In 2017 I had a video interview—which is becoming so common it's just about normal—at a company that actually makes software for video interviews. I got a chance to use their own product as I tried to position myself as the person who would make their software better. In the process I unearthed some ideas on video interview dos and don'ts that I'd like share.
Some Background First
The biggest impression I had walking away from the interview process (they didn't offer me the job) came up when they had me come in for an onsite panel interview. One of the interviewers said: "Jason, you were the only person we interviewed who addressed the VP of product by name, and even addressed 'the product team.'"
They were impressed by that, and I made a mental note that if I were to do a video interview again, I would do what I could to find out the names of the people who would watch the interview, and call them by name. If that helps me stand out, then I'm in!
Before I share my list of video interview dos and don'ts we need to talk about video interviews. I had lunch with the founders of that video interview company years ago, when they were just starting to get some traction, and I found their business fascinating. They were serving some really big companies, and helping make the interview process more efficient.
Instead of flying in 10 or 15 candidates for a job, they could do real interview screening (via video) and then fly in the top three candidates. This meant massive dollar savings for the company. The video interview technology also allowed multiple people in the company to watch the interview, at their own leisure, and even make notes at specific points in the interview, which meant that they didn't have to work with the calendars of key stakeholders.
Whether you like it or not, video interviews are here to stay. If you apply for a job and are asked to participate in a video interview, you've gotta know what to do, and how to do it. Below are my tips for a successful video interview.
Video Interview Dos and Don'ts: The Dos
Do some practice recordings to check your background.
Interviewers know you are probably doing this at home, so don't worry too much about having personal belongings in the background. But make sure you know what is in your background, and determine if it suggests the right messaging and brand you want to communicate. If you can, try to minimize the number of belongings you have in the background. That way, the interviewer can be more focused on their primary subject—you!
Check and double-check your microphone.
Video interview software should prompt you for this, and make it easy to know if the sound is working, but you should at least record yourself once and listen to the audio to see if it sounds clear.
Dress the same way you would for an onsite interview.
Hopefully this is a no brainer—you're going to be on camera! You should take your wardrobe as seriously as you would for an onsite interview. Also, keep this in mind—should you need to get up or walk away for a quick second during the interview, you don't want the interviewer to see you in a dress shirt and . . . pajama bottoms. Dress the interview part from top to bottom.
Make sure you have good energy.
You might want to set up your camera or laptop in a way that allows you to stand up. Make sure you smile, and are positive and optimistic. People conducting the interview want to see your passion and interest. If you are like me and have a face that shows you are deep in thought, practice responding to questions while smiling and showing interest.
Figure out the way you'll start and stop each response.
Don't start with a long "uuuuuuuum," and don't end with "well, yeah, I guess that's it." Script some response introductions and conclusions and practice them so that they sound natural.
Answer each question directly.
Make sure you are really addressing each question they ask, so they aren't left thinking, "Um, he didn't even answer the question, she just rambled on."
Video Interview Dos and Don'ts: The Don'ts
Don't forget to check yourself.
Check your hair, teeth, and any other visual for proper presentation, pre-interview. You don't want to be remembered for your bedhead, or the thing in your teeth that you could have flossed out.
Don't lose focus.
Don't look down or off in another direction at a scripted answer you have on paper.
In fact, don't put any answers down on paper, or on a cue card! Just because this is a video interview doesn't mean you get to cheat. Think of the video interview as the exact same thing as an onsite interview—the only difference is that you're not actually sitting in a company's HR room.
Don't forget to research common interview questions.
Research some of the most interview questions you can expect in an interview, and formulate responses to them. Also don't forget to research common interview questions for your particular industry. And have questions ready to ask your interviewer, too! Research the company and of course, the role, and have questions prepped to ask on both fronts.
Don't forget to follow-up!
Just because you're doing a slightly unconventional interview doesn't mean you're off the hook with the follow-up. Send the interviewers emails thanking them for the opportunity, and maybe even including a thought about something that came up post-interview.
Video interview dos and don'ts are essentially the same as onsite interview dos and don'ts. The only big difference is that you're communicating all of your strengths and knowledge into a camera. It can feel a bit weird at first; you should definitely do some dry runs on camera so you can get comfortable being on camera, pre-interview.
Also, do what you can to stand out from the other interviewees—conduct the interview in a quiet setting, be prepared, communicate clearly and effectively, mind your manners, and maintain eye contact with the camera.