Top 10 Video Interview Tips For 2020

By Mike Simpson

The popularity of video interviews is skyrocketing. When unemployment is sitting at 3.5 percent, like it was in February 2020, it pushes organizations to expand their candidate searches. With it, companies can interview professionals all across the country. No plane tickets required!

Once COVID-19 began shaking up the nation, interest in video interviews soared. After all, when the government starts shouting about the need for social distancing, the idea of meeting with a near-stranger for an in-person interview is significantly less appealing.

But even though the technology isn’t new, many people have never been through this kind of interview before. Finding out more about what’s involved in the process and digging up some good video interview tips becomes a priority. If you want to make sure you’re ready for a video interview, here’s what you need to know.

What is a Video Interview?

A video interview is an approach that allows hiring managers and candidates to meet face-to-face without being in the same room. Through the use of video conferencing software, webcams, speakers, and microphones, they can mimic a traditional interview experience.

Why Are Video Interviews Used?

There are plenty of situations where video interviews are helpful. For example, companies can use them to interview candidates who live in other parts of the state, country, or planet. It can also allow hiring managers who travel for their work to meet with candidates regardless of where they end up.

Today, video interviews are standing in for in-person meetings more often. Concerns about the coronavirus and some mandatory shelter-in-place orders mean people aren’t getting together like they once did. With a video interview, a hiring manager can screen candidates even during these uncertain times.

How Do Video Interviews Work?

Video interviews rely on specific technologies. Along with an internet-capable computer, tablet, or smartphone, each participant needs a webcam, speakers (or headphones), and a microphone. This allows them to see, hear, and speak with each other.

Additionally, web conferencing or video calling software is needed to make the connection. Some of the most popular solutions include:

    • GoToMeeting
    • Join.me
    • Skype
    • Zoom

Common Video Interview Mistakes

If you aren’t familiar with video interviewing, it’s easy to make some mistakes. Certain faux pas can hurt your chances of getting a job.

When it comes to video interview tips, the biggest one is to avoid missteps that could hold you back. With that in mind, here are three common video interview mistakes people make:

1. Not Checking the Lighting

A video interview is supposed to substitute for a face-to-face meeting. If the hiring manager can’t see you well, that’s a problem.

Additionally, some lighting angles are less than flattering. While we all want to be judged solely on our capabilities, it doesn’t help to put your best foot (or face) forward.

Before you start a video interview, bring up the camera, and see if there are any lighting issues. If so, make adjustments. You might have to shift your position in the room, bring in table lamps, or open or close curtains to get things just right. While it can take a moment, it’s worth the effort.

2. Overlooking What’s in the Background

When you participate in a video interview, you want to come off as the consummate professional. But a single inappropriate item in the background can derail that goal.

Before your meeting, turn on your camera and see what part of your room shows up in the frame. Then, look at every item closely. Is it something you want the hiring manager to see? If not, get it out of the frame.

Additionally, choose a space you can control, like a room with a lockable door. That way, you don’t end up like BBC Dad, Professor Robert Kelly.

MIKE'S TIP: As you look at your background, you need to broaden your definition of “inappropriate.” An item doesn’t have to be risqué or rude to qualify. For example, any items that showcase a political leaning, religious preference, or identifies you as a member of a protected group might be best to remove. You want to limit chances for controversy and bias, so if any item is overly revealing or potentially contentious, move it out of the frame.

3. Thinking You Can Google Your Way to Success

For a video interview, you’ll use a computer, tablet, or smartphone to connect. This means a powerful hunk of technology is within grabbing distance. If you get stumped by a question, you might be tempted to hop online and look for an answer.

Similarly, you might think you can get a leg up by writing out answers to various regular or behavioral interview questions. Then, you can just read them off when one comes up.

Sure, this might seem like a guaranteed path toward success, but it isn’t. In most cases, you’ll get caught.

Why?

Because the hiring manager can see you and will probably notice when your attention keeps flickering around the screen, or your hands are suddenly clicking on keys.

Even if you try to be stealthy and mute your mic or fake a video feed issue to get that extra moment, that’ll come across as suspicious, including if you only do it once. Hiring managers are no dummies. They’ve seen these tricks before.

Resist temptation and don’t try to use a computer or another device for an advantage. If you prepare properly for your interview, you’ll be fine. Resorting to subterfuge just isn’t necessary, and it could actually cause you to lose out on a job if you get caught.

Top 10 Video Interview Tips

Here are our top 10 video interview tips that can help you excel.

1. Dress Like It’s an In-Person Interview

While it’s funny to see commercials of people interviewing in their pajama bottoms, that’s not a smart move. How you dress impacts your mood, for one. For another, you never know if you’ll need to get up unexpectedly. Stay safe by dressing just as you would if you were meeting in person.

2. Remember to Look at the Camera

Eye contact for a video interview is tricky. If you’re looking at the hiring manager’s eyes on the screen, to them, it seems like you’re looking down. Create a sense of eye contact by shifting your gaze between the screen and the camera regularly. That way, you’re making the connection, without staring them down accidentally.

3. Slow Down When You Speak

While many speakers, microphones, and headsets offer stellar sound quality, you can never predict exactly how you’ll come through. When you talk during your video interview, slow down. Make sure you enunciate your words, as well.

4. Confirm the Time Zone

If you’re interviewing for a company in another area, confirm whether any agreed-upon meeting times are in your time zone or theirs. Otherwise, you might end up ridiculously early or late, or mistakenly believe they ghosted you.

5. Choose a Professional User Name

Many people have long-standing accounts with Skype. While “Tacos4Ever” may have been funny to you at one point, it isn’t going to impress a hiring manager. Make sure your user name is professional. If you need to, create a whole new account to be safe.

6. Take Care with Your Colors

Bright colors and white don’t work well for video interviews. Wearing all black can also be troubling, giving your skin a vampiric quality. When in doubt, focus on coordinating neutrals.

7. Watch Your Gestures

During a live interview, being a little bit animated is fine. However, during a video interview, it can be a bit distracting. Remember, the interviewer only sees what’s in the frame, so your arm movement can take up essentially the entire screen. It makes them seem larger than they are, so tone it down, just to be safe.

8. Be Online Early

With most video interviews, you’ll be able to connect to the web conference before it officially begins. Ideally, you want to be in the virtual room before the hiring manager, so log in about five before the start. That way, they aren’t waiting for you.

IMPORTANT: Don’t log in TOO early. A lot of hiring managers are new to video interviews at the moment and are not all experts. Some of them have been known to use the same “virtual interview room” for all their candidates. You don’t want to log in 15 minutes before your scheduled time and crash the interview going on before yours! 5 minutes early is enough.

9. Pause Before Speaking

In some cases, video interviews have delays. It takes a moment after a person speaks for that to transmit to the other participant. To make sure you don’t accidentally talk over the hiring manager, wait for a second or two after they ask a question before you respond. That way, you can make sure they are finished before you begin.

10. Make Sure You Disconnect

Once your interview wraps up, make sure you are fully disconnected from the web conference before you do anything else. Otherwise, an offhanded post-interview remark or gesture might get broadcasted to the interviewer.

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, a video interview isn’t unlike a traditional one. It just requires some technology and a few additional considerations. With the right preparation and know-how, you can excel. Just make sure to use the video interview tips above, and you’ll be all set.

And as always, good luck!

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About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.