Conducting a video interview with someone who has clearly not prepared for such is one of the most painful professional experiences I have. It instantly makes me cringe. The whole time I wish I could tell them, “Can you just do this? And this? And this? It will be SO much better, believe me!” I don’t want you to induce cringing in your interviewers and, selfishly, I want to experience perfect video interviews from this day forward. It’s not hard, it just requires attention to detail.
1) Dress professionally. You may or may not wear a suit, but at least wear a light colored shirt and tie (men) or professional blouse (women) or equivalent. Although they will only see you from the mid-chest up, wear pants. You are preparing your mind as well as yourself. You can only take an interview so seriously without pants on.
2) Remove interruptions. Barking dogs, whining cats, screaming kids- none of these can interrupt your video interview. I recommend doing the interview at your place of work, in a conference room or similar, rather than your house. Put a sign saying, “Conducting video interview. Please do not disturb.” on the door.
3) Set the stage. Don’t have your The Doors poster in the background. Or a fairy over a castle painting. Or your “Keep calm and drink on” wooden plaque. You may have a white wall, a whiteboard, or, if you have your own office, your professional degrees in the background. That is all.
4) Use good lighting. The best lighting is soft lighting from the front of your face. I usually set up two lamps with their covers on to either side of the computer. Try to minimize overhead lighting, especially harsh light such as from fluorescents. If you have a window you can open to get more natural light on your face and surrounding, use that. Don’t have a window with sunlight or other bright light behind you.
5) Not too close, not too far. If you sit with your back straight, reach out with your arm. Your fingertips should touch the screen (or camera location).
6) Elevate the camera. No one wants to look up your nose or see you peering up at them as if judging you. You want the camera at eye level. Use books under your laptop to elevate it to the appropriate height.
7) Look at the camera. I set up a plug-and-play camera right in front of the screen. It slightly blocks my view of the other party, but the goal here is for ME to show eye contact. If your camera is not in front of the screen, you have to be very conscious to look at the camera, not at the screen. Losing eye contact with the other party makes you look distracted or uninterested, even if you are very interested.
8) Feel free to take notes. Just as in any other interview, you may take notes. I will usually preface this in the beginning with something like, “Do you mind if I take notes? When I look down I’m just jotting a few things down.” If you don’t mention note taking, when you do look down and take your notes they may interpret it as disinterest.
9) Test your technology. Don’t have the first time you attempt this be when you are actually scheduled for your interview. Test it out with a friend first- make sure the tech works, the lighting looks good, you are looking at the camera, etc.
10) Remove distractions. Don’t have other windows open. Turn your phone on “do not disturb”. You want to be 100% focused on the interview.
While the visual presentation is not make-or-break for video interviews, if there are two applicants, and one of them took the time to set up the correct space for a video interview, and the other one just popped up their laptop in their kitchen, which do you think the search committee will favor?