If Joan offered this sage advice in today’s market, she’d also add, ‘and be ready to face the camera.’
The above advice is timeless. You can’t go wrong following it. You also cannot go wrong if you prepare for the likelihood that, in today’s market at least a portion of your interview process will be conducted virtually.
Even in this day of Marco Polo and Instagram apps, job candidates are often not well prepared to face an on-screen interviewer. And I don’t just mean the candidates that dress only from the waist up.
Inherent in video conference interviews there are several unique concerns. To make a great professional impression, avoid unnecessary stress, and pitfalls, preparation is vital.
As a foundation, you'll need to be crystal clear about whether you've preparing for a one way or a two-way interview and if it's timed. A one-way interview is where you’re asked a series of predetermined questions, and you’re allowed to record and submit your response for review. Sometimes you are allowed to redo your answer until you are satisfied with it but often you only get one shot and a finite length of time to answer. A two-way interview is a live interview conducted via Skype or similar technology and attempts to mimic a more traditional in-person interview.
Key Tips to Acing a Virtual Interview
Tip # 1 Rehearse
Practice makes perfect. Be sure to go over any prep materials and sample questions thoroughly. Record yourself speaking into the camera if you have the appropriate technology. Then review what you’ve recorded and tweak your performance or have an interview coach like myself review it for feedback.
Tip # 2 Double check your tech.
Pay attention to what video service the interviewer will be using. You may have to install new technology before an interview. Be sure to allow plenty of time to both install and test it so you are familiar with anything that may be quirky about it and can handle it calmly. Adjust your lighting and make sure your face is well lit. Use lighting at face height. Too much overhead light causes shadows and makes you appear tired.
Tip # 3 Set the stage
Clear any clutter from the background. You want a simple setting so the focus is on you not what’s going on behind you.
Tip # 4 Dress well from head to toe
You won’t be aware if your interviewer is seeing your image, 3 inches high or 3 feet high. Details will matter. Don’t just do your hair and brush your teeth. Floss. Get those stray hairs. Pick out a nice outfit. Don’t be the person who gets caught out because they had to get out of their chair to handle a sudden computer glitch and It's revealed they are wearing pajama bottoms and a suit jacket.
Tip # 5 Look at the Camera
Eye contact is important. Even when you’re not speaking, it’s essential that you are giving the person (i.e., the camera) your full attention. Resist the natural tendency to look at your own image or even the interviewer's image on the screen. Looking down at your desk, off into the distance when you’re not speaking makes it appear that you’re not listening. This is one of those cases when it’s not rude to stare. Practice this, because if you do it well, you will engage the person on the other side and come across as a savvy professional.
Tip # 6 Practice your responses and speak at a steady pace.
Especially in one-way interviews where there can be a time-limit you want to make sure you are speaking clearly, slowly and yet concisely. Be aware of how much time you have per question and make sure you get the compelling details in within the time allotted. Some one-way interviews will allow you to re-record an answer until you are happy with it, but a lot do not. Make sure you are clear on what is available in each instance, don’t assume. There will not be an opportunity to have a ‘do over’.
As more jobs become remote video conferencing technology enables recruiters to tap into talent pools worldwide. Convey your potential by learning how to make the best impression virtually so that when they are considering who goes on to the next round, you’re at the top of the list.