How to Ace a Virtual Interview

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VideoLove it or hate it, video interviewing is here to stay. In fact, according to a 2012 survey from staffing service Office Team, 66.7 percent of the HR managers polled use video interviews “very often” and another 10 percent use them “somewhat often.”

So it is vital to be ready for video interviewing, which is a whole different animal than in-person or telephone interviews.  Here are a few mistakes people make when they conduct video interviews and tips from experts on how to correct them.
 
Bad outfits & ambiance:
“People don’t have the correct appearance. Either they dress too informally or the background of their video comes off as unprofessional. I have seen music posters in the back or open windows that not only serve as a distraction but can act as unwanted noise,” says recruiting expert Ben White, author of “Getting the job HQ,” recruiter’s manual.

How to correct: “My advice for this is to dress as if it were an onsite interview and have a clear wall serve as the backdrop for the interview,” says White.  Adds Tom Gilman, managing partner of Gilman Partners, a retained executive recruiting firm, “Your background should be uncluttered, clean, and professional. Make sure the light is not projecting behind you, as it will darken your face.”

Bundle of nerves:
“People get nervous and it impacts them. For most people, doing a video interview is still a foreign concept; they aren’t used to people being able to see them unless they are physically there. People get concerned about how they look, it makes them nervous and it knocks them off their game,” explains White.

How to correct: “Remember to speak loudly and be cognizant that you aren’t speaking to fast. I have often seen people talk really quiet or speak really fast, in part because they are nervous. If you make an effort to control your voice and deliver your message it will go a long way to helping you ace the interview,” suggests White. Adds recruiting expert Jeff Altman of The Big Game Hunter, “Meditate. Relax. Get yourself warmed up. Smile! Project as though you are at ease and comfortable and not nervous and uptight. Get comfortable in your own skin. What firms look for is both skills competence and someone who inspires confidence that they are the solution they need. You can’t just answer questions correctly. You have to seem self-confident even if you aren’t.”

Bad setup:  Staging is key to looking professional on video conferencing. “One mistake is sitting too close or too far from the camera,” says Gilman..

How to correct: “Set up your technology in advance and be aware of your proximity to the camera. Don’t be too close or too far away from the camera–find your happy medium. No one wants to see every detail of your face, but if you’re too far away it will look like you are yelling. A good rule of thumb–the first three buttons of your shirt should be visible,” advises Gilman. Talent acquisition expert Dr. Steven Lindner, Executive Partner of The WorkPlace Group, suggests, “Candidates should make sure to test their webcams, volume and signing onto the interview platform in advance. Technical difficulties can happen anyway, but you want to feel confident that you have tested everything in advance.”

Avoiding eye contact: People are leery of people who avoid eye contact; employers might view the candidate as evasive or dishonest.

How to correct: “When the interviewer is speaking, look at his or her image on the computer screen. When you are responding, look directly into the camera. Avoid staring at the image of yourself on the screen or, if you can’t fight the temptation, cover it with a small sheet of paper,” says Gilman.

Dull as dishwater: “One mistake is not being enthusiastic. This is the number one contributing factor for why people get hired. Video interviews can make your personality seem flat and indifferent,” says business coach Joshua M. Evans of Enthusiastic You!

How to correct: “Be Enthusiastic! The amount of enthusiasm is directly proportionate to how much a hiring manager or interviewer will like you,” offers Evans. “Use inflections, gestures (within camera shot), and smile more than you think you should. There is a common discussion about how people on video need to smile 25 percent larger than they think they should in order to actually portray their excitement/happiness.”

Not being prepared: “One mistake people make is that they don’t take advantage of practice sessions on the video platforms,” notes Altman.
       
How to correct: “Some video interview platforms like HireVue give you the opportunity to practice answering sample questions. Put post-it notes around your monitor where they cannot be seen or where it is less likely you will appear to break eye contact to check them,” says Altman.