Looking for a job? Practice smiling, because it’s likely you’ll be on camera. A survey by staffing company OfficeTeam found that more than six out of 10 employers use video interviews “somewhat” or “very” often, and only a quarter of companies said they didn’t use video interviews at all.
So if you haven’t yet encountered a virtual interview during a job hunt, it’s likelier than not that you will sometime in the future. Here’s what human resources experts say you have to do when you’re trying to sell yourself on-screen.
Set the stage. “Choosing the wrong location for a phone or video interview can be detrimental. Take these meetings in a quiet place, making sure there aren’t barking dogs or other distractions that could make it difficult to hear,” advises Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Beware of poor lighting or windows in the background that can cast dark shadows.” Check the background to make sure it’s clutter-free — you don’t want to give your prospective new boss an eyeful of your dirty gym clothes slung over the back of a chair.
Run a tech test beforehand. OfficeTeam also suggests enlisting a friend for a “dress rehearsal” before the actual interview. This will give you a chance to get acquainted with the video technology and troubleshoot any issues that pop up. Ask someone else for feedback to make sure you’re sitting at a good distance from the camera to be seen clearly, and that you're not too close or too far away from the microphone.
Wear pants — please. Josh Tolan, CEO of video interview company Spark Hire, says you should pick an outfit — shoes, accessories and all — as if you were heading to an in-person interview. "Although, they’ll most likely be seated the whole time, wearing a complete interview outfit can help them to focus and maintain the state-of-mind needed for having a successful interview," he says. Experts say to avoid wearing white, which can wash you out, and busy patterns, which can be distracting.
Do your homework. You might not be in the same room, but a video interview is a real interview, experts say. Make yourself familiar with both the job and the company, says Scott Dobroski, a career trend analyst at online salary and jobs company Glassdoor. “Find out what the job duties are by re-reading the job description, researching what others have to say about what it’s like to work this job title,” he says. “See how the company has been talked about in the news lately, and how it talks about itself on its own website.”
Make a visual connection. “Be aware of your tone over the phone and make eye contact," says Amanda Augustine, job search expert at TheLadders. Curb any nervous tics or a tendency to fidget, she says. Don't bounce your leg under the table, even if you think the interviewer can't see it. And although it might seem most natural to look at the screen, experts say it's important to make eye contact with your webcam. “You still need to connect with your interviewer, even if they’re not sitting in the room with you,” Augustine says.
Watch your mouth. “Avoid colloquialisms, speak slowly and clearly, and avoid your ‘likes,’ ‘ums,’ and ‘ahs,’” says Zach Lahey, a research analyst at research company Aberdeen Group's Human Capital Management practice. “Smile, be friendly, and show that you’re interested,” he says. Keep in mind that in a video, “Every movement and action is magnified."
Sit up straight. "Job seekers should also be aware of their posture and body language," Tolan says. "Slouching or leaning back in their seat may give off the vibe that the job seeker isn’t taking the interview seriously or is bored and disinterested," he warns. Good posture will also help energize you. Conversely, don't fold your arms over your body. "Crossing their arms should also be avoided because they will appear unapproachable and defensive," Tolan says.