The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a tectonic shift in the way businesses are being conducted. The virus has been spreading relentlessly across the globe forcing many businesses to scale down operations in a bid to restrict contact between employees.
As organizations practice social distancing, technology has proved to be a savior in this unprecedented crisis. Employees are working from home. In-person meetings have been replaced by video conferences. Hiring processes are being revamped. The most relatable and common example of this change is that job seekers are being interviewed virtually. In the early days of March 2020, even before WHO had categorized COVID-19 as a pandemic, Google announced that their job interviews will only be conducted virtually in the foreseeable future.
Although video conference interviews were not unheard of before the coronavirus outbreak, it is a new experience for many job seekers. If you are someone who has always appeared for interviews in flesh and blood, the virtual experience can be tricky initially. Since video conferences are becoming the norm, here are the tips for the video interview, to ace up your Skype and Zoom interviews.
Before the video interview
Sorting out a few things beforehand can ensure there are no last-minute troubles that can delay the interview. For headhunters, candidates who are not punctual are a big no-no.
- To ensure that there is minimum noise and no physical disruptions during the interview (unless you want your interview to become a comedy of errors as was the case with ‘BBC Dad’), inform your family members or your roommates beforehand. Let them know that you will need privacy and would not want to be interrupted during the duration of the interview. If there are pets or children in the house, you can ask someone to make sure they do not disrupt the interview.
- Frame the camera correctly such that it looks natural. To look at the camera straight, set it up at the eye level. If you place the camera too high, it gives a feeling that the participants are looking at a bad TV show. In case when the camera angle is too low, it leads to awkward angles.
- Ensure that there is the right amount of light in the room where you’re giving the interview. Poor lighting leads to a grainy video. The amount of light impacts video quality massively. Your face looks the best when the lighting is from the sides.
- Look straight into the camera while giving the video interview, instead of staring at the video feed. Since video is equivalent to looking into the eyes of the interviewer, ensure that you practice looking into the camera lens and are comfortable with it.
- Usually, interviewers mention beforehand the app or software they would be using for the interview. If you are unfamiliar with the app, then download it a day or two in advance and do a few trials with a friend or family member. It can be pretty embarrassing if you fumble with the app functions during the interview. Check the lighting in the room and pick a background that is not distracting – you would not want your interview to become the stuff of memes because of something in the background that should not have been there.
- The importance of thoroughly researching the company before an interview cannot be stressed enough. Preparing answers to common interview questions is a part of the grind. Assuming you would have spent ample time on them, keep a few sheets of paper with the most important points listed in bullet points next to you. They may come in handy in case your mind draws a blank due to nervousness.
How should you dress for the video interview?
Dressing appropriately for a virtual interview is every bit as important as an in-person interview. Even if the company to which you have applied has a culture where the casual dressing is the norm, as per interview etiquettes, jeans and a slogan tee can give the impression that you do not take the job interview seriously.
- Your attire should be in sync with the designation that you have applied for and the industry. For instance, a suit or formal shirt and trousers would be the most appropriate attire if you are being screened for a position in a multinational consulting firm. Also, do not forget to iron your clothes and avoid colors or prints that are too flashy.
- Preening yourself is equally important. Comb your hair, wash your face and brush your teeth. Women candidates should opt for subtle make-up and stay away from sporting heavy jewelry.
Video interview tips
For interviewers, an advantage of in-person interviews is that it is easy to judge a candidate’s confidence levels and body language. When it comes to virtual interviews, the onus shifts on the interviewee to be aware of their body language and gestures to create a positive impression. Here are some practical tips on how to prepare for your video interview.
- Sit straight and avoid the urge to slump during the interview. Good posture is seen as a sign of confidence and can do wonders to impress the interviewer.
- Maintaining eye contact throughout the interview is of utmost importance. Staring in different directions can be perceived as a lack of focus. You should remember that the golden rule is to look at the web camera and not at the face of the person on the screen.
- Refrain from making too many hand gestures as they can distract the interviewer. Hand gestures do not have the same impact on upping your body language game in video calls the way they do in person. Avoid fidgeting with your hair or pen or phone and try to look at ease.
- Smile and appear enthusiastic as it can help the interview feel a sense of connection. A frozen expression or frown lines on your forehead can create a negative aura for the interviewer. At the same time, your smile should not transform into a full-fledged grin either.
What, after the video interview?
Similar to an in-person interview, you should collect information about the interviewer so as to know what the next steps are and to stay in touch.
- Get to know the names and email addresses of those who interviewed you. Send them thank-you notes, preferably a personalized email. Double-check their names and spellings. A quick search on LinkedIn would show you the correct spelling of their names.
- Ask the interviewer about the next steps. Would another interview be scheduled, as a part of the hiring process? If yes, then by when will they let you know about it?
- Ask about your point of contact from their end. This person would be in touch with you throughout the hiring process. What mode of communication would they prefer from phone, email or text?
- These are questions that you could easily forget to ask but are important for the interview process to go smoothly and professionally. Also, remember to ask your interviewer relevant questions that will help you decide if the job and the organization are suitable for you.
What when things go wrong?
No matter how prepared you are for the video interview, things could go wrong. There’s a chance of this, so a backup plan would be great. Some tips to stir through an awkward situation would be:
- When the audio or video stops working – Before the interview starts, ask them for a phone number where you can call them if the video interview falls prey to technical difficulties. If the video stops, you can call them on that number. This way, you can ask the interviewer if they would want to carry the interview over a call or reschedule.
- If there are noise interruptions – In case of a siren, construction or a pet barking, apologize for the disruption and give it a few moments for the sound to subside. If the noise is severe, mute the call.
- When someone enters your room unannounced – If you are in a situation where kids, family, pets or housemates’ barge into the room where you are giving the video interview, ask the interviewer if you can pause the interview for a few minutes. The next step would be turning off the camera, muting the microphone and dealing with the situation. Before restarting the interview, make sure that the room is secure and distraction-free.
Irrespective of whether you are appearing for in-person interviews or virtual ones, the bottom line remains that it is an opportunity to let your persona shine. Core skills and professional credentials play a pivotal role in the selection process, but a resume cannot be used for judging a candidate’s personality traits. That gap is filled by conducting interviews. In case, you face any glitch during the interview, reconnect the call and offer a word of apology without getting into any specifics. Do not forget to thank the interviewer for their time after the interview.