How to Ace Your Video Interview: Job Hunting from Home, Part Two
So, it’s game day. Your online video interview is about to begin, and you’re feeling good. Okay, so maybe there are just a few nerves, but you know you’ve got this. The space you’ve set up for your call is all in order and your technology is ready to go. You’ve prepped for this moment and it shows.
In my last article, we covered the pre-game day basics to get your location and technology ready for an online interview. Here, we’ll talk about the interview itself. Once again, I caught up with Shawn Hutcherson, our Lead Talent Acquisition Partner here at McAfee, for his insight and experience as a person who’s conducted numerous interviews online.
And here’s the good news: while a video interview may be new to you, plenty of what happens in a good face-to-face interview happens in a good video interview too. We’ll cover exactly that, along with a number of pointers that are specific to video interviews—so you can absolutely ace yours.
Prior to the Interview:
As always, the foundation of a good interview is built upon how you prepare. So much of what you’ll see here should look comfortingly familiar. There are a few new wrinkles to consider with a video interview, just as you’d expect, so here’s a quick rundown of things you can do in the days, and moments, leading up to your call:
Check up on company news.
Did the company have a recent product release, a change in management, or make any other noteworthy moves? You’ll want to know about any such news as it may reshape your understanding of the company and help form some good questions to ask. In either case, it’s a chance to show an interviewer that you’ve done your homework.
Look up your interviewer(s) on LinkedIn.
Aside with providing you some background, it’s also a way to spot common interests that make for easy icebreakers. Likewise, a little familiarity can make for a smoother conversation in the long run if you spot other things like shared experiences and mutual acquaintances.
Grab a pad of paper and fill it up with a few questions.
Having questions prepared shows interest on your part, and you can also jot down any items of interest that came up in your research. Be ready to have this at your side during your interview. Keeping it all together in a nice folio or binder will look extra-sharp too.
“Don’t change anything on game day.”
More plainly, keep to your regular everyday routine. If you drink two cups of coffee in the morning, stick with two. No need to “amp up” with that extra cup. You know your daily rhythm and what keeps you feeling good, so stick with it. Also, it’s a good idea to keep a bottle of water handy. You’ll be chatting for a while, so keep hydrated.
Clear your computer desktop.
Another thing to keep in mind is to close unnecessary apps, browser windows, or anything else that could create a distraction of any kind. For example, any apps that might pop up an alert or notification on your computer desktop, like an email or chat app, should be closed. Likewise, close browser windows so that you don’t share any of them by accident—such as your social media feed, any sensitive information, and so forth.
Check your space.
Look around the room for other things that could interrupt the call in any way. Put your phone on silent (and make sure it’s charged if you need to quickly switch the interview over to a phone call instead). Turn off any loud fans or other appliances that could create background noise. Also check in with your family or roommates one last time and let them know that you’re heading into your interview and when you expect to be done.
Have a backup plan.
So, let’s say the internet connection is sort of lousy or the two of you experience some sort of technical glitch. Have phone numbers handy—and perhaps a draft email ready to go for such situations. Last-minute emails written hastily in the wake of a dropped session can be prone to typos. A professionally written email will go a long way.
A Quick Word on How to Dress for a Video Interview
Granted, working from home may have us dressing far more informally than we ever would in the office, even on the most casual of “Casual Fridays,” so this is a good opportunity to revisit the notion of how to dress for a video interview. The answer is much the same as any other interview as you’ve had before: dress one step above where you think people would normally dress at that employer. For example, at McAfee, we have a pretty relaxed culture, so a smart “business casual” look for an interview works great for us. If the employer is more formal, proper business attire is the way to go. And if you have a favorite shirt, dress, or earrings wear them. Overall, the best advice is, “Look good, feel good, play good.” When you’re dressed comfortably and for the occasion, a great conversation can come rather naturally.
During the Interview
An old interview axiom is to show up early. The same applies here. Click on that link your interviewer provided a good 10 to 15 minutes early and put yourself on mute. This way, you can address any glitches with plenty of time to spare—like, “Oh, this link isn’t actually working. I’d better shoot off an email or text to get that straightened out.”
So let’s say you connect without a hitch. The camera’s on and your live, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Build a rapport.
In virtual situations, it’s easy to feel like you have to get right down to business. Actually, this is your chance to settle in. It’s absolutely okay to ask, “How are you doing today?” or chat about your families or how you’ve been spending your time for a bit. Think back to that LinkedIn search you did. You may have mutual friends or interests. Bring them up.
Feel free to share.
If you’re doing this at home, there’s absolutely no need to apologize for that. Lean into it with something like, “Glad to be here! And hey, just so you know, I have a parakeet and a shih tzu, so there may be a little noise in the background.” And who knows, you’re interviewer may have a parakeet and a shih tzu too—or some other pets or family in the background. So really, this is another opportunity to connect.
Keep up that eye contact.
This is another tricky mannerism to master in a virtual situation but try to imagine as if the interviewer is in the room with you. That could be a coffee house or a comfortable conference room. Keep your attention on the person and face the screen so that you maintain eye contact. After all, no one wants to see you turn your head and talk to your earlobe.
Remember those non-verbal cues.
Related to the above, a great deal of our communication comes across non-verbally. Smile when you speak if it feels right and nod as you listen. Posture, just like in a face-to-face interview, is important too. Sit straight, yet comfortably, and feel free to lean in and back again with the natural flow of conversation.
Give yourselves some space.
Another pitfall of virtual conversations are long monologues. Ever been on a lousy conference call where someone fails to pause and let others talk? Or how about when people step on each other’s sentences? You can avoid faux pas like those by interjecting simple open-ended questions into the conversation. Doing so will give your interviewer a chance to show they understand what you’ve conveyed. Also, their answer can lead you into the next topic.
Ask questions in return.
Remember that note pad? Refer to your questions there and actively take notes as you go. This works in your favor a few ways. First off, it showcases your preparedness and that you’re fully engaged in the conversation. Also, it looks and feels natural—far more than sitting relatively idle in a chair for 30, 45, or even a full 60 minutes.
Control what you can.
There’s a fair chance something unexpected will come up. Your grade-schooler may let out a big shout after he drops a jar of peanut butter on his big toe. Your dog may strut in and let you know that it’s time for her walk. While you can’t control these things, you can control your reaction. That’s a strong indicator of how you handle little challenges. See such moments for what they are: a good opportunity. You can turn it into a positive by showing how adaptable and flexible you are.
Getting to know the person on the other end.
As you can see, the video interview shares a great deal with the interviews you’ve had before. Aside from the unique aspects of video job interviews we shared here, there’s something else to keep in mind right now: everyone’s situation is a little different today.
For example, the city you’re in may have rather relaxed rules around social distancing. However, the person you’re speaking with may be weeks into shelter in place restrictions. Before you hop onto that video interview, spend a few moments to empathize with what life may be like for that person right now and keep in mind how their life may be impacted. Also, see this conversation as an opportunity to improve your situation—just like nearly any interview is. Take it for that and focus on the positives.
Last up, a video interview has the similar rewards and challenges for the interviewer. Maybe their shih tzu will chime in during your chat. Or you may hear their kids break out into an impromptu soccer game with a ball of crumpled-up tinfoil. And that’s great! Just as interviewers are getting a glimpse into your world, you’re getting a glimpse into theirs as well. Like you, they’re grateful for the technology that allows us to work together in new ways, develop ourselves professionally, and simply get some face-to-face time with new people.
If you’re job hunting from home or know someone who is, I hope these insights have you feeling a little better about the prospect of a video interview—particularly if the whole thing is new to you. The changes we’re all facing right now are very much on my mind, as are the people and families who’ve had to add the pressure of a job search on top of it all. Once again, check out the Investopedia article on working and job searching from home that. I referenced it in my first job hunting article and a good portion of it presents an excellent overview of which roles and which firms are particularly WFH-friendly. My hope is that together these articles are of some help, whether for you or your friends and family who are on the hunt. And remember, we’re hiring too!