Earn Job Hunting

Tips for Acing a Video Job Interview

Molly Triffin  |  September 2, 2018

If you received a digital interview request, don’t panic. Read this guide to acing it instead.

You polished your resume, perfected your cover letter and got a call back from the hiring manager … who wants to schedule a video interview.

The online platform can be more convenient for you and the company you’re angling for, but nailing it takes a certain skill set. “You can’t just sit down, turn on your computer, and expect to ace it,” says Paul Bailo, author of “The Essential Digital Interview Handbook.” “You really have to think like a producer and create a studio environment.” Here’s everything you need to know, from getting set up to ensuring your personality comes through.

Put Yourself in the Best Light

“Lighting can make or break the interview,” says Bailo. (No pressure, right?) “Overhead lights cast shadows on your face that can make you look 90 years old. You’ll look like the phantom of the opera.” Probably not exactly the visual you’re going for. For the most flattering effect, switch on three lamps at face level: one to your left, one on the right and one behind you. Indirect lighting like this illuminates you in a soft way.

Trick Out Your Tech

When you’re trying to focus on making a good impression during an interview, the last thing you want to worry about is a tech malfunction. Make sure you have a solid set-up. You may find that your phone or tablet has better cameras and microphones than your laptop. If you want to get fancy, consider investing in a separate mic and camera for the absolute clearest audio and video. Either way, test-drive your equipment: Record yourself and play it back prior to the interview to make sure you’re coming across how you want to.

Set the Stage

When choosing the setting for the interview, keep the backdrop professional, yet warm. Avoid visual distractions (windows, a view of your cluttered living room, your husband strolling by), but also steer clear of a blank white wall. “It appears blinding on camera, and can feel stark and sterile,” explains Bailo.

And since the microphone will pick up any ambient noise, make sure you’re in a quiet place — close the windows, turn off your phone and ask someone to watch your dog.

Get Framed

Wear the same kind of clothes you would for an in-person interview — even down to your heels. Although the hiring manager won’t be able to see your feet, you’ll psychologically feel more on top of things than if you were in your slippers, says Bailo.

Then, position the camera a couple of feet away from you, framing it so that just your head and chest are in view. “The camera should be at eye level,” adds Bailo. “If it’s placed too low, you’ll be looking down at the hiring manager, which can lend the impression that you’re superior. On the other hand, if the camera’s too high and you’re looking upwards, you can seem subservient.” Using a mobile device? Prop it at a 90-degree angle. And since the HD camera will show everything, remember check yourself out before logging on.

Make a Connection

Try a virtual handshake. Since you can’t shake hands the way you would in an in-person interview, do the digital version: “The way you say hello is with a 45-degree head nod,” says Bailo. After making your introductions, nod subtly to indicate you’re ready to get started.

And don’t make one of the most common digital interview mistakes: Failing to make eye contact. It can be tricky to do, but it makes all the difference in how you’re perceived. Bailo suggests printing out a picture of the hiring manager (try to find one on LinkedIn or the company’s website) and taping it right next to the camera so it’ll feel more like you’re speaking to a live person.

Craft a Screenplay

One digital interview perk is that the hiring manager can only see what’s on screen — so crib notes on the sidelines are fair game. “Write down key points you want to be sure to make on large Post-It paper and stick it on the wall behind the camera, where you can see it but it’s out of the interviewer’s sightline,” says Bailo. Of course, you don’t want to read from a script, but knowing it’s there just in case you have a brain freeze will boost your confidence.


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