Online interviews can take place on any web-enabled device

Mastering video interviews

Anyone applying for a job over the next couple of years is likely to find video interviewing used as part of the process.

Video is increasingly being used by employers to save time and money but also as a practical solution to dealing with high volumes of candidates or for global recruitment campaigns. A video interview can be conducted live across a technology such as Skype but the more common option is an asynchronous video interview which means a candidate doesn’t have to be online the same time as the interviewer.

Typically, you will be sent a link to a website where you can record yourself answering the questions at a time that suits. Joy Redmond, head of research and the Knowledge Hub at video interviewing technology specialist Sonru.com, says anyone interested in making a killer first impression on a video interview will prepare in advance and give it “their best shot” just like they would a face-to-face interview.

As she points out the big difference is that you also have to deal with “a technical element”. Like any interview, there is an art to succeeding at a video interview and some golden rules that must be obeyed. Those who take the time to become proficient at it will mark themselves out and, importantly, ensure they are well-placed for a future in which video-interviewing becomes the norm.

The importance of preparation

A video interview demands the same level of research and preparation as a face-to-face one and must be treated as seriously. Do your homework on your prospective employer and try to anticipate some of the questions you might be asked. Even though you are able to do the interview at a convenient time, as in any interview, questions won’t be available in advance. Also, most employers will set a maximum time to answer them once you begin your recording.

Remember to prepare for the so-called ‘killer’ questions that are designed to assess how you respond under pressure. Candidates can sometimes feel remote when undertaking a video interview for the first time so it’s important to also prepare mentally. Depending on your personality, you may feel shy or slightly self conscious using video. The best advice is to be yourself as you would in any interview and ensure your passion, enthusiasm and knowledge is communicated.

Build in plenty of time

The company to which you have applied is likely to make use of a third party platform to facilitate the interview but this is of little relevance to candidates as it will probably be branded with the employer’s logo. Redmond advises allowing plenty of time to acquaint yourself with the video interviewing technology. “Don’t wait until the deadline to log in,” she says. “Log in early and often and do as many practice interviews as you wish. Remember to play back the practice interviews and make notes as to how you could improve your performance.”

Improving the quality of the interview

Use the practice to assess the quality of the interview for those who will be on the receiving end.

“If in the practice video you recognise that you need to tidy your background, improve your lighting or put on a better shirt do so before you begin your interview,” says Redmond, who adds that there are there are a lot of simple things you can do to improve your video quality, even if you are using a basic webcam:

• Choose a bright room with soft background light.
• Move around with the camera to find a simple and tidy background.
• Have a desk light in front of you to light up your face.
• Raise the camera to eye level. If you have a laptop put in on a box or similar.
• If possible, wear white to enhance the picture quality and contrast.
• Look at your outline in the camera view; get close enough so you mainly see your head and shoulders.

She adds that you should try and move the lights around so your image is clear and bright in the camera, and, if you wear glasses, turn down monitor brightness to minimise glare.

“By creating a good light environment and following these simple tips, you will get good results even with a simple camera,” she says.

Avoid common mistakes

Lack of preparation both in terms of the interview itself and the technology being used are where candidates most often fall down.

“The most common mistake is not giving yourself enough time,” says Redmond. “Waiting to the final hour to complete the interview only to find your broadband connection isn't strong enough or you have problems with the audio. Leaving any interview to the last minute can cause stress, but leaving an interview that involves technical elements to the last minute can add to this stress. Candidates can apply for extensions but is this really the first impression you want to leave with a prospective employer?”

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