Got a video interview? Here’s what you need to know

In today’s fast-moving, cost and climate conscious global academic world, it is increasingly possible you may be invited to a video interview when applying for a new job. Whether it’s Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout or Zoom, video interviews can save significant time, expense and impact on the environment – and are becoming more and more popular.

But they are not without their challenges. An interview in the comfort of a familiar environment might seem less formal and lower-key. Don’t be fooled, though: it still requires a high degree of thought and planning.

Interruption horror stories are rife – the neighbour who starts drilling just as the interview begins, the internet connection that suddenly drops off, the child who comes clattering happily through the door behind you.

The reality is that when it comes to a video interview, you are responsible for far more than may think. From the quality of sound, lighting – even cleanliness – of the room you use to the reliability of your equipment, there is plenty to consider.

So, to help you ace your next video interview, here are our top five practical suggestions.

Before interview day, make sure to:

  1. Prep your tech

    This is key. However thorough the rest of your preparation, if your equipment lets you down all that effort will count for nothing.

    First up, check the equipment itself. Is your computer or tablet reliable? How about sound quality – is your microphone up to the job? Could you borrow or invest in a top quality one?

    It is also a good idea to find out which platform you will be using. Ensure it is installed and working correctly. Add your interviewer’s account to your contacts. Now is the time to make sure your profile is professional, with an appropriate photo – and no embarrassing username!

    It can also be worth agreeing a second, back-up platform with your interviewer in advance, in case you hit unforeseen problems. Add your main contact’s landline or mobile number to your phone, too.

  2. Choose the right location

    Pick a place with reliable internet connection. It should be a dedicated space you can use for the entire duration of the conversation, safe in the knowledge that anyone else wanting to use it knows it won’t be accessible until the end of your interview.

    Make sure it’s a space with minimal background noise and a comfortable temperature. You don’t want an open window to let in unwelcome external sounds. Then review the lighting. Although the room must be well-lit so that your interviewers can see you clearly, avoid sitting in front of a single, dazzling light source.

    Remember that the environment around you may affect your focus. You will be doing all you can to give cogent, concise answers, so consider making your space equally clear and clutter-free. Remove anything that could distract your interviewer – or yourself – from the quality and content of what you want to say.

  3. Rehearse and refine your delivery

    Draft your answers to sample questions like these. Then ask a friend or colleague to critique as you run through them. Now is also a good time to decide where to direct your eyes when you are speaking. It may be preferable to look into the camera, giving your interviewers the impression that you are addressing them directly. This can feel unnatural though, so practise in advance.

    Try recording yourself and then review what went well and what needs improvement. By working to refine your answers and troubleshoot any issues that arise beforehand you will appear more confident and articulate when it matters.

On the day:

  1. Dress for success

    Pay as much attention to what you wear as you would for a face-to-face interview. You still need to give a good impression and demonstrate your professionalism, even if you are at home. Opting for the infamous smart jacket/pyjama bottoms combination is risky – and it may even take the edge off your performance.

  2. Don’t forget crucial last-minute details

    What do you need at hand? A pad and pen to jot down notes or the elements of a complex question? A glass of water? Make sure your screen is at a comfortable height: you could be focused on it for a lengthy period.

    Before you begin, silence notifications on your computer or tablet to avoid the sound of emails hitting your inbox. Do the same with your phone. Try to eliminate anything that could distract you from the task ahead.

    Finally, when the interview is over take a look at these tips for successful follow-up – and best of luck!

Further reading

Got an interview? Get prepared

Karen Kelsky’s Rocking the Phone/Skype Interview

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Jo Mitchell is an experienced writer and editor. After studying Modern Languages at the University of Oxford she worked in fundraising at Oxfam GB and Viva, where she specialised in writing communications for major donors. She now provides freelance editing and copywriting services at Nightingale Ink in the firm belief that sometimes words can sing.

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