Tips for Successful Video Interviews for Technology Professionals
While some companies have returned to face-to-face/onsite interviews, a majority still utilize video interviews for at least one or multiple steps in their interview process. Video interviews often present a less stressful atmosphere for candidates; however, we have received feedback from both candidates and interviewers that the video interview was a struggle. How confident are you in having a successful video interview so you are presenting yourself in the best possible way to potential employers?
There are plenty of tips and tricks for a successful video interview. Here are our top recommendations.
Download and Test the Platform
Whether your interview is on Zoom, WebEx, Teams, FaceTime, etc., it is imperative that you know and are comfortable with the platform in question. I have heard countless stories of candidates that couldn't figure out how to join, experienced delays and were late because the software had to download or upgrade, couldn't get the video working, had audio issues, didn't know how to unmute, etc. Most of these issues are preventable! If you are working with a recruiter and are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the platform in question, ask them if you can test it before the interview. The more comfortable you are with the technology, the less stressed you will be that something will go wrong in this department, and the more favorable your first impression will be as soon as you log in and see the interviewer/s.
Do a Practice Run
Practice makes progress! When I have a big presentation, I often set up a practice Zoom meeting, record it, and then rewatch it to get feedback on my introduction, speaking parts, body language, etc. Not only will this help you get comfortable with the platform in question, but it will give you real-time feedback on things like your elevator pitch (answers to the "Tell me about yourself" or "Why should we hire you?" questions) and how you come across on camera. Are you using your hands too much? Are you not looking at the camera? Are you fidgeting, moving in your chair, etc.? Is what is in view professional?
Be Cognizant of Your Background
Many of us work in home offices, and your background can be a great conversation starter and reflect your personality. On the flip side, ensure there is nothing in your background that would concern a potential employer. Many candidates choose to utilize a background that is preloaded into the platform for ease. If you are doing a practice run with a recruiter (or friend, partner, etc.), ask them to give feedback on your background. How is the lighting? Are you sitting too close / far away from the camera? Is there anything in the background that is a cause for concern?
Don't Be Too Early
We often remind candidates that many of us are having back-to-back meetings and utilizing the same Zoom/Teams/WebEx account for this. Being a little early is great (think 3-5 minutes), but anything more is unnecessary. For example, I get Teams notifications when the first person joins a meeting that I'm scheduled to join. Usually, that is 1-2 minutes prior, but I've seen the notifications as early as 10-15 minutes. This can be a real nuisance that might throw off their schedule and cause stress, so keep that in mind!
Be Ready to Kick Things Off Quickly
Once you join and it is time to get things started, be ready to jump right in. We always recommend that candidates prepare an ice breaker, small talk, and/or how they are starting the conversation. Things like commenting on a manager's virtual background (I have a manager that always has cool nature pictures of places he's traveled to, and we inevitably talk about that), where they are located, the weather, something you noticed you have in common on LinkedIn, thanking them for their time and why are you so excited to be chatting about this data scientist role (for example), are great places to start.
Look at the Camera
I have been using video technology for years, but sometimes I still struggle to look at the camera! It is so easy to want to look at the person speaking, but try to spend the majority of your time looking directly into the camera. I know many people that put a sticky note up there to remind them. Another item to be prepared for is the possibility that some (or all) interviewers might NOT be on camera. Is it awkward to look at yourself for 30 minutes to an hour? Absolutely. But you must be comfortable looking at yourself and making eye contact with the camera, even if it is just you! I always encourage hiring managers to be on camera so the candidates can get the opportunity to "virtually meet" them, but it is not always an option. This is a worst-case scenario, but we want you to be prepared.
Many of us are still at home and likely doing a video interview there. By now, everyone is used to seeing kids, pets, partners, delivery drivers, etc., in the background. But if there is a time to try and avoid this, it's during a video interview. I would recommend finding a room with a lock to limit distractions if possible. And distractions also include notifications on your phone, laptop/desktop, tablet, etc. Turn off all notifications except for the platform you are using.
Prepare Notes, But Don't Read Them
With any interview, you will prepare notes about your experience and what is a fit, along with any questions you want to ask the hiring team. It is 100% ok to bring notes and questions to a video interview but do your best not to rely on or read directly from them the entire time. A recommendation that has helped me over the years is to put key points I want to get across in either Notepad or a Word doc and minimize it in the corner of my screen. This allows me to have my notes and glance at them without looking straight down or off to the side.
Body Language and Dress
This is your opportunity to show off yourself and your amazing skills. As I mentioned, the video interview setting is much less stressful for many candidates, but that does not mean you want to portray anything but your best. Even if you are wearing sweatpants on the bottom, ensure you have a nice, professional top on. My personal tip is that I wear earrings because they dress up whatever I wear! Ensure your posture is good throughout the interview and that you use facial expressions just like in an in-person interview! React to things being said - agreeing, nodding, smiling, laughing, etc. I know this seems obvious, but many people still struggle with this.
Use Your Tools
Imagine being asked a question where a quick live coding exercise would be beneficial. If the platform has a whiteboard, you could ask to use it. In a second scenario, imagine you are in a virtual panel with several people and have a clarifying question you want to ask but don't want to interrupt. Could you use the chat? Or, in a third scenario, perhaps someone is sharing details on the product roadmap, the technology vision, or even discussing benefits/training their company provides, and you want to use a ‘Celebratory' emoji like the clapping?
Have Supporting Materials/Links Ready to Share
At some point during an interview, you might think about a project on your GitHub that might be relevant to share if it demonstrates your skills with a technology or concept they're discussing. Or perhaps you have written an article or produced a video that could be relevant. You have a unique opportunity to share links to different profiles, non-proprietary examples of your work, and even LinkedIn recommendations over a video platform/interview that you might not have the opportunity to share at the moment during a phone call or an in-person interview. Before a video interview, consider "Do I have anything relevant to share that shows my strengths?" and have them ready.
- Even though it is a video interview, many of us will still experience stress and anxiety leading up to it. To minimize fidgeting, we recommend expending some energy right before the call. Jumping jacks, pushups, a quick walk around your house, etc., are great ways to get some of that nervous energy out!
- With anything, practice makes progress! Don't let little things like your background or technology throw you off during a video interview. The positive thing about video interviews is that so much of it can be practiced beforehand (I truly recommend recording and watching back!), so you have a much better chance of feeling confident and prepared for game time.
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Article Last Updated: 2023-04-13