Video Interviews: Are They Good or Bad For You?

Interview_In_Progress_sign         In today’s world of high technology, you will most likely encounter an employer who will ask you to be part of a video or webcam interview.  This is especially true if the manager sits hundreds of miles across the country from you.  These companies may opt to use a service like HireVue, 360 Job Interview or they may simply ask you to use SKYPE or an iPhone webcam application called FaceTime. There are 4 things that you should consider before having that interview. They are:

  • Creating Your Personal Objectives for the Video Interview
  • Preparing Yourself for the Video Interview
  • Cautious Areas to Having a Video Interview
  • Properly Closing the Video Interview

Creating Your Personal Objectives for the Video Interview

You must know that the employer has one or more objectives as to the purpose of the webcam interview such as (a) a way to save travel expenses, (b) way to screen candidates both for their interview skills, platform skills and professional appearance, (c) and save time before inviting finalists to have face-to-face interviews.   So you too should have your own personal objectives / outcome expectations and not just take this interview opportunity lightly or as just another phone interview.  Your objectives might consist of:

  • Impress them with my professional appearance & demeanor.
  • Show them that you have done some research on the company, industry, competitor as well as the job opportunity.
  • Show them that you have taken time to prepare career-oriented questions.
  • Impress upon them your gratitude for the opportunity to meet and make this professional connection.
  • Close the interview gaining the next interview invite.

Preparing Yourself for the Video Interview

Don’t make any mistake about it, this is an official interview and not just a “get to know you” friendly chat. Perhaps the recruiter or HR representative set the tone by down-playing the interview such as a “just a blessing interview” by the Hiring Manager’s boss.  Again, prepare as if this is the most important interview with the organization and it can either be won or lost based upon this interview.

Preparation tips:

  1. Make sure that your computer and webcam environment is one that is well-lighted and not casting shadows on your face nor any glare causing a shiny face.  You might be well-advised to bring in some floor or table lamps from another room and position them outside the viewing area.  Your goal is to have plenty of diffuse lighting which makes for a better video but also makes your home / office appear more cheerfully.
  2. Make sure your environment doesn’t appear cluttered with office materials or other possessions.  Be sure that the family pets will not be entering the room or close enough that they can be heard in the distance. If the interviewer’s eyes appear to be looking past you, then they may well be watching your cat walk across some bookshelves.  Tell other family members of the importance of this interview and that you need their cooperation in having a quiet, distraction-free environment. Put a note on the front door telling deliverymen to leave any mail or deliveries at the front door and not to ring the doorbell.
  3. Make sure that your webcam is working properly at least one day before the interview.  If you have a cheaper webcam that makes your face appear fuzzy, blurred, opaque or dark with shadows, please consider that this is so important that you should probably invest in a better webcam.  There are very nice computer mounted webcams or table tops in the $100 range that will make for a more professional presentation.  After all, isn’t this important enough to invest $100 in yourself and your career?
  4. I know we become very fond of certain trendy personal features like facial hair, body piercings, tattoos, or non-traditional hair colors but these are all things that can be used to discriminate against you. It is highly recommended that men are clean-shaven with hair freshly cut and styled.  Both men and women should remove any facial body piercing studs, rings or jewelry. All tattoos should be covered unless you have opted to tattoo your face and if so, good luck. Employers will most likely respond negatively to hair that is streaked to excess or dyed with colors such as pink, purple, yellow, orange or non-traditional hair colors. Once again, consider a small investment in yourself by going to the salon or hairstylist on the day prior to your webcam interview.
  5. If you do not have a SKYPE account, set one up at least 2 days prior to your interview and email your SKYPE username to the interview at least one day before the interview.  What does your SKYPE Profile image look like?  It is now time to change your picture to a professional head-shot if it is anything other than that.  What does your SKYPE name say? If it says something like “wildaboutboys” or “live4Fridays”, it is now time to change it to your first name and last name of some version of your name.  If the employer was to do a Google search on your name, what else would they find out there on Facebook or other social media that depicts an unprofessional image of you?  It would be a good time to change anything that could be used as a discriminatory excuse not to pursue you further. Don’t forget to practice with your new SKYPE account before the interview so that you can be comfortable.
  6. Create a note saying “SMILE” or create a smiley face and tape it on the edge of your computer screen. Also acceptable would be to have a mirror on the wall behind the computer monitor or perhaps sitting next to the computer monitor.  Why?  This will help you to monitor your facial expressions for a need to smile more.  Perhaps your goal is to be a little animated using your hands but the mirror helps you gauge if you are overdoing it.  Your goal is not to appear to be stiff and nervous but comfortable and personable.
  7. At least one day prior to the interview, conduct your research on the company, it’s industry, its competitors, market share, financials, investors, Board members, products, services, etc.  Study it so that when asked, “What do you know about us”, you will be able to impress them with your knowledge.
  8. At least one day prior to the interview, prepare a good list of career-oriented questions, job duty related questions and questions that show interest in the interviewer such as “What brought you to ABC Company?”, “What do you feel is next for your career path by staying with ABC?” or similar questions.

Cautious Areas to Having a Video Interview

In our preparations discussion you already have an idea as to some of the cautious areas of having a video interview:   poorly prepared environment that may reflect poorly on you whether it’s lighting, audio, distractions, appearance of the room or not you are prepared to WOW them.

At the beginning of the interview, ask the interviewer for a contingency plan in case you lose your internet connection or the computer freezes up on either side.  This contingency plan could be exchanging phone numbers and an agreement for one to call the other if the SKYPE connection is lost.

You should realize that webcams can distort your face if you are sitting too close ie: make your nose, chin or other features appear too big. This is compounded when you lean your elbows on the desk and lean towards the monitor.  The ideal distance to sit back from the webcam is 6 to 7 feet. This will mean that you need to have a comfortable chair that will force you to sit up straight. At this distance, the interviewer will see more of your body than just your head and because of this, you absolutely need to be dressed professional.  Ladies, that means a nice dress or suit and gentlemen that means a shirt and tie with suit or sport coat.

Video interviews can give the appearance that this is casual but you should behave professional at all times without being stiff and impersonable.   You should never answer cell phone calls or text messages during an interview.  You should never look at your cell phone, PDA or iPad unless you tell the interviewer that you have written down some questions on your iPad, and ask “can I have your permission to read some of them to you”?  If you are nervous and seem to be fidgeting with pen, paper, or portfolio, it is always best to put the pen down and hold your hands in your lap.

Bandwidth – If you do not have a high speed internet service coming into your house, your webcam experience could be awful. Poor bandwidth will cause jerky head, body and hand motions as well as poor audio quality.  I would practice using your webcam long before your interview and if you determine that poor bandwidth is the case, you should make arrangements to either go to a friend or relative who has faster service and band width or consider renting webcam time at a service such as Kinkos/FedEx, your local college, community college, State Career Services or other local webcam interview providers.  Also, never open multiple computer programs before or during the interview for two reasons. First, the other programs will pull more bandwidth worsening your webcam experience. Second, the other programs could be a distraction to you during the interview. You should give undivided attention to the interviewer.

Properly Closing the Interview

It is true that the interviewer most likely has command of the interview process but you do have your part in closing the interview. You should always do the following. First, thank the interviewer for this great opportunity to meet them face-to-face. Second, express that you are very interested at this point based upon what you have learned in today’s video interview.  Third, ask the employer for permission to move to the next step whether that is another interview with them, another manager or perhaps a trip to the corporate offices to meet with several other managers.  Ask them to explain what that next step is that he/she has planned for you.  You should realize that the hiring manager’s initial goal was to screen you in or screen you out.  If you don’t appear enthused and interested, you most likely could have been screened out.  Assertively closing the interview helps give them the impression that they have successfully recruited you to their side and willing to move to the next step.

In closing, you can see that video interviews are very powerful tools that can work as well for you as they do the hiring manager. However, if you don’t plan to make give much effort into the preparation, you can count on the video interview working against you.