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A guide to acing your video interviews

Updated: May 29, 2021

Video interviews are here to stay. While the trend of video interviews has been greatly accelerated out of necessity due to the current situation with Covid-19, it will by and large become more and more ingrained into our "new normal" even after the Covid-19 situation settles down. Video interviews have already been embraced by many of the universities around the world as a means to continue their process of entrance interviews for their next intake. Companies are already adapting to the situation and becoming at ease with using a range of video call software for both internal and external meetings, including interviews with new hires.

While many hiring managers still consider a face to face interview as the gold standard of interviews, a video interview is definitely a viable and convenient solution to balance social distancing and business as usual. In any case, it has always been a more cost effective method of conducting interviews, and many companies have been using it extensively for first round interviews. With this trend picking up momentum, it is definitely a good idea for everyone to take your digital interviewing skills to the next level.

As a candidate or interviewee, here are some tips to ace your video interviews.

1. Prepare your equipment

If you are in the job market, or you are preparing for any school/university interview anytime soon, prepare the equipment you need for a proper video call. If purchasing the equipment is not possible, then ensure that you have a specific plan in mind such as borrowing equipment from a friend, or using suitable equipment from the public library or possibly a co-share facility.

The basic equipment you require would be a desktop or a laptop with a webcam and internet bandwidth. Internet connection should be at a high speed and needs to be consistent. For this reason, avoid public internet connections in cafes which have a time limit or drops frequently.

If you are preparing for quite a few interviews, you may wish to consider investing in a quality external webcam and/or microphone to enhance both the audio and video quality of the call. Good equipment goes a long way to making the interview as natural and smooth as possible, where you can speak in your usual communication tone and volume, instead of feeling the need to raise your volume or get flustered by poor video and audio quality.

2. Prepare your location

Many a times, this is somehow left out from the preparation. Where exactly will you be sitting for your video interview? This is a critical decision and it should be prepared in advance.

When choosing the location of your video interview, there are a few things you need to take note of:

a. What can the interviewer see other than you?

Always set up your video cam in advance and look at what the interviewer can see through the camera. Ascertain that anything that can be seen is suitable for public viewing. Minimise clutter, keep everything around you clean, simple and professional. Ensure that there is nothing around or behind you that you would not want to show your future boss or university dean.

Different video call softwares have different applications that you can use for the background. Skype for example allows you to blur out your background. Zoom has the option of a virtual background. Always err on the side of being conservative - a plain white background is usually most universally preferred.

Remember that this is an interview, and the focus needs to be on you. Do not aim for glamour - aim for an environment where its easy to focus on you. Aim for clean and sterile.

b. Will there be any potential interruptions in the chosen location?

If you are not going to be alone at that time, do choose a location where you can ensure that there will be no interruptions from children, relatives, and pets. Look out also for possible noise disruptions.

c. Can the interviewer see you clearly?

Pay attention to the lighting in the chosen location. Ensure that you have sufficient lighting such that the interviewer can see you clearly. Look out for shadows by doing a test video. Sometimes having one light source from the top creates an overcast over the person.

3. Do a test video call

We cannot overemphasise the need to do a test video call. Call a friend or a relative, using the exact video call software you will be using for your interview, in the exact location you will be using. Make sure you are familiar with the necessary buttons and controls of the video call software. Adjust the framing to ensure that you can be seen from shoulders up. The camera should be at your eye level, not lower and not higher. Check for both video and audio clarity.

4. Master the art of digital rapport

The lack of physical greeting means that you need to work hard on building digital rapport across the screen.

We get asked this question a lot - how do you build rapport through a screen, isn't it really awkward? Know this - it is totally possible to build rapport across a screen. But you have to work on it.

Your first 5 seconds of digital contact is crucial. Without a handshake, here is how you build the bridge of connection. Allow yourself to lean forward towards the screen, with your eyes forward. Greet the person - perhaps a "Good Morning so and so" and at the same time, do a confident, professional firm nod.

You want to open the session with a simple, sincere gesture that you are present and engaged. From then on, keep your eyes on the camera and avoid looking at the screen itself. If you record yourself speaking, you will notice that if you keep your eyes on the screen, you are actually looking slightly downwards. Try to focus on the camera. If it helps, place a little sticker next to the camera to remind yourself to "look here". Body language is just as critical here as it is in a face to face interview, in fact, arguably more so. Remember that the interviewer is now focused on just you - from the shoulders up. So any expression or lack of expression is more pronounced.

The video interview used to be an option that was used occasionally or only where distance was a limitation. More recently however, the video interview is becoming commonplace and job seekers and students should take this chance to master their digital interview presence and skills

Written by: Siew Ling Hwang, Founder and Principal Interview Coach, Discovering Potential

Ms Siew Ling Hwang has extensive experience providing interview skills training to candidates for various industries and schools. She specialises in conducting 1-on-1 training for those seeking to improve their interview skills for school interviews and job interviews. She is also a Certified Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and NLP Coaching, as well as a Certified Advanced Behavioural Analyst. Her unique skillset in combining real world practices, NLP Coaching techniques and personality and behavioural expertise provides clients with an effective session to achieve real improvements that are suited to their own natural personalities.


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