Smart companies have always used the latest technology to find the best job candidates. In today's hiring world, that means video interviews are a common way to meet candidates face to face.
While a video interview can be convenient if you live far from the company's offices, it can also add a layer of complexity and anxiety to the process, especially if you're a recent graduate searching for your first job. Here are some video-specific tips that will help you ace your first video interview, and any that follow.
What is a video interview?
Video interviews come in two main types:
- One-way interviews: The company presents you with a set of questions. You record your answers in front of a camera and submit them to the hiring manager.
- Two-way interviews: Two-way interviews are similar to traditional interviews. You and the interviewer use video software like Skype or Zoom to have a conversation.
The growth of video interviews means that in many cases, the days of putting on a suit and tie and traveling to an office for a sit-down interview are over. Navigating video interviews may be easier for recent graduates than for older job hunters. After all, most people in their early twenties have used laptops, smartphones and tablets since childhood. But anyone can fall victim to nerves and first-time mistakes.
Carlos Hamilton, a sales executive in Summerville, South Carolina (and 2008 graduate of the College of Charleston), recently encountered his first video interview.
"I'm not anxious in general but getting ready for that video interview gave me anxiety," says Hamilton, who experienced a one-way interview. He had between one and two minutes to answer questions, and no opportunity to go back once he moved on to the next question.
Fight interview nerves with preparation
After completing his interview, Hamilton has a few suggestions on how to relax and feel ready for a video interview:
- Review and prepare for the typical interview questions. Our list of common interview questions and answers will help you become comfortable answering standard interview questions. "If you overthink it, you can talk yourself into being even more nervous," says Hamilton. Study your resume and the job description, but don't plan out your every word. This should be a natural, enjoyable conversation.
- Practice talking in front of the camera. Try out a short conversation with friends or family to get used to the idea of a video chat. Focusing on your thoughts while you know you're being recorded can take some practice, so make sure you know what to expect before you log on to the interview.
- Stick to the answers and don't ramble. If you feel yourself getting off track, take a deep breath and try to finish your answer or move on.
- Check your equipment. Here's another good reason to have a video chat with a friend — you can make sure your equipment works well and make any necessary changes before the interview. There are some additional tips below.
- Eliminate distractions. Dogs barking and general household noise can throw you off and don't convey a professional atmosphere. Also check the background for issues with lighting and decor. You want to portray yourself as professional and confident.
Technical video interview tips for first-time interviewees
Even if you consider yourself to be technologically savvy, pairing first-time interview jitters with the pressures of video and audio can be stressful for any recent college graduate. Whether you're getting ready for a one-way or two-way video interview, career transformation coach Pat Roque offers eight suggestions to make sure you look and sound good on interview day:
- Position your laptop or camera so you're looking directly into the camera at a natural eye level, not looking down or up at the interviewer.
- Use a microphone or headset for the best sound quality.
- Shut the door and use a noise-dampening headset or earbuds to block excessive noise.
- Put the dog in the backyard, or make sure you take care of your pets' needs to avoid interruptions and distractions in the middle of your interview.
- Turn off your cell phone ringer and mute incoming notifications.
- Consider ordering an inexpensive clip-on light and a phone holder. Clamp the light directly on your computer to help you look your best, especially in a dimly lit room.
- Your video interview dress code is the same as an in-person meeting — professional. Wear a tailored top or jacket. Men should include a tie for professional roles.
- Wear colors that complement your skin and hair. Stick with a professional, comfortable look; don't add the stress of a drastic haircut change or makeover right before you sit down for your interview.
How to prepare for a video interview
If you sit for a two-way video interview with a real person looking back at you, you'll have the opportunity to interact, ask questions and control the flow of the conversation a little bit. That means you'll want to prepare as if you're going into an office for an in-person interview.
Ultimately, the answer to how to prepare for a video interview is the same as any other job interview: research.
- Research your interviewers. If you know who will be interviewing you, review their LinkedIn profiles and other social media presence. Pay attention to their job duties and career trajectories to learn more about who they are. If they note any recent accomplishments or recognition, feel free to mention them in your interview.
- Research the role. As you read through the job description, identify the job duties and topics that seem the most important. Focus your attention on those areas as you research the company, the industry and any competitors.
- Formulate your own questions. Come up with a short list of questions for the interviewer. They may answer some in the course of the interview, and you may come up with more questions as you go. Either way, having a couple of thoughtful questions shows that you're thoughtful and engaged.
Ultimately, the key to acing your video interview is to prepare well, present yourself professionally and follow up with a thank you note. To get the call for an interview, you'll first need to compose a resume and cover letter that present your work experience, educational accomplishments and career ambitions in the best possible light. Use our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder to put yourself on the road to your very first job.