Somewhere Between Vogue and a Robot: Video Interviewing Tips

That's not a valid work email account. Please enter your work email (e.g.
Please enter your work email

Woman Holding Home Video Camera Video interviews are becoming the norm, with 63 percent of HR managers conducting these types on interviews. Every job seeker knows the importance of preparing for a face-to-face interview, but how do you prepare for an interview when you can’t shake the interviewer’s hand or comment on the local weather? According to US News Reuters , and Forbes , here are seven ways you can get ready for a video interview.

1. Work your people skills

Is there a difference between virtual interviews and traditional interviews? Not really. First similarity? The questions. Being prepared to answer interview questions is as simple as practice, practice, practice. Practice with a friend, in front of a mirror, record yourself. Afterward, get feedback and adjust accordingly. 

Have solid answers ready for questions, such as:

As simple as these questions may seem, they tend to be the hardest. The request “tell me about yourself” can be too broad making it difficult to give a concise answer. If interviews are to show your best, talking about your weaknesses is the worst.  Lastly, if you haven’t given thought to what you want your not-so-distant future to look like, an interview is the last place to start thinking. Prepare ahead of time. Give thorough but brief answers. Try to keep your interview answers less than 2 minutes, thinking of them as elevator pitches .

2. Establishing the connection

We have all seen them:  the awkward “selfies” where you wonder what the person is looking at. They are looking at the screen. Looking at the screen during an interview will have the same effect. Doing this during a video interview will lead to a disconnect between you and the interviewer. You want to make eye contact or camera contact, especially while answering questions. Keeping “camera contact” establishes or maintains the connection with the interviewer.

You might feel like you aced the interview but walk away feeling like you didn’t make that connection. That’s because in virtual or video interviewing, you are often looking in the wrong place. Most people look at:

  • Their own face on the screen.
  • The interviewer’s face on the screen.
  • Down at the keyboard because the screen is nerve-racking.

Don’t do this, even if your interviewer does. I promise your appearance won’t change between words, so there is no need to look at the screen while you’re talking. Try sticking a picture of someone you feel confident talking to near the lens of your webcam. This will draw your eye upward and make it look like you are making solid eye contact on the other end of the camera !

3. Let’s (not) go striping

It is important to dress how you would for a face-to-face interview Business casual, at a minimum, keeps you at your best. Students in the business school at The King’s College in New York are required to wear business attire. The effect? They not only look more professional, they act more professional. As page 37  of their student handbook says, how they dress affects “the type of impression we seek to create.”

While the interviewer will only see the upper half of your body, this doesn’t mean you should wear pajama pants with your blazer and button up. In order to be mentally prepared for the interview, it is important to be physically dressed for it. Here are some dos and don’ts for your interview attire:

Video Interviewing Dos:

  • Wear solid dark colors. Vibrant colors can be too bright on camera.
  • Make sure hemline is no higher than the knee.
  • Neutral make-up is a must.
  • Tuck in your shirt.
  • Cover tattoos with appropriate clothing.

Video Interviewing Don’ts:

  • Don’t wear small patterns or stripes; they can get distorted in the video.
  • Don’t wear large, distracting jewelry. Big earrings? Take ‘em off.
  • Don’t wear sleeveless tops .
  • No five o’clock shadows allowed.
  • The Santa Claus tie grandma gave your for Christmas last year, don’t wear it.

4. Please do not disturb

You have control over the background in the video interview. Use this to your advantage. Not all of us have libraries in our homes, but you can make your interview space professional and unique to you nonetheless. As tempting as it may be to go to your local coffee shop that has the free wi-fi, don’t. The environment is distracting for you and the interviewer who can see and hear everything that goes on behind you. If you don’t have wireless internet at home, go to a library or another quiet place you can have your virtual interview  without getting disturbed or disturbing others. 

If you do the virtual interview at home, make sure you pick a good time of day. The best time for interviews  is between 10:00am and 11:00am. When choosing a time to do your video interview make sure:

  • To turn off your cell phone; you won’t need it.
  • Pets are kenneled or at least in another room.
  • Kids are at school or taking naps (if they are young).
  • Get packages often? Schedule a time when the UPS guy doesn’t normally knock.

5.  Use your resume for notes

While you can’t hand the interviewer your resume, it is helpful for you to have on hand to remember dates and the plethora of activities we are all involved in. Honestly, the recruiter will only spend about six seconds looking at your resume They might have a copy of your resume in front of them too, and it wouldn’t look great if you didn’t get a date correct. Having a copy of your resume within reach will give you talking points, references, and boost your confidence a bit. Spend time on professional accomplishments that deserve more attention.

6. Get comfortable with the technology

Skype, Facebook, gTalk, and other platforms all offer video conferencing, and each comes with their own set of issues and troubleshooting. If you aren’t familiar with the method or the program the interviewer wants to use for the interview, do a little research. Look up the ins and outs of the platform and be aware of ways to troubleshoot it if problems arise.

These are all free applications; all you need to do is sign up. Create a professional username, something with your first and last name. Need help troubleshooting? Here are some helpful sites:

7.  Are you listening?

People notice when you space off. Teachers know it, guest speakers know it, and most importantly interviewers know it. If a potential employer notices you aren’t listening, you could lose out on an employment opportunity . Stay present in the conversation. Let the interviewer know you’re listening by offering a smile, a nod, or another clue that you’re still mentally there. Don’t get sidetracked with your surroundings. Keep it simple, stay focused. Sign off Facebook, sign out of Gmail, close Reddit, and keep your phone far away enough to eliminate distractions.

So, to recap…

It is just as important to maintain a professional appearance during a virtual interview as it is during a face-to-face interview. Dress professionally from head to toe, none of this pajama bottoms business. Eliminate distractions so you can keep your focus on the interview. Go practice in front of the mirror, practice with a friend on Skype, record yourself. Get some feedback. Give some feedback. Keep in mind, you’re not interviewing with a robot. You are actually talking to a real person… with some digital space between you. It’s okay if you stumble. It’s the recovery that counts the most. Think you’re ready for that video interview?

By Sarah Duke