NEWS + ADVICE
How to Excel in a Video Interview
Our top tips to help you ace your next virtual interview.
1. Think of it like a face-to-face interview. The key to a successful video interview lies in treating it as closely to an in-person interview as possible. As you prep, be sure to:
Research the company and the people you’ll be interviewing with. Ask for the names of the individuals you’ll be speaking to. Then research them online just as you do the company, the agency, or the contract. You’re seeking details and commonalities to help you in the interview. The more you know about the company and the folks you’re interviewing with, the better you’ll perform in the interview.
Check all your networks, both online and offline, to see if you already have a contact at the company. Your goal is to uncover critical details about the position and department that are not on the job posting. That intel may make you a better candidate for the job, and gives you info to make a more informed decision about your level of interest.
Prepare your success stories. Develop and practice 5-7 success stories of relevant accomplishments from the past 5-10 years of your career. What was a situation you faced, what goal were you trying to achieve, what actions did you take to achieve your goal, and what were the results? If you have these polished stories in your back pocket, they’ll give you confidence and help you shine.
2. Test your tech. This is where things start to differ from in-person interviews. Be sure to always check your tech in advance. This includes checking your internet connectivity and confirming your camera and microphone are working. If possible, run a test with a friend on the platform you will be using. This will help you get comfortable and also avoid issues like accidentally muting yourself once it’s show time.
3. Rehearse with a colleague or friend. Beyond the technical aspect, rehearsing with a colleague or friend is especially critical if you haven’t interviewed in awhile. You want your answers to be crisp and concise, to know if you have any distracting tics or habits, and to project a positive, present attitude. You’ll have limited time with your interviewers, so run a practice session to ensure you make the most of your opportunity.
4. Dress professionally. Looking your best shows the employer or agency that you take the interview seriously. If in doubt, ask your recruiter what is appropriate dress. While your web cam may only show your top half, be prepared below. If something unexpected requires you to stand up, you’ll want your bottom half to match the professional attire you’re wearing up top.
5. Simulate arriving early. You may have tested your tech the previous day, but mimic arriving early to make sure that your internet, computer, camera, and microphone are working ahead of the interview. Also take a moment to close and silence the applications that are running in the background of your computer. Not only does this limit potential distractions caused by notifications, but it can also help your processing power and bandwidth.
6. Control what you can. Set up in a quiet place away from other people and pets, and make sure your background is free of distractions. If you can’t control your environment completely, let the interviewer know at the start to manage expectations. If interruptions do arise, acknowledge them briefly, regain your composure, and focus on selling what you have to offer. Also remember to maintain positive body language, look into the camera and make eye contact, and try not to fidget.
7. Ask questions. As always, ask thoughtful questions. Even if you think everything has been covered, you must ask a couple questions that show you’ve done your homework. What’s a typical day like? What are your goals for the position over the next six months? It’s fine to reference a list of questions too.
8. Follow up. In the interview, ask how you should follow up and when. Then write a thank you (email is ok) to every person who interviewed you within 24 hours. This is an opportunity to emphasize your interest in the position. You should also email or call the recruiter to get any feedback from them and discuss the timeframe going forward. If you haven’t heard back after a week, send a second follow-up.
Tips to Prepare Your Setting and Tech
Though platforms like Zoom have options to add a virtual background, avoid these unless you have a green screen. Try to situate yourself somewhere with a blank background, like an empty wall without pictures. And always tidy up.
Lighting and Glare
Natural light often looks best, but don’t sit with your back to a window. You want the light coming from in front of you so that you’re not in the shadows. If a lamp is causing glare, try pointing it towards the wall behind you instead of directly aimed at you.
Username and Profile Picture
Take a look at your name and profile picture associated with your account on the video platform you’ll be using. This is the very first thing they will see, so be sure it’s professional.
Tips to Look Your Professional Best
Necklines and Sleeves
Ladies, keep your neckline in mind. A lower-cut top might be out of the field of view once on camera. The only bare skin visible should be your face and neckline, so wear long sleeves, a blazer, or suit jacket.
Colors and Patterns
Skip neutral colors that wash you out and opt for saturated colors. And stay away from prints and patterns. They can appear blurry, overpowering, and distracting on camera.
Keep jewelry to a minimum or none at all. Select either earrings or a necklace. Wearing both or something too large can cause distractions, especially if they’re shiny.
If you’re going to wear makeup, think conservatively. But you might want to apply your products a little more heavily than you usually do, so the camera picks up your features.
A fresh shave is always advisable for an interview. If you want to keep your facial hair, check the company’s social media accounts to see if their employees are sporting beards. At minimum, trim, comb, and condition.
Doing some research beforehand will help you understand what it means to dress the part in their eyes. Remember: it’s always better to be overdressed than under – and please wear pants!