Video job interviews are an increasingly common part of the hiring process. While it is nothing new for many expats and ‘glocal’ employees, for those who have never worked or applied for jobs in an international context, the new situation bears a couple of questions.
What should you consider, when being interviewed on a screen?
Dress up as if you had the interview onsite.
Depending on the industry and corporate culture there are many definitions of what’s adequate business dress. If in doubt, better overdress a bit.
While there’s no one right outfit for job interviews, there are some avoidable pitfalls.
Remember the BBC reporter on live TV? Meanwhile you can blur your background with solutions such as MS teams, but in case you’ll have to get up for any reason you don’t want this to happen to you! As a general rule your outfit should be comfortable and at the same time make you feel confident.
If you usually would wear a tie or high heels, do so for the virtual interview as well – it will help you take the right posture.
If in doubt about what would be the adequate outfit, check out the company’s website and/ or various key employees’ LinkedIn profiles for rough orientation. Individual LinkedIn profiles are only an orientation if you visit several of them and are able to recognize a pattern.
Wear something that in the first place, makes you feel comfortable and shows you authentic – and then also matches the organization you are interviewing.
There’s no second chance for a first impression
What you read above sounded like nothing really new so far? Correct. Some things don’t change, no matter whether virtually or face to face. That also applies to the whole block of preparation. Be aware that you won’t be able to hide not being prepared, behind any screen.
Device & platform
Most conferencing applications also work on smartphones and tablets and you do not depend on your laptop. That being said, you should choose the device with the best camera and sound conditions and the one that passes your platform test.
The ‘usual suspects’ currently include MsTeams, Zoom, Jiit.si, whereby, webex and GoToMeeting, just to name a few. Try downloading the respective app and do a test-call with someone you know uses the platform already.
Key things to test:
- How is the video quality?
- Can I blur my background? What does it look like?
- How is the audio quality? Are you heard and can you hear the other end? Are the sound settings on your device correct?
- Is the audio quality better with a headset? (ask your counterpart to speak really loud and really soft so you are prepared for both cases)
- Any other programmes or firewalls it interferes with?
- How close or how far do you have to stand for an optimal picture and good proportions of you in the screen?
- Where is the camera located? Look at the camera
- If you have a weak internet connection, turn off ‘HD Video’
- If you cannot hear or are not heard, check what is the primary sound output in your settings
- Try to place the screen of your counterpart right under / beside the camera so both of you have the impression to be looking at each other
If you use your laptop, make sure all other windows, tabs and applications are closed and no further sounds are on. A classic disturber is the WhatsApp application that’s open and unmuted as well as messages you receive on social media platforms.
Make sure you don’t get disturbed on your phone; turn it on flight mode or, if you take the interview on your phone, make sure you have the “do not disturb” function on.
Last but not least, if you don’t use your laptop make sure you can place your phone or tablet on a stable place where it won’t slip or fall.
Background & Light: Kitchen or living room?
Be aware that by taking a video interview from home, you are letting your potential future employer into your living room to a certain extent. If you don’t have an office or a quiet space, make sure you prepare the environment to tackle the interview.
Some platforms such as Zoom and MsTeams offer the possibility to blur the background. If that’s not possible, make sure you have a neutral background and a tidy environment.
Make sure you use light in your favor. Generally, the more natural daylight you have the better, but do neither sit directly looking towards a window nor with a window to your back, it can dazzle you or your counterpart.
Sitting or Standing
In case you belong to the type of person that hates sitting for too long, this aspect may be the single best thing about taking video interviews! You can just as well set up your interview desk at a place you can stand.
Standing has various advantages, one relevant is better breathing and therefore a calmer voice. Be mindful where you stand, how you stand and while you should be standing (or sitting) naturally, you should be aware of any “ticks” you usually have. Nothing worse than finding yourself waving back and forth from one foot to the other or worse even: rolling around with your rolling office chair.
No matter whether you’re sitting or standing – be grounded and feel both your feet stable on the floor.
If you’re standing or sitting stable you’ve made it already half way through!
Unfortunately, that’s no joke: often enough I have witnessed senior executives unconscious about their weird habits from nervously clicking their pen to rocking back and forth in their chairs.
Make sure you’ re authentic with your body language, nod and use your hands, just as you would in a face to face interview. Avoid “freezing”, as it will make you more and more tense.
Don’t forget to breathe and smile!
Background noise & ‘dnd’
Make sure you avoid any unwanted disturbances:
- Close your windows
- If, like me 😊, you have cats, make sure you close the door to your room or lock the cats in a room for the time of the interview.
- Is the interview around the time your post man would come? Leave him a written note not to disturb you
- Are your flat mates around? Again, you can put a do not disturb sign on your door
- Are your husband or wife with toddler at home? Send them for a walk or plan ahead where they can go for how long approximately.
Most things are figureouteable, the better you are prepared for the various scenarios the better. And in case you do get disturbed, stay cool and try to creatively include whatever happens into the conversation.
An example: Another police car with loud siren passing by? “how are your security precautions on the production site?”
Whatever unpredicted disturbance happens: remember this is also an opportunity to show how you perform under stress – and / or whether you have humor.
What’s on the table?
Have your notes and pen ready on your table rather than in an open document on your device.
Don’t forget to have a bottle and glass of water ready and drink plenty of water!
Technical problems & Workaround
You’ve prepared everything and just on the day of the interview the programme keeps crashing? First of all: Stay cool!
Ideally you have an alternative communication channel ready, to contact your counterpart:
- their phone number or e-mail address to inform about a delay or problem.
In case they do not offer an alternative, you may pro-actively offer to switch to another device or platform or, worst case to another day or time. Do not compromise on bad quality interviews – while it has nothing to do with you, it will still radiate on your performance as well.