Unless you’re accustomed to talking in front of a video camera, you’re probably not looking forward to any interview conducted via webcam.
But since the video interview is increasingly common, if you’re serious about landing a great new job, you’ll be smart to learn some simple facts about the process.
With a little practice you can make a great impression during your on-screen interview. Let’s take it step by step to get you up to speed.
How to Prepare
1. Plan on using a wired Internet connection, not a wireless connection. If using a laptop, plug it in so you have plenty of battery life.
2. Clean up your interview area so there are no distractions. Make the background interesting, but not distracting. Plain white walls are fine, but boring, so arrange an uncluttered desk or bookshelves behind you.
3. Double check your Internet connection and your webcam and microphone to be sure they are all working correctly.
4. Download any essential software if it is the first time you are using the app.
5. Silence your cell phone, close your other software programs, and turn off notifications on your computer.
6. Prop up the computer so that you are not looking down at it and practice where to sit so you are framed correctly by the webcam. Make sure your torso is visible, including your hands, especially if you talk with your hands.
7. Practice a couple of video interviews with a friend or family member. Check the lighting and your volume. Then review the practice video to learn where you need to improve. Learn your nervous habits so you can avoid them.
8. If you can’t actually record the practice, have your test partner take a few screenshots so you can see if your webcam is delivering a clear picture. If the picture is poor quality consider a high definition webcam — available for under $100 and a good investment.
9. Choose a professional Skype name. That means no cute nicknames and no numbers or keyboard characters. The best bet is to simply use your first and last name.
10. Program your voice mail with a clear, competent-sounding message.
11. Use a USB-connected headset instead of the computer’s speakers for a professional appearance. Headsets are inexpensive and will give you clearer, more focused experience. They also make you look like you know what you’re doing!
12. Clarify with the interviewer who will initiate the call and double-check the username. Be sure to account for any time zone differences.
13. Review the guidelines for phone interviews, because the same rules apply.
14. Dress well, and dress from head-to-toe. To be safe, assume you will have to stand up at some point in the interview.
15. Check how the colors of your clothing appear on camera. Imitate how television news anchors avoid black or white shirts and most small patterns. Instead choose jewel tones or pastel colors. When you rehearse for your interview wear the exact outfit you plan to wear on interview day.
16. Develop the habit of smiling when listening to people. Practice in the mirror smiling with your eyes as well as your mouth. A blank expression, the way we usually look when listening, looks like a frown on camera.
17. Get your lighting right. If the light source is behind you, you may appear as a dark silhouette on the screen. Position soft lighting in front and to the side of you, not upward-facing because you can look ghoulish.
For the Interview Itself
18. If you are a woman, wear slightly more makeup than you ordinarily do to give your face more definition on camera.
19. If you have an online portfolio, keep the link handy. You may want to share it with your interviewer.
20. Have a list of good questions you can ask the interviewer – questions that aren’t answered at the company’s website or other sites.
21. Print out a hard copy of the same resume the interviewer has and keep it handy.
22. You should also have a copy of your cover letter, and the job posting or description.
23. Keep a glass of water handy in case of dry throat – a common problem when people are under stress.
24. Don’t shuffle papers near the microphone.
25. Look at the webcam when you speak, not at the interviewer’s face on your screen. When you look into the camera, it appears to the interviewer that you are looking at him and you’ll appear more engaged and personable.
26. Take notes during the interview, but do not take too many, or you will come off looking distracted. Take notes with a pen and paper, not on your computer.
27. Dial up the enthusiasm! If you speak as you do in a face-to-face conversation you can come across as monotonous in a video interview. So don’t hold back your bubbly personality, as long as you maintain a professional tone.
28. Count to three before you answer a question. Sometimes there’s a delay or interference. You don’t want to talk over your interviewer.
29. At the end of the interview inquire about what the next step will be. Be ready to set a date for your next interview by having your calendar or schedule handy.
30. Write a handwritten thank you note or email the same day of the call.
With a program like this, you’re bound to have the skills and confidence to be a star on camera. Break a leg!