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8 Tips for Successful Video Interviews

By Rachel Ryan

Videoconference interviews are becoming more common, partly because they save time and money for the employer, but also because they make it possible to have meetings that otherwise might never occur. As the Videoconferencing Specialist at a Fortune 500 company, I'm involved the many job interviews our company conducts via video. Part of my job is to show the person on the other end how to use the equipment. I hope these tips will help Ask The Headhunter readers when they encounter a video interview.

1. Get ready before the interview.
Make sure someone shows you how to use the equipment. There are several different brands, but once you know how to use one, you'll probably figure out how to use the others. The better you understand the equipment, the more comfortable and confident you will be.

2. Control your presentation by controlling the equipment.
Set up the camera so it focuses on you. If you can get a tight head/shoulders/desk shot, this is best. Try to keep other objects out of the shot, or the viewers could get distracted. Make sure the microphone is near you. Typically, you will have a microphone pod on the table in front of you.

Because of the way video works, minimizing background movement (second hands on clocks, cars passing on the freeway outside) is to your advantage. If possible, remove any such background motion, since motion causes the equipment to work harder to transmit the image. The same principle applies to the type of clothing the candidate wears. Most people dress conservatively when going to interviews, but I would go one step further and promote solid conservative colors (but not bright white). Small stripes and busy patterns do not look good on a television screen and cause the equipment to work harder to reconcile these patterns when the person moves, causing a delay. (Have you ever seen a news anchor with a tie that makes your eyes buggy because it seems to "vibrate"? The same thing happens in videoconferences.)

3. Manage the microphone.
Be conscious of where the microphone is. Remember that microphones pick up and often amplify any sound, so be careful about shuffling papers and tapping on the table near the microphone. In person, these sorts of things are filtered out by our brains, but microphones aren't that smart. In fact, mics are very sensitive. Those little noises are very loud and distracting on the other end.

4. Monitor yourself.
Some systems will allow you to keep a "picture-in-picture" of yourself on the screen, so you'll be able to see what the other person sees. If you're concerned about your body language, the picture-in-picture can help you monitor it.

5. Make contact.
In a videoconference, you cannot "turn towards" one of several viewers to indicate which of them you are addressing in particular. Likewise, you cannot make direct eye contact to signal whom you are speaking to. It is therefore important to get the names of the interviewers in advance, and to use the names to indicate who you are focusing on at any point during the interview.

6. Listen with your eyes.
I've noticed that non-verbal listening cues become more prominent in a videoconference. That is, while you are talking, you will become more aware of the facial expressions of the interviewers, and they will be more aware of yours. I am not sure why this is; perhaps because your face may be larger on the television screen than it is in real life or because this is the only part of you that the interviewer has to focus on. So, try to be more conscious of what your expressions are saying to the viewer. Do you look like you are listening? They will notice.

7. Don't be afraid.
The biggest mistake people make when videoconferencing, by far, is that they are afraid of the technology, and their anxiety comes across in the interview. If the machine crashes or the connection goes down (this rarely happens), it is important to remember that the interviewers will not blame you, nor will equipment failure reflect poorly on you. In fact, in a lot of cases, the company will be concerned about the impression this will give the candidate, so we do our very best to ensure this does not happen.

8. Use the medium to your advantage.
Interviewing via videoconference can actually be to your advantage if you can be natural and confident. The interviewers know that many people have not used videoconferencing before. If a candidate can come in and adapt quickly to this new situation, it reflects very well on the candidate. Companies like ours are very proud of how they leverage technology, so if you can do well with videoconferencing it shows that you would be a good fit for a progressive company's culture.

Of all the tips I've shared, the most important is don't be scared of the technology. Most interviewees probably have butterflies to begin with, and if they are nervous about the videoconferencing equipment, this just doubles it. Don't worry about the equipment. As soon as you get into the meeting, you will forget that you are videoconferencing and it will be very smooth. I promise you!

Please tell us what you think of this article.

Rachel Ryan is the Videoconferencing Specialist for a Fortune 500 company.


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