Video job interviews were once a rarity. Since the pandemic, they are now just part of the regular interview process. And, they won’t be going away anytime soon.
If job interviews weren’t tough enough —now we have the extra challenges of doing them from home (which can be scary and nerve-wracking)…where all sorts of unexpected things can happen. Unwanted cameo appearances from children, spouses, and pets. A delivery person incessantly rings your doorbell. Your house alarm screeches or someone in the kitchen sets the smoke detector off. Or even your beloved Fido barks at someone walking by.
And, it’s 100% OK if any of these situations arise.
They’ve happened to me too.
Minutes before going live on a television interview, my giant cat, Phoebe, decided the only place she wanted to perch was smack-dab in the middle of my desk. The news anchor chuckled and said it would be fun if she joined us. A minute before going live, she decided laying in the sun was a better idea than making her television debut.
I also delivered the last 15 minutes of a virtual keynote with my cat sitting on my lap, staring squarely into the camera.
EXPECT one of these scenarios to happen at some point. Just smile. Introduce your “guest” and continue with the interview. It happens to everyone. And weirdly, it also shows you’re good under pressure. (But don’t be staging anything, please!)
10 cool ways to ace your video job interview:
1. Lighting matters. And, it’s also tricky. You look like a ghost if there’s too much light. Too little light and you’ll blend into the walls. Neither scenario is good.
Use your phone to find the best light. Flip the camera so you can see yourself. Walk around your home to see where the best lighting is. The general rule, you should always have light, whether a lamp, ring light, or window in front of you.
A few days before your interview, test the lighting at the same time of day your upcoming interview happens. Natural lighting helps but still needs backup.
2. Webcam woes. My webcam is in the dumbest spot ever. It’s at the very bottom of my laptop screen. If my laptop is sitting on my desk, and the camera is turned on, I get a very unflattering “under-the-chin and under-the-boob” angle. HA. At first, I propped my laptop on a dangerously tall stack of books. That grew old quickly, so I opted for an externally mounted camera, which works perfectly. (There are many options for external cameras at a reasonable cost.)
It’s critical you do a webcam check an hour before each interview. You’ve likely moved your laptop around and chances are the “stuff” in the background might have changed too! There are a number of on-line free webcam test tools. Just google, “test my webcam”.
3. What’s in your background? Yes, we’re looking while chatting with you. I gave a coaching session to a client before his video interview. I jokingly said, “You might want to make your bed and I can see a few beer bottles on the counter…they should be moved to the “off camera” area!
Whatever is in the background, just ensure it looks orderly. And, don’t blend in. If your walls are white and you’re wearing a white shirt, you’ll get lost on the screen.
4. Test your microphone. You want to ensure your audio is clear. Not too loud. Not too quiet. Dial up a friend and have a quick test chat or there’s a number of on-line tools as well. Sure, there’s usually a test on the video platform, but 2 minutes before going live on your interview isn’t a good time to find out your mic isn’t working.
Have a set of headphones ready to plug in as a back-up in case your computer audio fails.
5. Have a back-up device. If you’re doing the interview on your laptop or desktop and they fail, have the platform downloaded on your phone or another device. I learned this one the hard way. Minutes before going live on a morning show, the camera on my laptop failed. I broke a sprint record running to the kitchen to get my iPad. Thank goodness, I had the platform downloaded, but my mistake was not having it within reach.
6. Attire matters. Dress both the top and the bottom. If you have to dash out of the room to shut off an alarm or calm a barking dog...the minute you get up, your bottom half is on the screen. If you’re wearing a jacket and tie on the top but shorts and flip-flops on the bottom…well, everyone gets a bit of a chuckle.
Dress exactly as you would for an in-person interview.
7. Arrival time. Same as an in-person interview, you don’t want to be too early or too late. I know that’s vague—read on.
With a video interview, you want to plan for any technical issues. A last-minute platform update being required before you can log on or just a good ole technical “glitch”. So, aim to log on 3 – 5 minutes prior to the scheduled start time. It allows time for any technical troubleshooting. If the idea of troubleshooting in 3 minutes sends your stomach into knots, give yourself a few more leeway minutes.
Here's the don’t. Don’t log on more than 15 minutes prior. The hiring manager gets a notification via email when you log on. Same as an in-person interview, if you arrive super early, it just looks like poor planning and has a small odour of desperation.
8. Technical stuff. Restart your computer 30 minutes to an hour prior to the interview. Also, a lesson I learned. I was doing a morning show with a local station in Calgary. I was excited! It was a TV personality who I’ve watched for years. She’s a ton of fun and this was our first interview. I was up early to perfect my hair peaks and I was all set! 30 seconds into our interview, the platform failed. Conked out. Done. A computer restart would have drastically eliminated the possibility of this glitch. Don’t miss this step.
9. Wifi strength matters. If you’re sharing a connection with others in your home, if possible, have everyone log off, so you’ve got a stealth-like connection. If you’re solo on the Wifi, ensure you turn your phone and other devices to airplane mode.
10. Non-technical stuff. Put a sticky note on your office door to remind others in your household that you're on a video interview. If I’m recording webinars or doing a live TV interview, I also put a note on my front door asking any visitors not to ring the doorbell or knock.