Want the Job? Learn how to ace an on-screen interview

Sharlyn Lauby | Mashable

When it comes to hiring, more organizations are casting a wide net to find top talent. As such, they are incorporating technology into their recruiting processes.

It’s just not practical for companies to fly every potential candidate to their headquarters for an interview in person, so today’s job seekers need to be prepared for a recruiter to say the words “video interview.” It can seem intimidating, especially if you’re not happy about the way you look on camera. But with these expert tips, you can learn to master the logistics of the video interview and spend your time focusing instead on wowing the company.

Preparing for a video interview

The first thing to remember is that a video interview really isn’t that much different from one that occurs face-to-face. Greg Rokos, president at GreenJobInterview, a company that provides cloud-based virtual interviewing solutions, encourages his clients to view video and in-person interviews as one and the same. “There are some minor differences, but part of the beauty of virtual interviewing is that it simulates the face-to-face experience. We encourage candidates and hiring managers to think of it as a ‘real’ interview

The major difference comes down to equipment — serious job seekers should carefully consider what technology they will use for the occasion. Mary Ellen Slayter, managing director and founder of Reputation Capital Media Services and a career expert for Monster.com, suggests having the best equipment available to you. “It’s great if you have a high-quality webcam and wireless lavaliere mic — but it’s not the end of the world if you have to use the webcam and mic built into your computer. Just be extra aware of minimizing background noise,” she says.

Speaking of background noise, Slayter has a few recommendations for setting the scene for the interview:

  • Find a quiet room without distractions, where you know you won’t be interrupted.
  • Use a neutral background without anything that could potentially distract the interviewer.
  • Arrange the camera and position yourself so that there is a fairly tight focus on your head and shoulders.
  • Adjust the lighting so that you don’t have shadows on your face.

“The most important thing is to make sure you look at the camera, not your screen — especially not yourself on the screen. Pretend you’re having a conversation with the camera,” she says.

Dress the part

If you’re new to working with video, find a friend who will help you practice. This person can offer feedback about how you sound, background noises, lighting, etc. They can also give you advice on the attire that looks best; whether you’re male or female, what you wear matters.

Stephanie Krieg, “HR chick” at HR Culture Club, a site that tracks what today’s trendiest companies are doing in the workplace, offers some tips.

“Feel free to keep your pajama bottoms on for a video interview, but dress like you’re going to be on TV from the waist up,” she says. “Solid colors work better than prints — and don’t be afraid to show a little personality with your waist-up wardrobe.”

Krieg stresses the importance of airing on the side of professionalism (read: conservatism) while maintaining some personal flair. “Ladies, keep the girls covered, and keep in mind that shirts with embellished collars or statement necklaces can look just as nice as a blazer. Guys, rock at least a sports coat. Ties are optional, depending on the company’s culture,” she says, adding, “Movember is over, so consider grooming the facial hair too.”

Handling technical difficulties

One of the most common fears when it comes to video interviewing is the possibility of technical difficulties. Many organizations will provide technical specifications to candidates prior to the interview, which allows the candidate to test the equipment beforehand.

Maren Hogan, chief marketing brain at Red Branch Media, a full-service marketing and advertising agency for B2B companies, says that many companies use enterprise solutions for their video interviewing needs.

“Many companies go with a professional application rather than Skype or Google Hangouts. Being able to walk through frustrating issues and have a record of the interview is important,” she says. “Video screenings are another way companies get around this: [hiring managers] know that each candidate sees the same question, and [this method] is less likely to have issues than a live interview. All that said, stuff happens. Candidates should feel free to let interviewers know when the connection is bad so that the interviewer can fix it, rather than waste an hour on an interview that just isn’t working.”

We all know even the best technology can have challenges. Candidates should come to the interview prepared with a game plan for technical snafus. Hogan says that, ideally, the issue of technical difficulties should be addressed on the interviewing company’s website FAQ section, or taken care of by the interviewer at the start of the conversation. If the subject isn’t addressed, however, candidates should speak up for themselves. “Candidates should let their interviewers know at the beginning of the call that if something happens or if the connection [breaks up], they will wait for a call back from the interviewer,” she says.

Interviews make people nervous, and adding a video element can create even more tension. But with proper planning, a video interview can actually work to candidates’ advantage, allowing them to project a great impression in familiar surroundings.


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