As the world has adapted to remote working, the way we interview has changed. Many interviews are now conducted virtually through video calls.
This has several benefits, including cost savings on travel, being more convenient for people and expanding the candidate pool to people who live further away.
In this article, we'll cover how you can really stand out from other job candidates and make a great impression to the recruiter.
When the interviewer or hiring manager sends you the video link, make sure you have downloaded the suitable software and if you don’t already have it, download it there and then. If you usually use Zoom but the interview is a Teams link, you don’t want to spend time panicking at the last minute that you don’t have the right software installed.
Once you’ve downloaded the software, on the morning of your interview (or a couple of hours before), check your audio and video are working properly. You can set up a practice call with a friend or colleague to do this, as this will also check for any lag in internet connectivity.
You can also test your microphone quickly using our voice recorder.
While you’re setting up and testing that your video and audio are working, it’s worth thinking about how to optimise both of these so that you present yourself in the best light.
Make sure your camera is at eye level so that the interviewers are focused on your eyes and expressions and not on your chin if you’re looking downwards. You can put your computer on a pile of books, yoga blocks, or anything around the house that raises it that crucial few inches.
You should also consider your lighting for an interview. Webcams automatically focus on the brightest light so if that is behind you, for example, then you will appear dark and grainy. A well-lit video better mimics in-person meetings and helps you to look professional. Remember, first impressions are just as important virtually as they are in-person.
Ideally, sit in front of a window with natural lighting or you can place a lamp or ring light behind your computer screen to light your face up more.
Examples of good and bad setups for video based interviews. Compare the lighting, audio quality, video quality, background and eye contact across the clips.
Which setups look the most professional to you? Do they have anything in common?
Be mindful of your background on video as this can be distracting for the interviewers and may take their attention away from you, and to your environment.
Make sure to clear any dirty dishes, washing, or distracting clutter out of the background as not only will this ensure the interviewers are focused on you, but your background is also a representation of you. If you have a tidy, more orderly background then it will be assumed that you are more organised at work too.
If other people live in your house, it’s a good idea to tell them about your upcoming interview too to ensure your environment is as quiet as it can reasonably be. This allows you to focus on the questions being asked and presenting yourself in the best way possible.
To increase your chances of having a quiet space in which to have your interview, close your door to ensure there are no interruptions. While most people won’t mind if someone walks in during the interview, you should try to make sure the environment is treated as it would be in-person. Having someone walk in to make a cup of coffee or their lunch, for example, can disrupt your flow and distract the interviewers from your answer too.
Another common distraction is your mobile phone. A few minutes before your interview is due to start, put your phone on silent and turn it away from you so you can’t see any notifications coming through. If you’re using your phone to do the interview, put it on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode so that your notifications don’t distract you while you’re answering a question.
The interview may be virtual, but you should dress as you would if the meeting was at the company’s office. Dress smart as this will make you appear more professional and you will also feel more confident and ‘ready for work’ if you are dressed that way.
Avoid glaring prints as these can distort the colours and be distracting on camera, and opt for block, reasonably bright colours where possible. This will help you to stand out both on camera and in the interviewers’ memory.
A disadvantage of virtual meetings of any kind is that you don’t have the same body language cues as you would in person.
This means that you have to adapt your body language and tone slightly for video interviews. For example, to be seen as enthusiastic you have to put more energy into your answer than in-person for it to be interpreted in the same way. Similarly, using hand gestures to emphasise certain points you’re making can get lost on video calls so make sure your camera is angled to include the upper part of your body too.
This video demonstrates how important eye contact is during a virtual interview. Watch the different people talk and think about which one comes across the best on camera and why.
A key tip that will set you apart from your peers is your use of eye contact. When you meet someone in person, eye contact can increase feelings of trust and connection between people, but this is difficult to replicate over video. To do so, when you answer a question, look at the camera on your computer (or webcam) as this will mimic the feeling of eye contact that’s so important to build rapport.
When you look at people on the screen, you will look like you are looking down and you may also get distracted by your own appearance. By looking directly at the camera, you will show confidence in yourself and what you’re saying, and make the interviewers feel like you are talking directly to them.
With any type of interview, preparation is key. Make a list of key competency questions you are likely to be asked (e.g. What is your greatest strength?) and write down a couple of examples for each one. Ideally, your answers should follow a method such as STAR and be adaptable to slightly different versions of the question too.
When preparing, don’t try and write yourself a script to memorise as your answer will come across robotic and less authentic. It’s better to take notes so you know which examples you’d use for which questions, without writing an answer word-for-word.
You can use tools like those in this Video Interview Preparation course to do practice run-throughs. One of the simulations in this course will ask you interview questions and you can practice your response, and you can even select to practice with industry-specific questions too.
Communication and presenting yourself is about the audience, not you. This may sound strange but when you are focused on yourself, you are focusing your energy inwards and are more likely to become overly nervous.
By focusing your energy on the audience and focusing on their experience of the interview more than your own, you reduce your own nervousness and increase your connection with the interviewers. Remember, they are people just like you and you want to make sure you could work together if you get the job.
While how you answer questions, whether you are qualified for the job, and other factors you can determine are important, it’s your connection, authenticity and rapport with the hiring managers that may make the difference between you and a similarly qualified candidate.
As with an in-person job interview, following up with your interviewers is polite and can help keep you top-of-mind. Sending an individual thank you within 24 hours of the interview shows that you value their time and if there’s something you bonded over than you can mention, even better!
This is also an opportunity to highlight any strengths you may have forgotten to discuss in the interview. However, be careful not to go overboard here and make it sound like that is the purpose of your email - the purpose of a follow up email is to be courteous and remind them that you are the best candidate for the job.