Video interviews were around long before the COVID-19 era, but for now nearly all companies are relying on phone and video to talk to job applicants. For individuals trying to rejoin the workforce after years away, video conferencing may be unfamiliar, adding stress to an already stressful situation. With that in mind, here is our advice for how to put your best (virtual) foot forward:
1) Find your space and manage interruptions (or be transparent if you cannot). If you don’t have a home office, making do with the desk in your living room or kitchen table is perfectly acceptable. Be mindful of what’s in your background–both visually and audibly. Have your partner or a sitter (or a TV) watch the kids if possible. Ask your neighbor if they could practice their drum fills at a different time. If distractions are completely unavoidable, let the interviewer know either ahead of time via email or at the start of your interview: “I am so grateful for this opportunity but I have to apologize in advance if my child rushes in.”
2) Don’t overlook logistics. For starters, ask what platform will be used so that you can download the application and test it. Make sure your computer camera is set to a good angle. Ideally, your entire face and top of shoulders should be visible, so make sure to wear a professional top and have groomed hair, makeup, etc. Move that lamp or adjust that curtain so that you’re not too dark or washed out. Check your WiFi strength at your chosen location with the software required. Explore your video conferencing platform’s virtual backgrounds; many applications have plenty of office-appropriate visuals that may even disguise children whizzing by.
3) PRACTICE IS KEY. Talk directly into the camera to get comfortable with it. Practice responses to questions you know are coming–especially the difficult ones. Record yourself ahead of time to stop any distracting ticks like looking down or touching your face. If you wear glasses, try to minimize the glare if possible. Learn how to hide the video of yourself if you find watching yourself speak distracting–the focus should be on your responses.
4) Take advantage of what cannot be seen on camera. As our Executive Director Tami Forman stated in our recent webinar, “A video interview is an open-book exam!” You can print out materials, post notes on your screen, or even have a second screen up, as long as your eyesight doesn’t linger on them while you’re speaking. Try posting key talking points around the camera if possible. The job description, your resume, practice responses, self-affirmations or a photo of your favorite celebrity can all serve to give you that extra support you may need.
5) Do not let nerves get in the way of your wellness. Drink plenty of water the day of and have a glass for the interview itself. Eat a good meal before so you’re nourished and your stomach does not ironically take over as you detail your own appetite for a challenge. Meditate and find your mantra. Do NOT watch the news, so you can stay in a positive space. You can do this.
6) Recover from a blown answer. During the interview, if you feel like you’ve hit a wall, are off topic or otherwise floundering, here’s our advice: Stop talking. Take a deep breath. Try something like “You can probably tell that I’m really nervous. I’ve never done an interview by video before. This is a big opportunity that I’m really excited about and I don’t want to mess it up. I got a little bit flustered. Would you mind if I answered that question again?” Take another deep breath. Exhale and slowly start to answer the question again. This approach shows self-awareness and humility, two really important “soft” skills in any job. The breathing helps calm your central nervous system and refocus. What’s more, after you reset, you’re less likely to blow the rest of the interview.
7) Have a back up plan. Most video conferencing platforms have a dial-in telephone number, as well, if you suffer a last-minute glitch with your camera or WiFi. Always, always make sure to have the interviewer’s phone number just in case.
Whether you’ve got a video interview tomorrow or you’re just in preparation mode, Path Forward wishes you the best on your return to work. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Fairygodboss for more job search resources and updates on our 2020 programs and partners.