A regular interview is nerve-wracking enough. Especially when you want that job more than anything.
But wait for it…
A video conference interview you’re attending remotely is actually less distressing because you can prepare for things to go the way you want them to—so you can place yourself in the best light possible.
There are exactly 8 video conference interview tips you need to know. To nail your next remote interview, I’ve reached out to other HR and recruitment professionals who will tell you what their expectations are and what hacks they love.
Let’s get started!
1. Don’t expect it to be that different from an in-person interview
“Just because the hiring manager can’t see all of you, there’s no excuse not to prepare—whether that’s dressing for the part, asking genuine questions, or building rapport.
There’s no denying, however, that the dynamic with video interviews is different.
You know when you finish a Zoom meeting and you feel tired? It’s because when you’re on video, many of the subtleties you’d get from an in-person meeting are lost.
You’ll find you have to work harder to make up for the lack of physical body language and communication cues. Smile more than you may usually do, maintain eye contact, and make that person feel like you’re there to speak to them. Most importantly, don’t get distracted by your own picture.” – Aimee Bateman, CEO at Careercake
A video conference interview is inevitable. Way before so many companies turned to a fully-remote setting, recruiters were already requesting these for years whenever they needed to reach worldwide talent.
So the biggest mistake you can make is to assume the interview over a video conference will be similar. Common things that could sabotage your success include expecting the meeting to be easier or, on the contrary, believing that the remote setting complicates the situation.
Video conference interviews are just like on-site ones. It’s really only the setting that distinguishes the two. Here’s what to take care of next:
- Do your research on the company – You don’t want to spend hours on recurring interviews and test projects only to find out you’re not a good fit for their culture. Look at everything on the company’s website and, if you’re feeling daring, reach out to its current employees. When all else fails, remember that Glassdoor is your best friend as it lets you spot red flags and prepare a series of questions on these before the meeting. Good things to inquire upon include company culture, individual career growth, and work policies.
- Know what the job requirements are – Don’t sign up for a role you won’t enjoy. If you feel that you won’t enjoy 2 or more of the daily activities listed in the job description, it’s time to look elsewhere. Having a clear idea of what your duties will be lets you have the right questions prepared. Plus, you’ll showcase your best skills and experience that the interviewer will truly be interested in.
- Be on time or show up a bit earlier – No excuses allowed. Click on your meeting link 3-4 minutes before so you’ll have time to fix an unexpected app crash. Most often, it’s the recruiter that will let you in the meeting so there’s no way to be too early.
- Replace the regular handshake with a nod straight at the camera – You still need to say “Hi!”. The small talk at the start of a video conference interview can get boring but it’s a good idea to think of something unique to say to stand out.
- Let the other person finish their idea before stating your opinion – Before saying something, wait one or two seconds to ensure your interviewer is done with everything they wanted to say.
2. Know what HR managers are looking for
Here it pays to know to run the basic research on the role you’re applying for.
Office, hybrid, or remote roles have slightly different requirements. For instance, if you’re applying for a fully-remote job, you’ll have to demonstrate your accountability and ability to manage your own time. Think of all the previous remote roles or projects you conducted independently so you can bring them up in the discussion.
“When it comes to remote workers, I’m interested to see if you know the job position you are applying for by heart. You should know its ins and outs as I will ask you follow up questions to your statements to ensure that you are someone we are looking for.
It’s not mandatory, but having been able to work remotely previously is a plus point. I realized that those who have had experiences working from home could adapt quicker. Perhaps they’ve had mistakes from their previous jobs that they will try very hard to avoid this time.” – Cindy Deuser, HR Manager at Thrive Agency
Most virtual online interviewing processes look like this:
- Brief introduction
- Presenting the company and the role
- A series of questions to get to know the candidate’s experience, understand their expectations, and see if they’re a fit for the role
- You’ll be presented with the next steps which can be anything from waiting for an email to moving on to a virtual assessment
So what are your interviewers looking for during these first meetings?
Mostly what your personality is like.
“Your personality is not on your resume, because you wear it to your interview. Your personal interests will say a lot about you as an employee and the impact you will be able to give. Other than your skills, your personality is also taken into consideration upon hiring.” – William Taylor, Senior Recruitment Advisor at VelvetJobs
Creativity, agility, curiosity, reliability, motivation, and business acumen are other common assets recruiters are on the lookout for.
And even your background can say a lot about you:
“I always enjoy looking ‘into’ the candidate’s room. If you’re sitting in front of a bookcase, I’m looking to see what you’re reading. This gives me insight into who you are outside of what’s on your resume. And, if I see an interesting book, I will definitely ask about it.” – Zenzi M. Hodge, SPHR Chief Human Resources Officer at OMNIS Consulting Group
This takes us to…
3. Put together a setting that will highlight your interests or personality
In any remote meeting, lighting and background can help you get your face shown so you’re able to maintain eye-to-eye contact—even if just through the camera. Some general rules to stick to are:
- Avoid glare if you’re wearing glasses by testing how you’ll come off on camera before
- Don’t sit too close or too far from the laptop
- Have your camera placed at eye-level
- Make sure your PJ pants aren’t visible if you’ll only dress up your top
The most important part remains your background.
If you’re particularly picky about the work culture you’re getting yourself into, you’ll want to highlight bits of your personality in the background. Add in books, posters, figurines, pictures, collectible items, and anything else that says a lot about you without needing further explanation.
“Do a quick sense check: What will the interviewer see in your background? A huge part of any interview is getting to know you in and outside of work so give them a sneak peek into who you are. In fact, I’d strongly advise against using features that blur your background. This is a great opportunity to create talking points by having your favorite books on display, or any certificates and achievements you’d like to highlight.
Don’t get caught out though! If you have something on display that you think the interviewer would find impressive but you’re really not that into it, don’t risk it. It’ll be just your luck that it happens to be their favorite and they want to grill you on the details.” – Suzi Archer, Head of People and Talent at MyCleverGroup
4. Practice your speech and body language
“Use the opportunity to see how you look and sound on camera. Make little refinements to help you leave the best first impression by turning on the camera and practicing potential answers.
When reviewing the video, pay attention to both the way you sound and the way you look. Nonverbal communication is an important part of how we are received. Is the message of your body language consistent with your verbal language? Do you look professional? Do you seem comfortable and confident or stressed and unsure? Are you fidgety? What are you doing with your hands? Is your backdrop professional or distracting?” – Dr. Debra F. Geller, Associate Dean of Students at UCLA
Always test your tech the day of your interview by recording your audio or having a brief call with a friend. Video conferencing apps can get updates daily and they’re not always the most successful ones. Preparing on time lets you avoid bugs or that embarrassing moment of not finding the “Start Video” button anymore.
Other things to be wary of include not exaggerating gestures, maintaining good posture, and signaling when you’re done with an answer. For the latter, you can end your turn with another question, lowering your voice, using pauses, or slowing down your speech. Simply nodding and making a small hand signal can also work.
5. Be aware of unexpected distractions or difficulties
“To begin with, always check your computer charge, WiFi, and sound for a smooth interview. It’s also important to familiarize yourself with their video software. Do a dry run in advance to make sure your computer is compatible and you are comfortable with it.
If something does go wrong, don’t panic and try not to get visibly stressed or annoyed. This is a reflection of you under pressure, so it’s important to keep the interviewer at ease and find a solution, even if that’s asking them to pause for a minute while you fix it.” – Rebecca Clarke, Head of People + Talent at Recruitee
It always pays off to also get accustomed to the video conferencing tool if you’ve never used it before. When things go wrong, try to remain calm. Letting your feelings take over will distract you from the actual purpose of the interview.
Facing frequent disconnections? Make sure you explain long pauses so the hiring manager can ask you to repeat. Better to say it twice than never get heard. If you’re aware of problems with your Internet connection, give your phone number so they can contact you if your Wi-Fi fails.
Along with common tech crashes [that won’t be a big deal if you have an action plan to handle them], noise is a common disruptor of video conference interviews.
Having your dog bark in the other room or holding the interview during peak construction hours in your neighborhood will cause misunderstandings. You won’t hear everything the recruiter asks and they won’t understand everything about your professional experience and knowledge in the field.
The worst of all? When you’ve just talked for 3 minutes and the interviewer asks you to repeat everything. So you end up omitting the most important parts.
Use Krisp for free to keep your sound clear during the online interview. The app cancels all background sounds on your end as well as for your listener so you won’t ever have to worry about what’s going around you.
Here’s a brief tutorial on how you can use Krisp with Zoom—one of the most popular video conferencing tools for interviews:
6. Recreate a real-life eye contact experience
65% of interviewers say they didn’t offer the role to candidates who failed to make eye contact.
So what do you do when the interview is held over video conference?
You fake it!
Virtual eye contact will have the same effect as its face-to-face equivalent.
Positioning your camera at eye level partially helps with this, but online eye contact is a psychological matter. You need to constantly remind yourself to stop looking at your screen and focus on your camera instead. This goes against your first instinct to look at the person which would cause you to make close to zero eye contact.
Don’t make this into a distraction that will have you thinking “I need to look at the camera!” at all times. Looking towards the top of your screen will create the illusion that you’re looking at the interviewer while also giving you the mental cue that you’re actually looking at that person. At least until new tech will integrate the cameras into our screens.
7. Prepare your mood!
Were you ever super excited for an event only to have someone ruin the day?
Anything can go wrong on the day of your interview but you need to give your 100%.
A regular boring meeting is not going to convince anyone that you’re fit for their team culture. A friendly and upbeat personality is likely to make your profile stand out. If you’re not in the mood to talk or “brag” about your past achievements, you’ll most definitely leave a bland impression.
During the meeting, maintain your patience at all times and stay away from negative questions or tones. Know your weak points ahead of time so you can acknowledge past mistakes as lessons you’re not willing to repeat.
“I’ve found that it can be helpful to write down a short list of personal accomplishments or affirmations before an interview and then reading them back to yourself as a mood booster. The impostor syndrome can kick in before a big interview so it can be helpful to have a written reminder of why you’re worthy enough to be considered for a position that may be a big promotion from where you’re at now.” – Jacqui Vreeland, Recruiting Manager at Emergent Software
8. Use this opportunity to have a checklist at hand
Haven’t you always dreamed of reading things off a list during your interview?
Now’s the time for that “unfair” advantage.
And Niya Dragova, Co-Founder at Candor, has the best hack for you:
“Video interviews can be a huge opportunity to turn the deck in your favor if you’re crafty. One of my favorite tricks is making extensive cheat sheets and placing them behind your monitor where your camera is. That way you can both look straight at the interviewer and maintain eye contact and feel confident you won’t miss anything.”
Note down what you want to mention, what your previous results were, and add any smart questions you want to ask yourself.
Matter of fact, sometimes the most difficult part is knowing what to ask your interviewer. I was always feeling stuck at that point and ended up saying I had no questions.
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
So I finally did the research and put together this straightforward list of video conference interview questions you can ask at the end:
- What are the career development opportunities you provide?
- What does a typical day look like for this role?
- What’s the best thing about your team culture?
- How is success evaluated for this position?
- What are some of the challenging aspects of the job?
- What do your company’s goals for the next two years look like?
- Is this a new role? If no, how did it evolve so far?
- What are the next steps for this interview process?
- What’s the most interesting company project you were a part of in the past?
Ready to ace your next video conference job interview?
Congrats! You’re equipped with everything you need. Run your tests, do your research, prepare your checklist, and you’ve set yourself up for success.
And remember: When you know what you’re up against, nothing can go wrong.
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