With the pandemic came a shift in the way people talk and communicate with each other. People worked further apart, and a great many did so at home. The use of video conferencing rose very steeply and became a part of our day to day working lives. The phone will, of course, cut it if you can't get to an office, but nothing beats seeing each other face to face, especially when you are talking about an employment opportunity.
Needless to say, the pandemic isn't the only reason video calling has become more popular. For example, sometimes offices will pool their top people to assess candidates, but they can't always travel the long distance to be in one place. And, of course, there is the possibility the business itself is based somewhere remote and rather than ask you to travel hundreds if not more miles, a video interview is the obvious answer.
It seems that the video conference is here to stay.
The good news is the sense of a screen being a barrier soon disappears once you get talking. That said, the process is a little different from meeting in person, so we should look at some things you should do specifically for a video interview.
Make technology your friend
First thing's first, you need to be able to join the interview call.
In this age of instant messaging, you might be confident. But Hangouts is different to Zoom, which is different to Teams. So how do you accept the invite? How do the calls work? Do you need to download any software? Do you have a suitable internet browser?
Then there's the surrounding technology: is your webcam good enough, or do you want to get a better one before the big day?
Get everything ready you can in advance. This means headphones, any lighting you might want, and yes, if you are using a laptop, make sure it will be plugged in. Also, check the internet connection in the room you are using – if you are moving towards the back of the house because it is quieter, ensure the connection there is good. It’s also sensible to check that other people in the house will not be streaming videos or demanding heavy internet use for the duration of your call.
The best thing to do once you have sorted this is to perform a test run. Do it using the same video app and equipment you'll be using on the day.
That way, you will feel much more relaxed and, if there are issues during the online interview, feel happier in the knowledge you probably didn't cause them.
Recalibrate your eyes
There are some types of conferencing software that are designed to fix this, but for the most part you need to look at your camera rather than at the person on the screen. Take note: when you are looking at the camera, you are making eye contact, but when you look at someone on the screen, you are not.
If you just remember to look at the camera once in a while, that's fine.
Listen and nod more
Video calling may be impressive – but it is far from perfect. Calls can be a bit messy quality-wise, and it can be hard at times to see one another.
The one thing that hasn't quite been ironed out is that laughing, half remarks and slight interjections of agreement can cut off a person already talking and make things a little awkward.
Your best bet then is to smile a lot more and nod in agreement rather than exclaiming "yes!" out loud. That will mean their feed will not be cut off.
If you want to talk, slow down, listen to the other person, and wait until a natural break. Give a split second longer than you normally would, but smile to reassure the other person – who is also grappling with technology.
If this all sounds over the top, well, it is a bit – it's about proper turn-taking when the image is often fuzzy, and the sound is less than crystal clear.
Avoid background noise
This might be a difficult one to control and interviewers will tend to forgive unavoidable disruptions, but you should make every effort to ensure your interviewer is listening to you not the sound of your dog barking or other people moving around.
Choose a quiet part of the house, close any windows that are likely to be a source of outside noise and ask other people in the house to keep noise to a minimum. You might wish to consider if a microphone and headset is appropriate, while it’s great to look natural it’s important you can be heard and understood.
Is there anything else you need to do for the potential employer?
Check through the information they have sent you. Do they need anything in advance? Because it is a video interview, things may run in a different order, so double-check the email or message which has been sent outlining the interview procedure. Sometimes they might want ID sent to one of their departments or copies of your CV, perhaps even proof of qualifications.
And finally, make sure you record the link that you are sent in an online diary or in an accessible place. You don’t want to be scrabling around looking for the invitation just before the interview starts.
Always remember this is an interview. Just because you're sitting in the spare room oryour bedroom, things are no different from if you went into an office and shook someone's hand.
So pick out your best clothes and get them ready. And, it’s best to go with a full outfit rather than, for example, a shirt and jeans – you may need to stand up to alter the curtains if the sun is in your face.
It’s also important to make sure that there’s nothing distracting in the background. Evem if you use a wallpaper background it is possible the camera will capture some things in the room so don’t hid anything behind you that you don’t want the interviewer to see.
Do everything else you would for an in-person interview
Finally, do all the preparation you would for an interview in an office. Research, consider what you might need to ask. Even be punctual – most computers need a bit of time to boot and load apps, so make sure your system is up and running in advance of the meeting. Be eager an dready to go in the virtual waiting room before your interviewer arrives.
And, of course, relax, remember you have nothing to lose and let your best self shine through.