisance. However, you are entitled to knowing their decision as a professional courtesy…a lost art with some companies, unfortunately.

About the Author

Ty Carver has nearly thirty years of recruiting, HR management, sales, and leadership experience…including the last eight specific to the broadcast media industry.