Preparing for a job interview can be nerve-wracking enough on its own, but having to do an interview online poses an additional set of challenges.
I recently spoke to Brie Reynolds, Career Development Manager at FlexJobs, to get some tips on getting ready for a virtual interview. In this article, we’ll look at seven ways to ace your video interview from home as well as what to do if things go wrong.
7 Tips to Ace Your Video Interview
If you have an online video interview coming up, you’re probably wondering what to expect or how best to prepare. While the questions and answers will probably be similar to what you would expect in a traditional interview, the added layer of technology can make it seem like a totally different experience.
Whether your interview is live or pre-recorded, take the time to read through each of the steps below. You’ll learn how to ensure that you have the best audio/video quality, background and attire. And we’ll offer help on ways to increase your confidence on-camera.
1. Prepare Ahead of Time
Once you’ve landed a video interview, there are a few things you can do to prepare. Like a traditional interview, you’ll want to have answers to commonly-asked questions ready to go. Be prepared to introduce yourself, talk about your experience and provide examples of job-related successes that showcase your skills.
Also, be prepared to talk about technology use and your ability to work remotely.
“For a lot of remote jobs and online interviews, part of the interview is probably going to be around your comfort with technology,” says Brie Reynolds. “Expect some of those questions in addition to how you’ll actually do this job and perform as a professional in your chosen career.”
In addition to having an idea of what you plan to say, be sure to gather as much information as possible about the company and interview process ahead of time. The details may not be as clear for an online job interview, so it’s important to seek them out beforehand.
Brie recommends that you ask how many people will be in the interview, double-check the time zone and get your interviewer’s contact information. This will help you know what to expect, ensure you don’t miss the interview and give you a way to reach your interviewer if you encounter technical difficulties before or during the interview.
2. Select Your Hardware
As you prepare for your interview, be sure you have all the necessary hardware on hand. In most cases, you’ll just need your computer or smartphone and, preferably, headphones with a microphone.
“You can usually use whatever camera is built into the computer itself if you have a laptop that has a camera,” says Brie. “You don’t have to invest a lot of money in this; it can be pretty inexpensive.”
Ideally, use a computer that’s less than five years old. If you have older equipment, using your smartphone can be a good alternative. Platforms like Zoom, Skype and Google Meet all have apps that make them easy to access from your phone. Plus, your smartphone most likely has a high-quality camera.
If you need to, you can also buy an inexpensive mounting camera that goes on top of your computer monitor to use during the interview.
For the best audio quality, you’ll want to use a pair of headphones. They’ll reduce background noise and make your voice sound clearer overall. Again, these don’t have to be expensive. If you have a simple set of headphones that came with your smartphone, those can be perfect for a video interview.
If you don’t have headphones, your computer’s built-in mic may be just fine on its own. To find out, do a sample recording on your computer and play it back to hear the audio quality. This will also give you a chance to see the quality of your webcam.
3. Choose Your Setting and Background
Before your actual interview, be sure to decide where you’ll be sitting (or standing) and what your interviewer will see behind you. When it comes to your background, consider noise, lighting and color.
“The main goal is to not distract people from your actual answers when you’re doing a job interview,” says Brie. “You just don’t want people paying more attention to what’s behind you than what you’re saying to them.”
To get a better idea of what makes a good background, I asked Brie to critique a few different areas of my apartment in terms of how they would look for a video interview.
To begin with, I asked Brie to discuss the background I typically use for virtual meetings. You can see it above in the image on the right.
She noted that a plain color wall works well for video interviews, especially with a little bit of artwork that doesn’t distract from what’s important. Brie told me that this background would work just fine.
After moving my computer to another side of the table, Brie was quickly able to point out things in this shot that needed improvement.
“In this case, your lighting before was great,” she said. “Now you’re lit from behind, and what that does is put a shadow over your entire face.”
It’s always best to avoid positioning the camera in so that a light source is coming from behind you. If it’s unavoidable, you can close the blinds or position a lamp to shine on you from the front to counteract this problem.
For my last background, Brie decided that it was probably okay but still a little busy. She noted that the words in the frame behind me are a little distracting and the photos, while a good conversation starter, may draw too much attention away from the interview.
To fix these problems, she recommended removing a couple of things from the mantle. After that, Brie said this background would work well for a video interview.
4. Dress Appropriately
In addition to choosing a background that helps you to look your best, you’ll want to choose an appropriate outfit for the same reason.
“I would go a little bit more formal than less formal just to show that you really are putting in an effort,” Brie recommends. “Keep it basically simple and very professional-looking.”
If you’re going to be working in an office or an office setting, you can’t go wrong with a suit. If the company’s a bit more casual, you may choose a button-up or collared shirt with no tie.
Choose solid colors over busy patterns to minimize distractions. Simple makeup and jewelry are also best. Large hoop earrings or a big necklace aren’t the best choices, because they can catch the light and draw attention away from your responses. If you talk with your hands a lot, you may also want to avoid wearing bracelets that could jingle during your interview.
5. Do a Full Run-Through
On the day of your interview, make sure everything’s working by doing a full run-through if possible. Check your internet connection, computer, headset, microphone and whatever program you’re using for your interview.
“If you can, get on that platform ahead of time,” says Brie. “That gives you a chance to make sure everything looks good before somebody is sitting there ready to talk to you.”
If you haven’t already done so, record a sample video of yourself to playback and check for quality. Look at your background and lighting, see how your outfit and makeup look on camera and listen to how your voice sounds.
Recording yourself while you give a few of your answers can also help you get more comfortable talking on camera. You can take this a step further by doing a mock interview with a friend or a family member.
When you watch the video playback, look to see where your eyes are on the screen. If they’re too high or too low, you’ll notice it here. Brie says you can improve this by moving the windows on your computer screen higher up on your monitor — closer to your camera. This will make it easier to look directly at the camera while still appearing to make eye contact with your interviewer(s).
Lastly, pay attention to your body language on camera. Being aware of any nervous habits you may have can help you to minimize them during the actual interview.
6. Make Any Final Preparations
Just before your interview begins, take care of any last-minute distractions.
Turn your phone to silent mode, turn off notifications on your computer, close unnecessary windows on your computer screen and make sure all children and/or pets are tended to. If there’s anything else in your home that regularly makes noise, like door chimes or alarms, make sure that those are turned off as well.
Have any materials, references or work samples ready to view and share virtually. And it never hurts to have a note-taking application open on your computer or a pen and paper nearby to jot down any questions or information.
7. Interview With Confidence
If you’ve followed the first six steps, you can confidently go into your video interview knowing you’re prepared.
Make adjustments based on what you observed in your run-through recording. If you’re having trouble staying comfortable while sitting on camera, Brie recommends standing up.
“Some people actually find that it’s helpful to stand for a video interview,” says Brie. “If you have the ability to raise your laptop or camera up to stand, it helps you get some of that nervous energy out.”
Whether you decide to sit or stand, it’s important to follow good virtual conduct during the interview. If there’s any audio feedback or background noise, try to mute yourself unless you’re talking. If there’s a disruption, apologize quickly and move on.
Again, if you lose connection altogether, be sure to contact the interviewer immediately. If you don’t have their phone number, send an email with yours and ask them to give you a call if it’s convenient. You want to avoid rescheduling if at all possible so that other potential employees won’t have the chance to win the job before you get your chance.
Like anything else, practice pays off. If you have an online video interview coming up, take the time to prepare for it by selecting your hardware, choosing your setting and outfit, doing a full run-through and making adjustments based on practice recordings.
If you’re nervous about anything you may forget to say, make a cheat sheet! Take advantage of the fact that your interviewer can’t see what’s off-screen, but keep in mind that they can see when you aren’t engaged. Watch your body language and maintain the feeling of eye contact as much as possible.
Lastly, checking all of your equipment and keeping your interviewer’s contact information nearby will help you avoid a lot of stress.
Have you ever had a live or pre-recorded video interview? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!