As the coronavirus epidemic continues, more of us will be working from home. During this time, it is more likely that a candidate will be asked to interview via video conference call.
In fact, Aaron Gonsalves, UK Talent Acquisition Manager at Phaidon International, recommends that candidates make it known they are prepared to interview virtually, “Get one step ahead and let
companies know that you are ready to interview via video conference. This will show initiative and speed up the recruitment process.”
It's now common practice for competitive positions with several interview stages to include a video interview stage. Video interviews are also required for remote or work at home (WFH) roles. Roles which require relocation will very likely have a video interview before any money is spent on travel for an in-person interview. Video interviews are very convenient, but the format can have its challenges.
Long term, an ever more connected, digital and globalised world will make video interviews even more common. This guide will help you present the best version of your professional self from home. You may experience connectivity issues, you may struggle to answer questions on camera rather than in person, or you may simply be camera shy.
However, video interviews can be successful with some practical preparation and practice. Follow these tips on technology, setting up your interview space, body language and posture for the best chance possible to move to the next stage of your job interview.
Why do employers use video interviews?
Video interviews are perfect for those roles which attract large numbers of candidates. The video interview format is often shorter than an in-person interview and costs a lot less time, effort and money on the sides of both the candidate and employer.
Recruitment agencies also use video interviews when screening for candidates on behalf of an employer. Most job interviews are often recorded so more people can be involved in the decision-making process, or questions can be looked back on and reviewed when considering candidates.
As the majority of candidates will now have access to a webcam and video conferencing software such as Skype, the video interview has rocketed in popularity over the past decade. Other software
vendors such as Fuze and Hinterview provide an even more seamless experience— candidates can join the call without needing to download any software. Hinterview (which we use at Phaidon International) also allows recruiters to record and timestamp candidate screenings to share with clients, which speeds up the whole hiring process.
Video interviews: The formats
When setting up your video interview, be clear about which format it is going to take. Types of video interviews include:
A face-to-face interview with one or several interviewers. This is usually done over a free service such as Skype or Google Hangouts. The majority of these are done remotely, though some companies may ask you to have a live video interview in their offices with their own equipment, or as a part of a daylong interview process where some interviewers are based remotely.
This is where instead of talking live to a person, you record videos of you answering questions which have been sent over in advance or are presented on the screen. These
interviews are often created on more specific video recruitment software. There are more variations to a pre-recorded interview, such as timings or the ability to re-record your answer. These interviews also often set time limits for answers.
Video interviews: the practicalities
If you feel like you need some notes to keep on your desk, make sure they are easy to read and only present key points and information you want to cover. Referring to your notes constantly will make you look unprepared and unprofessional.
While preparing for your job interview, you will need to consider the following:
First of all, set up your location for your remote video interview. Ideally, you need to find a quiet room in neutral colours where you will not face any noise or disturbances. When you position your webcam, make sure there is nothing embarrassing in the background! For example, if you have a bookshelf in view, you may want to turn some titles around.
“You would be surprised where people think is appropriate to interview from,” says Laurence Scott, a director at Glocomms, Phaidon International’s tech recruitment brand. “Frequently, people will take do the video interview on their mobile phone while walking down the street!”
You also need to test how the lighting in your location makes you look on camera. You don’t want your face to be in shadow, or sit in a light which makes you look unattractive. Interviewing by a window where there is plenty of natural light is the best option, but you can also set up your own lighting for the best results. Video calling software Zoom gives you the option to digitally blur and brighten your appearance, using technology similar to that of an Instagram filter. It cannot cover a multitude of sins, so ensure that you get a good night’s sleep in preparation for interview. It is vital to make sure you can avoid as much noise as possible.
If you are interviewing at home, ask your family and housemates not to disturb you or make too much noise during the interview. Ensure your phone is switched to silent, and close software or tabs on your laptop which may play notification sounds or autoplay videos.
2) Video interview equipment and software
While not important for every role, setting up the video interview will be a test in itself of your technological skills. Are you able to confidently set up a remote interview? Here is everything you need to know:
You will either be using your laptop webcam or a remote webcam connected to your laptop. A remote webcam is the best option, as you will have more control over the position of the webcam.
You can also use the camera on a smartphone or laptop for your video interview. If you are using a portable device camera, it would help to invest in a smartphone tripod, so you can conduct the interview without holding the device. If using your laptop’s built-in camera, make sure that you can sit at a good distance from the screen while still being able to read comfortably.
Ensure you have a brilliant internet connection setup, it is better to use an ethernet cable rather than rely on WiFi if you are interviewing from home.
If possible, you should also wear headphones with a built-in microphone to make communication as clear as possible.
You may need to download separate software or a phone app. If possible, create your account and get used to how the software works before the interview.
If the interview is happening on a popular piece of software where you already have an account, for example Skype, make sure your personal account and privacy settings are above board. If you have a goofy username or profile picture, it may be worth creating a professional account for the interview.
Setting up your webcam
The most attractive and easiest angle for eye contact when having a face-to-face webcam interview is just above the eyeline with a downward angle. Shooting upward creates shadows and often looks unattractive, whereas shooting directly to the eyeline can sometimes come across as awkward.
If using a laptop or device, set it up at a slightly raised angle on a flat surface for your interview. If using an external webcam, it is easy to set it up on a stack of books or a box set up behind your monitor.
If you are struggling to find good light, placing two light sources on either side of your face (you may need to move some lamps around) will achieve a professional-looking even light.
3) Clothing and posture
Interviewing from home is not an excuse for a pyjama day. Treat your video interview like any other job interview – dress professionally in smart clothing (bottom half too, even if the webcam won’t catch it).
“A big issue for us is having people feeling that they do not have to put in the same effort as people that go face to face,” says Laurence Scott. “Recently, I’ve encountered people taking the video interview from their bed from under the covers (yes, really) or in their gym kit. Once, I even had a guy who came on the conference call without a top on, I had to drop the call and ask him to get dressed!”
When interviewing in front of a camera, it is best to choose outfits with basic and muted colours, avoiding loud patterns or stripes. Pure white and black can also leave to saturation issues and are best avoided. Glasses wearers should check for any lens glare when testing their webcam setup.
For positioning, it is best to be seated in a chair facing the webcam directly, not set too low or high in the frame. Keep your feet on the ground, as crossing your legs can change your positioning and framing.
4) Body language and camera set-up
Body language is an essential part of a video interview, as what you do within a limited frame will have a larger impact. The most difficult part of a video interview is eye contact. It can be hard to find a balance between engaged and unsettling when you are not talking face-to-face.
When the interviewer is talking, make sure you are smiling, nodding and making regular eye contact to show you are listening intently. Keep in mind that ‘eye contact’ doesn’t involve looking at the eyes on the screen, but instead at your slightly raised webcam. If you are struggling to do this, minimize the video screen and move it to the top of your monitor so your interviewer’s eyeline is higher.
Maintain positive body language, avoiding any slouching and keep your back straight. When speaking about your eligibility for the role, use hand gestures to emphasize both your point and your enthusiasm.
Smiling will help you with your confidence, but you can easily come across as a bit too eager if you are smiling too much or laughing heartily at every joke - focus on coming across as natural.
While focusing on your interview answers, it can be easy to waver into old fidgeting habits - touching your face, picking at your fingernails etc. The best way to avoid these distracting tics is to practice in front of a mirror or friends a few times to note your body language and focus on staying calm.
If your nervous energy is overwhelming, try tapping your feet softly instead of fidgeting visibly – your interviewers won’t see a thing!
If it goes wrong
The main problem with video interviews is that they can fall foul of technical issues. Test all of your equipment a few days before the interview, ensuring a clear picture and sound. Make sure all of your equipment is either plugged in or fully charged.
Make sure you have contact details with your interviewer outside of the platform you are using in case you face any technical issues, such as a phone number or instant messenger connection. If the video interview faces problems, call the interviewer and ask to continue the interview on the phone or reschedule.
If an unexpected noise disrupts your interview, apologize and ask for a few moments to either investigate the noise or wait for it to end.
If you are facing a bad connection or a long delay from your interviewer’s side, don’t try to ‘wing it’ - say clearly that you are unable to hear the interviewer or that the connection is taking too long. A video interview may involve a few false starts if a redial is needed.
Essential video interview checklist
Day before the interview
Test all of your equipment and make sure it is fully charged
Inform relatives or housemates about the video interview
Check your location for any embarrassing items or messiness
Test your lighting set-up
Before the interview
Lock the door if possible
Put your phone on silent
Keep a bottle of water by your side
Close all tabs and other software on your computer
During the interview
Remember to look at the webcam itself when using eye contact
Keep your back straight and your posture professional and open
Speak slowly and clearly