Rocking the Video Interview


I began mentoring women for video interviews when they were still a rarity.  These days, a majority of interviewing happens through videos.  I assumed everyone knew all the hints and tricks, but a recent conversation made me realize that even smart, savvy fantastic job candidates don’t necessarily know all these simple tips to having a more effective video interview.  


Curate You Background

We all do so much on Zoom, Google Meet at Skype that you probably have already done at least a bit of curation of your background space. A few years ago when I had a video interview to become a bishop, I spent half a day working on my background in preparation.  My back wall was bookshelves (and we clergy have lots of books!) but I realized the books that showed in the video were not ones that were most representative of who I was.  So I rearranged my shelves so that the books you could see behind me included topics that were most relevant to me, not the ones that came next in the dewey decimal system.

Unless you are interviewing for a Really Big Job, a background revamp to this degree is unnecessary.  Spending 15-30 minutes reviewing your space could be well worth your investment.  

Reduce Clutter

You’ve likely already done this for Pandemic Life.  But just in case, check your background (any anything that can be seen in the foreground).  Are there things that don’t belong?  Piles? Electrical cords?  Straighten up your background so it is not distracting or complicated.

Have a Talking Point

Often interviews want to get to know something about you outside of Professional You.  One way to help them ease into this is by having a talking point available in your background or during your interview.  Maybe it’s a memento from a meaningful trip or a collectors item or even a stuffed animal or office toy.  At the end of one video interview, one of the interviewers asked me about the mug I was drinking my tea from.  It happened to be my One Gallon mug from donating blood, and our conversation about that helped them learn a bit more about me as a person and my commitment to sharing resources in many ways.   

Avoid Virtual Backgrounds

Unless you are in a really desperate circumstance, do not use a virtual background during a job interview.  The video glitches will be distracting, and your potential employer will spend time wondering what you are hiding rather than focusing on you and what you have to offer.

Watch Yourself on Camera

It’s painful, I know.  But a great way to learn more about how others perceive you during a video interview is to record a mock interview and watch the footage.  Find a willing friend and ask them to a Zoom call where they interview you.  Give them a few questions you want to practice answering, and ask them to come up with a few other challenging questions for you to answer off the top of your head.  Fifteen minutes is plenty long enough for you to get a sense of how you behave.  Are you looking at the camera, or at the pictures on the screen? Do you have lots of “um…” and “uh…” or are you able to hold silence while you think?  Do you have any distracting or odd movements like always tipping your head to the left, or tapping your teeth while you think?  

If you notice things you’d like to change, work on it, google, it or ask for help in changing behaviors.  Then, put it out of your mind.  

Do not let your attention during the actual interview wander to these extraneous points.  Keep your mind on your interviewer and the subject at hand–not on yourself.   

Look at the Camera

Here’s a quick tip:  Make the window for your video interview small, and center it near your camera.  That will help you look at the camera rather than the people on the screen. 

I have logged well over 700 hours on Zoom these past six months and I still find myself looking meaningfully at someone’s picture on the screen when inviting them to talk instead of looking into the camera and using my words.

When you’re in an interview, help yourself engage with the camera not your computer screen.

The Power of the Sticky Note

My secret weapon in video interviewing is the Sticky Note.  These are valuable for whatever you need.  When I’m working with bishop interviewees, I often will have them write out their core values or key personal points, decorate them and put them on the edges of their computer.  Just a glance at this beautiful word will bring a smile to their face and remind them of something they need to share in this interview.  

At other times, it is helpful to list the names of the interviewers, or or products or certifications or other words that might be new to you but important to the interview.  If you need to change a behavior, you can give yourself a sticky note reminder.

Get a Grip

For those of us who are fidgety, I recommend planning ahead and providing yourself a meaningful fidget option within arms reach but outside of camera view.  The important thing about this object is that it conveys meaning.  I have rocks with different words on them, and I will often use one of these as my interview companion.  It will sit on my desk reminding me of “vision” or whatever.  If I need to, I can pick it up and hold it as I speak.  

You might have a rubber band which reminds you of your flexibility, or a coin to remind you of your track record of creating increased revenue.

Just make sure if this is part of your interview set-up that picking up or holding your object off-screen doesn’t create any strange movement on-screen.

Position Yourself

Depending on how long your interview is, what level it’s for, and the energy you want to project, make a conscious choice about how you want your body to be during the interview.  

Typical interviews are seated, behind a desk.  And that often is the right choice.  But I have had some very effective interviews while standing.  

If large portions of your job will include standing (for example, if you are a professor or preacher or teacher), standing might be a better way for you to interview.  If you stand, you will need to make sure you don’t fidget and wiggle so that you are moving all over your interviewer’s screen. And typically you should position your computer so that you are seen close-up, similar to sitting at a desk, rather than showing most of your body.   Standing can help you stay grounded and strong.

And whether you sit or stand, I highly recommend taking 90 seconds before any interview to engage in your favorite Power Pose.  James Clear shares more about Power Poses here.  

Help is Here

Let’s work together to prepare you for your next video interview and beyond.  Contact me and let’s get started.

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