Do the Digital Handshake: How to Prepare for a Video Interview
One of the ways this pandemic has changed me is how I interpret language. For example, when I hear the word ‘interview’, I no longer picture a gallery of tense faces seated in a waiting room. Now, I imagine someone talking to a laptop in their home office, smiling wide but secretly praying that their Internet connection doesn’t cut out and that the neighbour isn’t doing renovations today. This is because due to covid-19, almost all interviews have been conducted via video.
Video interviewing has become a skill, and if you’re trying to land a job right now, it’s one you need to have in the bag. While many places around the globe are going ahead with their reopening plans, it’s going to be a while before companies start welcoming strangers back into their four walls. We predicted a while back that the switch towards a remote work environment may become permanent, and the latest surveys continue to support this theory. So how do you make a great first impression through a 13-inch screen? How do you accomplish the virtual version of a firm handshake? (We’ll touch on this later on).
I’m not going to tell you to prepare for a video interview the way you would for an in-person one. You already know this. You already know to research the company beforehand, list the questions you’d like to ask them, and send them a thank-you email after. Basic interviewing etiquette has not changed. What has changed is how these interviews are conducted, and let’s face it, what we all need is a little help nailing the technology part. Here are 10 video interview tips to make sure your next one goes smoothly.
- Find a quiet space, ideally with natural light. Try sitting in front of a window. If this isn’t possible, consider purchasing a ring light and placing this diagonal to where you’re sitting. You might roll your eyes at this and say “is that really necessary?” And the answer to that is, yes! 93% of our communication is nonverbal, and with video interviews, most of our nonverbal cues become non-visible. We have to lean more heavily on what we have left, which are our (hopefully well-lit) facial expressions.
- Choose your background carefully. If you want to be safe, you can always opt for a plain wall, but carefully showcasing your home library may not be such a bad idea either. Avoid showcasing clutter, don’t ever show your bed, and try not to use a Zoom virtual background. Unless you have a green screen, these are often pixelated and distracting.
- Use a laptop or desktop computer. FaceTime and Instagram stories have become the norm, but using your phone for an interview feels informal and inconsistent, and you’re bound to move it around too much.
- Test, update, and charge everything. Is your audio working? Is your webcam working? Have you downloaded the software the company has assigned for you to use? Do you have it in the latest version? Test the internet speed where you’re going have the interview using speedtest.net. Lastly, this goes without saying but is so easily missed: make sure your computer is charged!
- Pick a professional virtual identity. Use a professional email and screen name. In fact, just go with your FirstName_LastName.
- Use headphones. People will often forgive your video quality, but they won’t forgive your sound. If the person on the other end can’t understand what you are saying, you’re in trouble!
- Print a hard copy of your resume so you can refer to it and have a paper or pen ready. Don’t type your notes or click around the screen — this is the equivalent of taking notes on your phone during an in-person interview.
- Adjust the camera angle so that it’s dead-on. Make sure it’s eye-level. When you’re interviewing, look into the camera and not at the screen.
- Dress appropriately, top-to-bottom. What you choose to wear for a video interview is important. Go with bright colours as this tends to look better on-screen, and avoid stripes, patterns, and paisley. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t try to pull off the ‘business on top, PJs on the bottom’ look. If for any reason you have to get up, you’ll save yourself the embarrassment.
- Remain calm if there are any technology issues and have a Plan B. In fact, address this up front. Email the company and ask them if there’s a number you can reach them at in case you lose connection, or give them yours. Keep your phone right next to you, on silent, and ready to go.
- *BONUS* Finally, do the digital handshake. Yes, there is apparently such a thing! A virtual handshake is one where you: look at the camera, lean slightly forward, make eye contact, and nod your head deliberately at the start of the interview. That simple nod says that you are ready to listen and contribute to the meeting – so let’s get started!
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