Best tips to prepare for a video job interview
Get ready for the interviewer to see a lot more than just your resume.
Find a quiet, private, and well-lit place for your video interview.
If you’re among the many people who are camera shy, it’s time to take steps to fix that. Your next job could depend on it, and not because we predict you’ll switch careers and get into movies or broadcasting anytime soon. It’s because video chat platforms—FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, etc.—are poised to change the way employers connect with job candidates. For video interview tips, read on to learn how to put your best face forward.
Video interviews can understandably be challenging for job seekers. “Some people just have a discomfort with being on camera,” says Pamela Skillings, a career coach and co-founder of New York-based Big Interview, an online job interview–training platform. “People may feel conscious about how they look on video, or they’re worried about whether their technology is going to hold up.”
Check your tech
You’ll want to nail down the mechanics before a video interview, says Cheryl Palmer, executive career coach and owner of the coaching firm Call to Career. This entails doing the following:
- Check your Internet speed. For a clear HD video connection, you need at least 1 Mbps (Megabites per second), according to LifeWire.com. You can test your Internet speed at www.SpeedTest.net. Switching from Wi-Fi to a wired Ethernet connection may improve your Internet speed. If your home’s Internet connection is crummy, consider going to a local library, where you can do the interview in a private room with stable Wi-Fi.
- Make sure your device (computer, tablet, or phone—whichever you feel most comfortable working with) is fully charged. Or, plug it into an outlet, to avoid a battery outage.
- Check the audio. You may need to wear headphones if your computer has a lousy speaker system, or buy an external microphone.
- Check the camera. If you need to purchase a webcam, Wirecutter.com recommends the Logitech HD Webcam C615.
- Familiarize yourself with the video platform. New to Skype or Zoom? Get comfortable with the program before your audition.
Have a plan if things go haywire
Reality check: Technology just fails sometimes, regardless of how many times you checked your Internet connection. So, before you begin a video interview, provide the interviewer with a phone number where you can be reached if there are any technical difficulties.
Choose the right setting
Among the most pivotal video interview tips is the importance of a proper environment. Find a quiet, private, and well-lit place to do the interview—making sure to avoid coffee shops and other communal spaces where you can’t control the background noise. And choose a room with a clutter-free backdrop.
Lighting is also important, says Bill Cole, author of The Interview Success Guide. If a window is behind you, it could cast a shadow over your face and make it difficult for the interviewer to see you. Generally, your best strategy is to sit opposite an open window. If you’re doing the interview at night—which may very well be the case if you have a full-time job—you can brighten up dim space by adding floor or desk lamps.
Pro tip: “Do a trial run at the same time of day that you’re going to be doing the interview, so that you know exactly what the lighting is going to look like,” Cole advises.
Dress the part
Although you’re not going into an office to meet with the interviewer face to face, you still need to dress appropriately for a video interview, says Skillings. Generally, you’ll want to wear the same professional clothes that you’d wear to an in-person interview at the company. The exception? Don’t wear plaid or stripes—they can be distracting on camera. “When people do TV interviews, they tend to wear solid colored shirts for that very reason,” Cole explains.
Moreover, read up on your prospective employer’s fashion culture, as some workplaces are obviously more casual than others, says Kate Wendleton, president and founder of the Five O'Clock Club, a national career counseling and outplacement firm. A blazer and tie, for example, may not be required if you discover the company’s dress code is jeans and a T-shirt. Dress one notch above what’s expected.
Mind your body language
Maintaining good eye contact is crucial during any job interview, but it’s especially important during video interviews. Your camera should be at eye level. “It won't make a good first impression if you are seen as looking down or looking up when speaking,” Palmer says.
Don’t forget to nod and smile when it’s appropriate. “You don’t want to sit there rigidly, locked into place, without moving,” says Skillings.
Don’t rely on notes
It’s smart to have a copy of your resume nearby, just as you would during an in-person interview, but don’t be tempted to have a cheat sheet in your lap, such as a list of answers to common interview questions. “It’s too tempting to check it and you don’t want to be looking down,” Cole says.
There are exceptions, though—for example, saying to an interviewer, “I’m looking away for a second so that I can find the data from that project I worked on” is totally fine.
Make a great first impression
One of the best video interview tips we can give you is to have smart answers at the ready. (No kidding!) It’s time to focus on what you’re going to say to win over a potential employer.