7 Top tips for video interviewing in 7 minutes

In the current Covid-19 driven climate of social distancing many Irish companies are continuing their recruitment processes via phone and (increasingly) video conferencing (VC) software. In this article we take a deep dive into all the things you need to be aware off.

There are lots of choices out there e.g. Skype, MicroSoft Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts etc. most of which do not require the interviewee to download any software or programmes they just need to have a web browser such as Chrome.

This type of interviewing is uncommon in Ireland, with us being on a relatively small island there are few barriers to being able to meet face-to-face.  Compare this to North America, for example, where the ideal candidate for a role could be in a state several hours flight away.  Here the use of VC for interviews is a regular occurrence.

So, I have spent several hours scouring the internet reading various guides on VC interviewing from our American cousins – so you don’t have to!

Here is a synopsis of best practices to follow for your next VC interview.

1. Location, location, location. The biggest to consider is where in the house you are during the VC call.  Factors include:

  • The lighting. You don’t want the main source of light to be behind you, so your face is in shadow, so don’t sit with your back to window for example.  Soft lighting is best so try to have a low wattage lamp next to your laptop perhaps. You want to make sure your features are clearly visible, but that you don’t look like you’re under a spotlight!
  • The backdrop. It’s best practice to have a clean uncluttered backdrop if possible, an unadorned wall is best, try to avoid having a window, wardrobe, or wall of pictures of you partying with your friends during your gap-year, you get the idea.
  • The Angle. For most us our laptop webcams are below our eyeline, looking down can cause unnatural shadows on our face and for it to appear we have more chins than we might like to show the world (think of Rick Gervais’ bath pics)!  So, it’s best practice to elevate your laptop so the webcam is at eye level or a little higher so that you are looking slightly up to address the camera.  You can put your laptop on a stack of books to achieve this.

2. Your outfit. Dress as you would for a face-to-face interview.  Your recruiter should be able to give you a steer on what’s expected here.  Something to note for a VC interview, that you do not need to consider when meeting face-to-face, is how your outfit fits with your backdrop.  If the colours are too similar you might blend in with the wall behind you, if too different it might make it a jarring image on the screen.

3. Avoid interruptions. Make sure your mobile phone is on silent and any programmes on your laptop that might produce audible notifications (e.g. emails / FB messages etc.) are turned off. Try your best to ensure that during your interview you are not interrupted by housemates, young children or pets walking through your backshot.  However, if something does happen to interrupt you, don’t ignore it (like the infamous BBC economics pundit!), apologise to the interviewer(s) and address the interruption to ensure you can get back to your interview without distraction – make a joke out of it even to diffuse any tension there may be about the incident.

4. Use notes but don’t rely on them. One of the great things about VC interviewing is that you can have a few notes pre-prepared to refer to during the interview.  These should be short, cue card type notes, e.g. post its stuck to the laptop or desk out of shot to remind you to mention specific, relevant achievements or good questions you might want to ask.  You do not want to be seen reading from a sheet of paper during the interview!

5. Body Language / Look at the webcam. Nonverbal communication is vital, and though harder to do over VC than face-to-face there are a few things you can do to aid this.  Make sure you look into the webcam when speaking, not the screen – this is the next best thing to holding eye contact.  Let the interviewers know you are engaged when they are speaking by nodding during the conversation or leaning in slightly to show you interest.  What you do not want to do is stay so still they think your web cam has frozen!

6. Practice makes perfect. A test run before your interview is vital, your recruiter or a friend will be able to help you here, this way you will be able to check that the sound from your laptop and mic work ok, the lighting is fine and that your backdrop/outfit don’t clash.  If you have to use a software account (you usually will not) such as Skype, make sure the picture that goes with your profile is suitable – if you set up your skype account while you were in college and have a picture of you on the beach sipping a cocktail – maybe change it or get rid of the picture all together!

7. Don’t stress! These are unprecedented times we are living in, so if you can’t get all of the above perfect or if something goes wrong during your VC interview – do not stress about it.  One of the great things to have come out of the current crisis is the empathy I am seeing from everyone I deal with, be they clients, candidates, friends, family or colleagues.  We all know these are challenging times and everyone is doing their best, so do your best, acknowledge any issues that occur – those interviewing will understand.

If you have a VC interview lined up – Good Luck!  Feel free to give your consultant at The Panel a call and we’ll be happy to share any further tips or run through a quick practice VC call with you.