In the post pandemic world of hybrid working many interviews are now being conducted from home offices (or kitchen tables). There has never been a more important time to brush up on how we present ourselves on camera, whether it’s for an internal work meeting, presentation, or interview for a new role.
In lots of ways, preparing for a video interview is no different from a face-to-face interview. The basics remain the same: the greater you prepare, the greater your chances of success. This means knowing about the role, the person interviewing you, the company, their values, and how your experience can be mapped onto what they’re looking for.
Of course, there are challenges which are unique to virtual interviews. To help you land that dream job in what will become an increasingly competitive market, we’ve produced some essential reading to give you the very best chance of success.
Although we’ve put this guide together for potential candidates, each of the following points is equally important whichever side of the virtual desk you’re sitting at.
Ensure you have the best device available for your interview, ideally you will have a laptop or PC. This is likely to have the best camera quality, and will mean you can sit comfortably without having to hold your device, and without having a moving image of yourself (you don’t want your interviewers getting motion sick). If you have no choice but to use a phone or tablet, it’s worth positioning it in a stationary position where you are able to properly frame your head and shoulders so you can be easily seen and heard.
A few technology basics: make sure to turn off notifications so that you can concentrate solely on the interview. Also ensure that your battery’s fully charged (ideally plugged in), and that your internet can handle it!
Camera position and your eye line.
Make sure your camera is positioned correctly. Often the camera is mounted on the top of the screen or has been set up away from the screen and will not frame your face correctly. The last thing you want is for the interviewer to be looking at the top of your head for the next hour.
Consider where the camera is and how you will appear on the screen to the person you are communicating with. Try taking a few photos of yourself on your device, or even some short trial videos. These will help you to position yourself, as well as checking on your sound quality.
Always do a dry run
We’ve all been in those awkward meetings and presentations where someone isn’t able to get their tech up and running. It can show a lack of planning, and is a bad start to any live video communication (if only because the candidate ends up being flustered for the rest of the interview).
If you have someone that can assist with testing, we recommend you test sound, video, lighting and screen position. Find out what platform the interview will be conducted on, and make sure you have all the necessary software downloaded onto your device (e.g. Zoom, Teams). If it’s on one of these universal platforms, you could do a trial call with someone else to help get you familiar with the platform and quality of your video (although I’m sure we’re all pretty familiar with how Zoom works by now!)
Location, lighting and backdrop
By this stage, we’ve probably all seen our colleagues’ washing hanging in the back of the frame, family members and housemates roaming around, or maybe even a fancy bookshelf. Whilst it’s easy to see the funny side when talking to friends at work, for an interview, you want the video to be about you, not what's happening in the background.
Where possible, try to make the view behind you plain and simple, and avoid bright light from behind so the interviewer can actually see you and not just a silhouette of your head! Many of the video conferencing solutions now allow you to set an artificial backdrop or blur out your surroundings. This functionality is really useful if you don’t have a dedicated work space or don't want potential employers to see your background. When choosing a backdrop generally the same principles apply - go for plain and simple.
What to wear
Choosing what to wear and how you present yourself for your online interview should be taken as seriously as if you were having it face to face. Not all company environments are the same so a general rule of thumb is to mirror the clothing worn by the employees at the company who are interviewing you. If your interview has been arranged by a recruitment agency, ask them about company dress code. If this information is not available there are many sources online for you to gain an understanding of the formality of your audience. LinkedIn profiles of your interviewers and company pages usually give a good idea of the standard of attire that might be expected. If in doubt, it’s always a little better to dress on the smarter side.
With social distancing measures in place and limitations on our mobility, it’s quite likely that you’re not the only one in your household working from home. Let others know when your interview will be and that you will not be available. The last thing you want is someone shouting at you asking if you want a cuppa, while you’re in the middle of describing your work experience.
Virtual or face-to-face, an interviewer wants to find out about you. The fact that you are at the interview stage already shows you have the right experience and qualifications, now it’s about seeing if you’re a good fit for the company. The more natural you are, the more they are going to see the real you, and the better prepared you are, the more you can focus on being yourself, and not on whether the interviewer can see your face!
This guide has been produced to specifically support you whilst preparing for a video interview. You can find more general information to assist you within our Interview Preparation section of our advice pages.
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