It’s increasingly likely that if you’re interviewing for a job in another market or maybe even closer to home, you’re going to be sitting behind a computer screen instead of across a hiring manager’s desk–at least at first.
“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in first-round video interviews, even over a year ago,” says Adam Robinson, cofounder and CEO of Chicago-based Hireology, a hiring management software platform.
And while these interviews may feel more informal than a face-to-face setting, it’s a mistake to treat them that way, Robinson says. In many ways, they require more preparation. Here are eight steps to acing your video job interview.
Go through exactly the same process you’d use to prep for an in-person interview, including researching the company and the job, reviewing your resume, and practicing how you’ll pitch yourself, says Sherri Mitchell, president and co-founder of Phoenix, Arizona staffing firm, All About People. It helps to do some mock interviews with a friend or colleague to practice. Have a copy of your resume and any notes in front of you in case you need to refer to them.
Once you know the platform you’re going to use, be sure you practice using it before the actual interview. Whether it’s Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout, or another platform, be sure it’s downloaded and operational on your computer. Load or login time may take longer for some than others and you don’t want to be in a panicked scramble trying to figure it out in the minutes before your interview, Robinson says.
Choose where you’re going to sit for the interview and scan the background to ensure it’s neat and appropriate, Mitchell says. A tidy bookshelf or a neutral wall with a piece of artwork in the background can be good backdrops. Make sure your desk and any visible background area is uncluttered. Avoid having a window in the background as backlighting can make it hard to see you. She suggests placing a lamp in back of your computer screen if you need additional lighting, as it will be more flattering and make it easier to see you.
Sometimes, it seems like technology is ruled by Murphy’s Law, so be sure to anticipate any potential snags, Robinson says. Make sure your computer or device is plugged in to a power outlet, even if it’s fully charged, as video technology can drain the battery, and you never know how long the interview will end up being. Use a broadband connection and, if possible, have a backup, such as a mobile phone that can be used as a wireless Internet connection. In addition, Robinson says that one of the first things you should ask is for the best possible phone number just in case the Internet connection goes down and you can’t reconnect online.
“It shows that you’re forward-thinking about problems and will also ensure that you can at least finish out the interview by phone,” he says.
Robinson also suggests addressing potentially disruptive situations before they happen. Turn off phone ringers. Find someone to watch your children or dog while you’re doing the interview. “I promise you that if you’re doing the interview and you have kids running around and a dog barking, not only is it going to be distracting and make it hard for you to focus, but it’s going to affect the hiring manager’s opinion of you,” Robinson says.
Position your computer or web camera so that it’s eye-level, Mitchell says. That may mean putting a few books under your laptop or placing your device on a shelf.
Avoid looking at the person’s face on the screen and, instead, look into the camera lens, which will make it look to the interviewer like you are looking him or her in the eye. Focusing on the screen makes look to the interviewer like you’re avoiding eye contact and can affect his or her perception of you, Mitchell says.
Check how your body language looks on the screen. Are you sitting up straight? Is the chair the best height for the table or desk at which you’re sitting? How is your head tilted? You should look professional, but relaxed, Mitchell says.
It may be tempting to adopt the suit-top-and-pajama-bottoms dress code, but you’ll have a psychological advantage if you’re fully dressed for the interview, Mitchell says. Also, if you have a tech or other issue and need to stand up to address it you won’t risk getting caught half-dressed.