How to deliver a professional video job interview

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Feb 03

If you haven’t yet experienced a video interview…you will. Video interviews, even as the initial screening interview, give the appearance of a face-to-face interview. But a video interview is a very different experience than a traditional face-to-face interview. Yes, you can see the faces, but the experience is still not the same as face-to-face.

Here’s what you need to do to create the professional the video interview.

1. The camera is your lover and your friend

I attended a professional seminar on what needs to happen when “on camera.” The very first and last point made by the speaker was that you need to treat the camera as your best friend. Well, actually he said the camera needed to be like your lover, but his point was that you must look at the camera. All. The. Time. Looking away from the camera means the people on the other end wonder what you are looking at.

For visual people such as myself, looking up and away is our way of collecting our thoughts. In a video interview, looking up and away loses the contact you have with the people at the other end of the interview.

2. Your camera must be at eye-level for the video interview

Most of us have a camera at the top of our monitor or laptop (most Macs and many PCs). Others will have a standalone camera on the side of the monitor or on the desk. For casual conversations, no problem. But for interviews, the camera position changes your look to the people on the other end. If the camera is too low, you look like you are looking down at them. If the camera is too high, you end up looking up to your audience.

In both cases, your face is distorted compared to looking straight ahead into the camera. Make the camera level with your eyes whether it takes books to move the camera or to help move you into the right position.

3. Don’t get too close to the camera

The objective is to present yourself as at least shoulders and up. Not just your head. Some of my earliest videos done on my site show me as nothing less than Max Headroom. Not what you want in an interview.

There is a balance between how much of you is in the picture and how big the picture is on the other end. When services like AT&T Conferencing or Skype are used — especially with a multi-person interview on the other end — participants have the option of showing everyone on the (laptop) screen and it makes your picture small. Say one by one and a half inches, for example.

If you sit too far away from the camera in this instance, no one will really be able to see your face — the whole point of the video interview.

4. Minimal movement matters

The camera blows your movements way out of proportion compared to a regular face-to-face interview. Move your head an inch on a computer camera and it looks like you’ll run out of the picture. If your hands are not in the picture and you put them there to make a point, your hands “pop” into the screen like some weirded out horror movie.

Jazz hands, popping hands, swaying hands — none of that.

Instead, you want to be centered, calm, and with your eyes focused on the camera lens. Responding to questions, you want to make minimal movements. It doesn’t feel natural, but it looks natural.

5. Flat, white backgrounds are best

What you don’t want in your picture is anything that the people interviewing you will look at and wonder about—instead of listening and looking at you.

“I wonder where why he painted that wall red?” “What is that weird picture in the background?” “Are those dirty socks on the chair behind him?”

People will naturally look at what is in the background of your frame. Make sure it’s something that won’t take away from the most important thing in the picture – you!

6 – Test the video and the camera. Test, test, test.

Video technology is cool — but few people really know how to use it. Especially the people doing the interviews. Adding a lot of video — especially outgoing video — for meetings with others scares the crap out of network people because the bandwidth requirements are very high (See: Netflix). Therefore, one on one corporate video isn’t necessarily encouraged.

Thus, the people doing your interview may not know very much about the technology — especially hiring managers.

But the worst thing is that YOU don’t get the video connection when the interview comes on.

So test your set up. Skype has a test call you can make to ensure your audio is awesome. You’ll get a calendar invite for the interview and there will be a link to click to join the meeting — click it way before your interview (even off-hours) and see what comes up so you know how to use whatever service the company uses. And write the steps down — it will be useful when interview time comes and the pressure is on.

Bonus Tip — practice, practice, practice

The first time you do video — whether with your friends or for some other endeavor, you won’t do well. Your first time doing anything on video better not be the job interview!

Just like anything else, practice makes perfect and the more you practice, the better you will be. Concentrate on looking at the camera. Practice minimal movement. Have the person on the other end tell you what they see in the background and how much of you they see in the picture.

Practice counts. Start taking that Facetime app and use it to practice. Or get on Skype and video with your friends. Practice with these tips and you’ll be way ahead of your competition.

Video interviews are here. Time to add it to your interview toolbox to help you get the job.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.