How to Ace a Video Interview

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, millions of people are working from home. If you’re a recent college graduate, that means you’ll face some unique challenges in your job search. For one, you’ll probably have to interview remotely instead of meeting with the company in-person.

While interviewing from your couch may sound much more relaxed than a face-to-face meeting, remote interviews take some extra work to make them successful. To ensure you ace your next video interview, follow these tips.

1. Dress to impress (from head to toe!) for your video interview

When thinking about what to wear for a video interview, the usual rules apply. You should wear business professional or business casual wear, depending on the company. That may mean a suit, a collared shirt, or a nice blouse and blazer.

According to Dr. Shelly Gruenig, who is the CEO of Be Greater Than Average and has a Ph.D. in workforce education, you should avoid patterns or bright colors.

“Dress in solid colors; jewel tones or pastels look particularly good on camera,” she recommended. “No greens if you are using a built-in background.”

And it’s important to note that you should be in a complete professional outfit. When you’re going to be appearing via webcam, you may only be worried about how you’ll look from the waist-up. But as reporter Will Reeve found out on Good Morning America when he went on-air in a suit jacket and shirt — but no pants — you never know what the camera will show, or when you may have to stand while you’re still on camera.

2. Pay attention to lighting

With video and remote interviews, good lighting is essential.

“Take time to plan lighting, as this is one of the most critical components of the interview,” Gruenig said.

If possible, utilize natural light from windows, but make sure they aren’t behind you. Otherwise, you’ll appear only as a dark silhouette. You may need to purchase a small light, such as an inexpensive circle light, so you look your best.

3. Be strategic about video positioning

Before your interview, practice with a friend and play around with the positioning of the interviewer’s video location on your computer screen. When answering questions, it’s best to talk into the camera, without staring into the lens.

“I find it helpful to position the video screen of your interviewer up at the top of your screen near the camera if using the built-in camera,” suggested Gruenig.

Positioning the video feed at the top of the monitor by the webcam lens will give the illusion of natural eye contact.

Tip: Learn the software. There are many different video conferencing platforms like Google Meet, Zoom, and UberConference. Take the time to explore the platform and get comfortable using and troubleshooting on it so that you become an expert on the software you’ll be using.

4. Elevate your energy levels

Unfortunately, it’s harder to convey your personality over video than it is in-person. To make sure you show your enthusiasm for the position and the company, take some time before the interview to pump yourself up with music or exercise to get the blood flowing.

“Elevate your energy prior to the interview by doing some simple physical movements and be sure to smile so that you can connect with those conducting the interview,” said Gruenig.

Throughout the interview, remember to breathe slowly, to pause between sentences to gather your thoughts, if needed, and to show that you’re engaged by nodding your head or other gestures when the interviewer is speaking.

5. Arrange your surroundings for the best interview location

You want to keep your background as professional and uncluttered as possible. Make sure the area is clean and neat. If you’re in a small space and there’s no way to tilt the camera away from your bedroom or a cluttered spot, consider hanging a plain curtain behind you to act as a backdrop.

While using built-in backdrops can help you change the background at a moment’s notice, Gruenig recommended against using them.

“Unless you have a great internet connection, do not use the built-in background,” she said.

Built-in backgrounds can cause your internet connection to lag, damaging your video quality and causing the feed to freeze.

6. Do research beforehand

While remote interviews can feel very different, treat them like a regular business interview. You should prepare for them the same way you would an in-person interview:

  • Review the job description: Note the core duties listed on the job descriptions and plan to discuss how your past experiences and education have prepared you to handle those responsibilities.
  • Think about your achievements: Make a shortlist of your biggest professional and academic achievements and how the lessons you learned earning them can apply to your career.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses: Most interviewers will ask you about your biggest strengths and weaknesses, so be ready to share your answers.
  • Research the company: Make sure you understand the company’s mission and major products.
  • Ask questions: Spend some time before the interview thinking of questions you’d like to ask, such as the company’s future direction, what the department’s goals are, what the most pivotal task is for the job, and how success is measured in the company.

Tip: Be sure to follow up. According to a report from staffing agency Robert Half, 58% of hiring managers say that sending a post-interview thank you is helpful in their decision making. A simple email works. And doing so will make you stand out — hiring managers also report that only 24% of candidates send one.

7. Have a backup plan

No matter how much you prepare for a remote interview, things can still go wrong. Your internet connection can go out, your webcam may malfunction, or your microphone can break. If that happens, it’s important to have a backup plan. Some options include:

  • Use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot: If you have a smartphone, you may be able to use it as a Wi-Fi hotspot. And, because of the coronavirus outbreak, many cell phone providers are offering free data and hotspot packages. By using your phone as a hotspot, you can use it to connect to the internet if your Wi-Fi signal goes down.
  • Use headphones: If your microphone isn’t working, try using headphones plugged into your laptop. Many headphones — even small and inexpensive earbuds — have built-in microphones, so you can be heard clearly.
  • Talk over the phone instead: If the internet, webcam, or microphone isn’t working, you may want to call your interviewer instead. Explain that you’re having connectivity issues; in most cases, they’ll be willing to have a phone interview rather than a video interview.
  • Communicate any issues: If you’re having problems, try and reach out to the interviewer as soon as possible via phone or email. These are truly unprecedented times, so most people will be understanding and willing to work with you to reschedule.

Additional Resources: Here are 5 ways to earn some extra cash while job searching.