Even before 2020, many employers were using video interviewing at least some of the time. Now, the ability to perform well in a remote interview has become a crucial career skill.
Interviewing over video can feel unnatural, but with a little preparation you can smooth out the awkwardness and have a productive conversation.
Set Up for a Seamless ExperienceTo look good, get good light. Did you ever see the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is dating a woman who sometimes looks beautiful yet sometimes looks scary? Sexist attitudes aside, much of that horror-movie effect came from oddly angled lighting that put dark shadows on the actress’s face.
Avoid these shadows by lighting your face from the front and sides. A window is an excellent light source. A ring light (selfie light) clipped onto your computer screen or around your webcam is another good solution. I recently bought one of these for less than $20.
Dress for an in-person interview, with a few differences. Avoid wearing a lot of white, black, or extremely bright colors; prints, which can seem to shimmer strangely as you move; and heavy jewelry that can clunk against the desk or your microphone.
Makeup is more important on video. The aim is not to look like you’re starring in a music video but to look professional and healthy. Men, consider a little moisturizer if your skin looks dry and lifeless and a natural-looking tinted lip balm if you have pale lips. Women, you may find you look sharper with a moderate amount of makeup, even if you usually wear none. And for everyone, a little powder on any shiny spots will help you look cool, calm, and collected.
Avoid distracting sounds and sights. Turn off audible notifications on your device. Silence your phone(s). If you’re interviewing from home, find a spot with a clean, simple background. To hide clutter, a folding screen is a good bet. Virtual backgrounds are available, but they can be tricky. Keep it simple.
Sound good. If your built-in microphone picks up too much background noise, consider a Lavalier lapel mic.
Frame yourself. The camera should be at your eye level—nobody wants to look up your nose—and the right distance away, so that your head and upper chest are in the picture, with a little extra space above your head.
Practice effective body language. Sit up straight, shoulders back, feet flat on the floor. Look into the camera most of the time when listening and about half the time when talking. Moving the videoconference window as close to the camera as possible makes this easier.
Use notes minimally, if at all. Post sticky notes around the edges of your screen for quick reminders if needed. Don’t look downward.
Is it a one-way interview? You may be asked to participate in an interview with no live interviewer. You’ll be sent a list of questions—or asked the questions by a recorded voice—and you’ll record your responses. How can you communicate in an engaging way when nobody’s there? Use your imagination. Don’t talk to the computer, talk to the person who will be watching later. Imagine them listening to you with friendliness and respect.
Do a dress rehearsal well in advance. Whatever platform is going to be used, do a practice run to ensure you’re comfortable with it. Notice how you look and sound.
On interview day, log in a few minutes early with the microphone turned off and the camera lens covered (a sticky note on your computer works fine). Just don’t forget you’ve done so!
When It’s Time to Shine
Take a deep breath, enjoy a positive thought, smile, and join the call. You’ve prepared as you would for any interview (see below), and that preparation will carry you to success.
Whatever happens, remain calm and gracious. If technical issues occur, just smile, communicate, and collaborate as needed to get back on track. Show them you can roll with it.
In the End, It’s Not About the Technology
Prepare as you would for any interview. Embracing the technical stuff is important, but most of your preparation should focus on the company, the role, and how you’re a great fit. Do your research, prepare your answers and questions, and follow the best practices for success in any type of interview. This can take days, so start as soon as you begin your job search.
Eventually, you may need to be ready for other interview formats too. Read the other two posts in this three-part series, “Phone Screenings With Recruiters: Are You Ready?” and “How to Ace Seven Types of Job Interviews—From Panels to Pasta,” to ensure you're ready to succeed in any type of job interview.