Gone are the days when Skype interviews were a rarity, something you could avoid unless your potential employer was based overseas or a tech-giant. It’s not uncommon for candidates to feel disadvantaged by this interview format, particularly those who feel they best communicate their personal brands via traditional face-to-face interviews. Our guest blogger this month, Georgina Stokes, knows a thing or two about occupational psychology, and here she discusses how to shine during that tricky online interview.
Here’s Georgiana with more…
In the film The Internship, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn’s characters spectacularly blunder through their Google video interview in a way that only those two know how. And of course, to the viewer, it was hilarious! However, joking aside, it illustrates a real problem facing job applicants today. Video interviews are being used with increasing frequency, and the applicants invited to participate in them are often not sure what to expect.
Employers love to use this technology; it delivers a cost-effective and time efficient way of handling the initial selection phases. The benefits of video interviewing to the applicant also exist, but are often overlooked: drowned out by anxiety and confusion over concerns such as video etiquette, Wi-Fi dependability and unfamiliarity of the situation.
When invited to attend a standard job interview, we can feel comforted by the familiarity of what to expect, despite our nerves. We know the routine: dry clean suit, dress smart, arrive on time, shake hands, dazzle the interviewer, ask a question or two, shake hands, and leave. Psychologists refer to this type of memory as a ‘schema’, a cognitive structure that allows us to use memories of past events to understand how similar future events will work. It’s pretty handy, but it can leave us feeling frazzled when new concepts (like video interviewing) don’t fit into the schema as we know it!
The good news is that with prior preparation and a little bit of practice, the video interview can be a convenient and positive experience for you as the applicant, too.
Firstly, learn what to expect.
Find out what type of video interview you can expect (yep, Skype or interactive interviewing is only one possibility). Will it be a Skype style interview, where you’re interviewed by the recruiter in a traditional way, but over video link? Or, will you be required to submit video responses to a pre-set list of questions in your own time? Let’s look at the difference between the two…
The interactive video interview is going to feel a lot more familiar to you, since the structure is more like a traditional face-to-face interview where you can see the recruiter, and they can see you. This can be a blessing, since you’ll have the opportunity to communicate with the interviewer directly, and naturally. You can put your perfectly friendly, yet professional self forward and interact in real-time.
Then there is the pre-recorded video interview. You will be provided with pre-set questions on-screen, and provide your video answers to each in turn. You may get a few opportunities to try the software out before you commit to the interview, but once the interview is completed it is usually sent directly to the employer. The benefit of this type of interview lies in its flexibility – quite often you can complete the interview at a time that suits you, and so you can take the interview when you’re in the right frame of mind, and feeling ready.
Get the Tech Right.
A successful video interview largely depends on your personal performance, of course. However, taking time to sort the basics in advance will not only prevent any glitches on the day, it will also set the stage for your to perform your best.
- Broadband speed – check yours is sufficient to sustain a video interview
- Download the required software in advance
- Get the lighting right – do a trial in advance, and check the lighting is bright enough for your image to be clear on the screen.
- Position the camera and keep it fixed – position a tablet device securely so it doesn’t move during the interview, and set the distance so you are not too far to be seen properly, or too close that – well… the interviewer sees too much! Think Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa – that’s a good ratio of body: background that enables you to express yourself with body language, and make eye contact. And smile, don’t forget to smile (so, not exactly like the Mona Lisa, then).
Remember you are what you (and your dining room) wear.
It’s common sense to look your best for any interview, of course. Choosing an outfit that makes you feel good will help lift your confidence, and that’s crucial to building rapport with your interviewers. Taking it one step further, consider how your outfit relates to your personal brand, and make sure your appearance is consistent with the person you claim to be and the job you’re being interviewed for. However, this is a virtual interview – and since you’re not in the office with our potential employer, you have an extra consideration to make. At the very least, choose a tidy, plain backdrop for your interview that won’t detract from your personal appearance. But why stop there? If you can create continuity between your personal brand and the room you’re in, then even better – because it’s not just you attending the interview, your dining room is coming along with you!
…and on the subject of additional guests:
Dogs, cats, children, whoever. It’s your interview – not theirs. Ask those family members who understand to leave you undisturbed, and keep those who don’t (I’m looking at you, Fido!) out of the way, both visually and vocally!
Practice makes perfect.
Whether the interview is face-to-face or virtual, rehearsing some standard interview questions in advance can really help you feel more comfortable when it comes to the main event. With virtual interviews – and pre-recorded video interviews in particular – get familiar with talking to the camera by filming yourself with your smart phone and re-play it back to see how you come across. And for a Skype interview, ask a friend to play the role of interviewer and practice some role-play! It’s going to feel strange at first, and that’s understandable. However, it’s a tool to use to your advantage, and comforting familiarity needs to be earned.
Don’t panic when things go wrong.
In the event of tech-related hiccups, don’t panic! In the event of your own hiccups (metaphorical or otherwise) the same rule applies!
You can’t plan for every eventuality, but if you handle such difficulties with humility, then you’ll give yourself the best chance of a smooth recovery.
With experience in recruitment, interviews and CV prepping, Georgina Stokes is also a business psychologist in training. Find out more here.