The COVID-19 pandemic has changed businesses in countless ways.
Never before has there been such a limit imposed on human interaction. And yet, a lot of business success relies on interpersonal relations, effective communication and the ‘personal’ touch.
As the virus restricted us to our homes, many standard parts of life went virtual – recruitment included.
Despite a slow-down in some industries, for many other sectors, businesses continued as usual, and the need to recruit either stayed the same or increased.
The overwhelming majority of businesses who faced COVID-19 challenges acted quickly and effectively, and recruitment went digital – on a global scale.
Video software has cemented itself as part of our ‘new normal’ in the wake of COVID-19 – and video interviews are here to stay.
This guide has been designed to help you, the candidate, prepare for and succeed in your upcoming video interview.
Video Interviews: Here to Stay
Since COVID-19 struck, our virtual world has increased exponentially, and video technology has become a part of our daily lives; from work meetings, video GP appointments to meeting friends on Zoom instead of your local coffee shop.
Many sectors were in the process of adopting video conferencing, and the onset of the pandemic accelerated this adoption.
Recruitment is one sector that has benefitted immensely from video technology. Despite being required to keep our social distance, critical roles in high growth organisations still need to be filled; and video interviews have been a saviour in this respect.
Recent research has found that up to 84% of recruiters have reported altering their process to accommodate virtual exchanges. Video interviewing is now a critical stage in many organisation’s recruitment processes.
Video interviews can benefit both the candidate and the company who are hiring – reduced travel costs, ease of scheduling around your current commitments and some of the stresses of an in-person interview can even be eliminated.
With this in mind, preparing for a video interview should be in every candidate’s repertoire of skills.
So how can you prepare for a successful Digital Marketing video interview? Let’s start by looking at the unique properties of the video interview.
Video vs In-Person Interviews – What are the Differences?
If you have been invited to a video interview, you might be wondering what this means, and how it might differ from a regular ‘interview’. Many candidates worry that a video interview might put them at a disadvantage.
But what are the real differences?
The truth is that a video interview should not put you either at an advantage or a disadvantage – both have their benefits and their drawbacks.
Let’s take a closer look.
Video Interview – Advantages
- Be interviewed from the comfort of your own home
- Ability to draw on notes
- Increased flexibility of time
- Travel cost and time, and stress are eradicated
Video Interview – Disadvantages
- It can be harder to connect and build rapport with the interviewer
- Your body language is restricted
- You often have a more limited time
Any candidate can learn to improve their video interview skills with better knowledge and understanding of the recruitment process – we will go through how to improve your video interview skills later on.
Next, let’s look at how to get acquainted with the practicalities of video interviewing.
Familiarise Yourself With the Tech
There are a few things you must check before your video interview to ensure that everything goes as smooth as possible on the day.
The first is to check your internet speed, there are plenty of speed tests available, such as this one by Which?. For a smooth video, a connection speed of at least three megabits per second is recommended.
If your internet is slow where you live, consider asking a friend or relative if you can use a space in their home if they can accommodate you and it is safe and socially distant for you to do so. If your video keeps freezing or buffering, it will make it very difficult to impress the interviewer and can even lead to interviews being rescheduled.
There are a few different platforms employers use to conduct video interviews, with Skype, Zoom and Microsoft teams being the most popular.
Some recruiters use specialist software too and if this is the case, make sure you have a practise session with them ahead of time. If you are completely new to video technology, it is a good idea to test out the platform with a friend or relative first.
You might need to download the latest version of Skype or learn how to open a Zoom link – check with your interviewer as soon as the interview is confirmed which software or programme you will be using.
Have a run-through a couple of days before to check that your webcam and microphone are working, and you can use this time to practice looking and speaking at the camera.
Despite mobile phone and tablet technology improving significantly in recent years, we would always advise that you use a laptop or PC for your interview. This way, you get a bigger image of yourself and your interviewer on screen, the camera will be in a better position, and the image will be more stable than when using a tablet stand or propping up your phone.
On the day of the interview, a hot tip – switch your computer on ahead of time, the last thing you want is to have Microsoft inform you of an impending update!
Choosing Your Setting
As well as having a run-through of the technology, before your interview, you should also have a good think about where in your home you want your interview to take place.
Choose somewhere well-lit, but avoid anywhere with a light source directly behind you, as this will cause you to appear as a shadowy figure. Video experts Wistia have produced a guide to looking great on webcam, which you can view here.
Not everyone has a home office, but for your interview, you will need somewhere you won’t be disturbed by other members of your household. Close and lock the door and inform everyone in the house that you must not be disturbed during the interview time; you could even make a do not disturb sign for your door.
Make sure pets are out of the way or taken care of by someone – your nosy dog scratching at the door or crying for your attention can derail you.
Choose somewhere with a neutral and tidy background to conduct your interview from, try to avoid the interviewer seeing overfull wardrobes or messy coat racks, as these can also be distracting.
Remember to turn your phone off or on silent and don’t have a pinging email inbox tab open on your computer.
Consider your clothing choice carefully, some items such as bold patterns and stripes can look busy on camera. However, bright colours can help when it comes to your video, standing out positively to the hiring manager.
And remember – don’t just dress for what the interviewer will see.
Most of us have been guilty of dressing smartly from the waist up and leaving the bottom half casual for a video call. But doing this could impact subconsciously on the way you feel, which can then lead to poorer performance. Dress head-to-toe in what you would typically wear, yes, including your shoes, to fully get yourself into ‘interview mode’.
If you wear glasses, make sure they are clean! I know that sounds strange and first impressions and attention to detail count.
Next, let’s look at the two types of video interviews and how to improve your skills for each.
Improving Your Video Interview Skills
Some people will be more relaxed during a video interview; for others, it can be more stressful. This all depends on your personality and communication type.
But for camera-shy candidates who are more likely to find video interviews stressful, there are some techniques you can employ, which will help you answer questions with ease.
There are two main types of video interviews – live and pre-recorded. Most video interviews take place as a live question and answer session, but some employers may ask that you send pre-recorded answers instead of, or as well as a live interview; let’s look at both in turn.
Pre-Recorded Video Interviews
Pre-recorded (sometimes called asynchronous) video interviews are being used with increasing occurrence as a way to screen candidates when there is a range of possible applicants for a role.
A relatively new way of interviewing, a pre-record will not usually take the place of a live video interview; or it might be the first stage in a longer interview process.
These interviews usually take the format of you being sent a link with pre-recorded interview questions, which you will often have a time limit to answer and then send back. You will sometimes have a chance to re-record your answer if you so wish.
Candidates can feel as though pre-recorded interviews are unnatural; it is essential to try to act as though you are having a live conversation when recording your answers – a certain degree of confidence in your ability to ‘perform’ is needed.
To prepare for a pre-recorded interview, practice giving concise answers to some of the most common interview questions such as –
- Tell us about yourself
- What do you know about our organisation?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What can you bring to this role?
- What are your strengths/weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
Being prepared to answer these questions on-demand will make answering them on the spot easier – success is all about practising.
Live Video Interviews
Live interviews are the most common type of video interviews which are happening now.
As I mentioned, this type of interview, while unfamiliar and potentially intimidating, can make for a more successful interview for nervous candidates – we will go through how to communicate effectively during your video interview in the next section.
The topics covered in the video interview will be the same as if the conversation was taking place face to face. Try not to focus on the medium and instead focus on giving detailed, concise answers.
It would be best if you prepared for a range of common interview questions, mixed with industry-specific questions.
If your video interview is taking place out of necessity due to the pandemic, the role which you are interviewing for could be impacted similarly. The interviewer should highlight whether or not, and for how long you can expect the position to be remote for, or you might be starting within the physical organisation straight away.
The best way to feel prepared for a video interview is to feel confident in your interviewing skills in general. Interview skills are not something that comes naturally; they improve, as with everything, the more you practice them. We have a blog post you can access here on answering interview questions which will help.
In the days before your interview, practice as much as you can answering questions, talking about yourself and your career – and though this might sound strange, film yourself too.
This way, when you watch yourself on camera, you will be able to tell which parts of your communication style, facial expressions or body language you might want to improve. Watching yourself on camera beforehand will eradicate some of the nervousness that many people associate with speaking on camera; there is a well-known phrase that ‘practice makes perfect’, and this relates to being on camera too.
Do research the company, checking out their website, LinkedIn and research your interviewers plus have some industry-specific topics to talk about.
During the interview, remember to have a glass of water on your desk so that you can take a sip if your throat starts to feel dry or if you need to pause for a moment.
Communicating via video is a skill in itself, and one which can seem uncomfortable if you aren’t familiar with the set-up. Let’s look at how to communicate effectively via video.
Communicating on Video
Video interviews can feel quite strange if you are not familiar with them.
It is this unfamiliarity that can lead to unease which could potentially impact your interview demeanour and affect your flow.
One criticism candidates sometimes have about video interviews is that it is harder to strike a genuine connection with your interviewer or panel. But there are a few techniques you can use to help combat this.
Even with the fastest of internet connections, there will be a small delay between you and the interviewer. Remember to let the interviewer finish what they are saying, and pause for a second or so to make sure before you start to give your answer.
Nodding is a great way to maintain your engagement level without the risk of interrupting. Nod while the interviewer is speaking at points where you want to show you are communicating without interrupting their flow. And remember – a genuine smile goes a long way to communicating friendliness and approachability, critical attributes which can help differentiate between candidates and help swing the decision in your favour.
Eye contact is key, as is the position of the microphone. In your practice sessions, you will be aware of where the camera is and where to look. There is nothing worse for the interviewer than thinking you aren’t looking at them.
When it comes to audio if you have one use and external microphone or alternatively make sure you are speaking directly into whatever audio input you have.
Without physical and interpersonal cues, in a video interview, candidates can sometimes speak for longer than they normally would, as the interviewer might be wary of cutting you off mid-flow. In most interviews, you can expect some amount of conversational cross-talk, but if your interviewer is unwilling to interrupt you, there is a chance you will run on with your answers.
You want to ensure this doesn’t happen, so aim to keep your answers as concise as possible.
Remember to breathe deeply and pause for a moment before answering questions; try not to speak too quickly – speak clearly and deliberately.
Video Body Language
We often forget just how much of an interview relies on interpersonal communication and body language.
We communicate with our hands and bodies as much as we do with the things we say, and these signals can be lost on video.
Because of this, it is a good idea to try to remember to emphasise your hand gestures and body movements slightly more than you would in a regular interview. The key is to not go over the top but to place extra emphasis on what you are saying so that it connects with the interviewer.
Sit up straight and lean into the camera when it feels natural – enough that you look engaged and not pushed back in your chair.
Try not to stare at yourself – as we mentioned earlier look into the camera for maximum eye contact, which will help you strike a better connection with the interviewer.
You might exude nervous energy during your interview – this can be common – but remember to keep nervous movements under control. Try to avoid leg twitching, touching your face or hair or tapping your finger or pen. Being in the comfort of your own home can sometimes make you feel too relaxed – remember to keep your posture professional.
Using Notes and Reminders
Using notes is becoming more acceptable during video interviews – the key is to use them as handy prompts, but do not rely on them too much.
As a general rule; it’s ok to use a cheat sheet. You can take advantage of the video interview by posting handy reminders around the screen for anything you particularly want to communicate. These can be particularly useful for the end of the interview when you are invited to ask any questions you might have. As an interviewee, it can be nerve-wracking, and sometimes candidates forget to bring up points that they want to speak about.
Make a list of a few key bullet points you want to talk about – at the end when questions are invited, you can glance at your reminders to help prompt you. But be careful – do not make it evident that you are reading from notes, as this could make it look as though you have not adequately prepared or could make you look overly-nervous.
Signing off appropriately is essential, as it will shape the interviewer’s last impression of you. You don’t realise how important the handshake at the end of the interview is until it is missing.
Instead, you should sign off with a positive comment, a ‘thank you’ and a smile. Practice ending your video call promptly, to minimise the amount of time spent at the end of the interview in an open window that you are having trouble closing.
The COVID-19 outbreak has nudged many high growth, tech-driven organisations forward in terms of their recruiting. Be prepared for video interviews to be a much more common occurrence when you are applying for jobs in the future.
The more familiar you are with the video recruitment process, the more confident and successful you will be.
Success in video interviews is all about the preparation – doing everything you can beforehand to make sure you can present the best version of yourself, instead of being distracted by tech worries.
If you are looking for your next interview for a new Digital Marketing role, get in touch with us today to find out how we can help.
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