Before we begin, I want to help cast your mind to a scenario I’m sure pretty much all of us have experienced at some point. You are sitting in a chair outside an office you’ve never been in before. You are wearing a new shirt and work shoes which don’t quite fit right just yet. You can feel your palms getting a little sweaty, yet you’re also surprisingly cold at the same time. And you’re trying to imagine what a room of strangers is about to ask you.
If you’ve ever had a formal job interview in your life, it is a scenario I can almost guarantee you’ve experienced. Even just writing that first paragraph made my hands feel a little clammy thinking about some of the times I’ve gotten myself all worked out before an interview, unnecessarily getting stressed out over the smallest details.
Job interviews can be difficult, and with the shift to working from home, the move from looking people in the eye across a boardroom table to having to show some personality across a laptop screen has seen job interviews become a completely different ball game. You could have an interview from the comfort of your own home and still feel incredibly nervous about the whole thing, or feel you’re doing something wrong because this isn’t how job interviews should go.
If it’s something you’ve crashed and burned on this year, or you know you have a job interview coming up that will take place over a Zoom call or Google Meet, I can help. Thanks to the expertise of the recruitment specialists at MBN Solutions, here are five ways to improve how you handle job interviews taking place via video calls.
1 – Dress like you’re in their room
I know that the sweatpants working from home jokes have been made a million and one times this year, but don’t seriously think you can get away with half-assing what you’ll wear for a video interview. Get yourself dressed up just like you’re going for an interview, shoes, and all, to help get yourself in the right frame of mind.
I liken it to wearing sandals at the gym. It won’t look right and doesn’t serve a function, so don’t do the same in an interview. Also, don’t wear anything bright, glittery, or distracting.
2 – What’s your background like?
Do you watch the news much? I’m not talking about the evening or nightly news, but 24-hour news stations where they constantly have people talk about what’s going on in the world. One of the most noticeable things I’ve found any time I have it on, or I see a TV on when out and about (which is quite rare these days) is when news presenters talk to experts about a topic over a video call.
It isn’t what they’re talking about that piques my interest, but rather what is going on behind the person talking. I find myself zoning out from what an expert says and instead checking out what books they have behind them or the art they have on their wall. Even when I think back to that viral video of a child interrupting a BBC News interview (this one) I’m also questioning why someone dressed up to be on the news is in a room with books on a bed and a giant map on the wall.
You don’t want your interviewers having the same distractions, so always opt for a neutral background and have light focussed on your face. Think of it like taking a photo outside when it is sunny. You want natural light on you rather than behind you. And ALWAYS have the laptop camera at eye level, so you’re looking at your interviewers and not down on them.
3- Do a test-run
Now that you know what to wear, and how to set your laptop up, ask someone for a quick video call to see how you look. You might see that tiny window from the webcam and think everything looks great, but you won’t have the full-screen experience of someone else’s screen to know what they’re looking at.
A quick way to check things are great is to video call someone with your laptop on two different devices, so they can see how you look on a phone and computer. They’ll be able to tell you if the positioning is good and if there’s anything noticeable, you’ll want to avoid, especially if it is you looking at your notes (which I’ll get to next).
4- Know that you can cheat now
Ever been in an interview and someone starts a question with “it says here on your CV that you have….” and your mind is instantly trying to flip through memory files to figure out what the person is talking about?
The hidden advantage of having an interview not take place “face to face” is that the person asking questions can’t see what is going on in front of you. Lean into this. Have a copy of your CV printed out and up on the wall in front of you. You also want to print out some talking points, or general starting points for common questions, so you don’t trip yourself up with “umms” and “ammmms” on the call, as they’re more noticeable over video than in person.
Even if you don’t think you’ll need to have much information hanging on the wall, at the very least, have something in your back pocket for when the dreaded “finally, do you have any questions?” comes up. It’s good to have a list you can pick from rather than your mind going blank and defaulting to something stupid like salary or holidays.
And don’t have this information as a window on your laptop, as it will force you to look down and distracted for long periods.
5- Lights, Camera, Action
You’re looking fantastic. You have your surroundings sorted. You’ve done a test call. You have notes ready. What else is there to do?
You’re the star of the show, so make sure everything else (i.e. technology) is ready to rock & roll. That means your laptop is plugged in and stationary, your Wi-Fi signal is impeccable, you’re sitting up straight, and you can be heard. Test your mic and make sure that you’re projecting your voice loud and clear, as you can’t be seen as muttering or too quiet. Forcing someone to turn their volume up fully to hear your answers is going to annoy them
And remember what I said earlier about news interviews? You tend to find that the person being interviewed will be on a slight delay and take a second or two to answer. It would help if you did the same to avoid talking over your interviewer, as it could end up frustrating them.
Now go ace that interview!
I hope these tips come in handy for upcoming video interviews or even just presentations you might have to give over the internet. Trust me. They are minor adjustments that can make virtual interactions more memorable and attentive; two things you always want recruiters to see you as.