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How to ace a video interview

Job interviews via video are becoming more common. Here's how to prepare and make a good first impression.

By Stacy Johnson Sep 28, 2012 3:48PM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.

 

Money Talks News logoYou know what they say about first impressions: You never get a second chance to make one. In fact, researchers at New York University found that it takes only seven seconds to make a first impression. In those initial seconds, we make 11 major decisions about one another.

 

Why is this so important? If you're looking for a new job, first impressions count big. And they're often no longer being supplied in person but, instead, via video. With so many people looking for work, employers are finding ways to interview and hire quickly and efficiently. Sixty percent of companies with 20 or more employees are now conducting video interviews, according to staffing agency OfficeTeam. 

Because odds are increasing that your next interview could be via webcam, here's a checklist that will get you ready:
 
Get the gear

Most modern laptops come with a built-in webcam. It will get you on camera, but the base models often produce grainy pictures and weak sound. Instead, use an external high-definition webcam that produces a much higher video quality.

 

Check your speed

If you want good video, you'll need a good Internet connection. If yours is spotty, you might freeze or disconnect in the middle of your interview. And if it's too slow, your picture quality will suffer.

 

The popular video-conferencing software Skype recommends an upload speed of 1.5M bps; the same as a download speed for HD video chats. You can test your current speeds at a site like Speedtest.net. If your speed isn't up to snuff, consider finding a location with a better connection.

 

Find the right lighting

Have you ever had your picture taken, only to wonder why you looked so washed out? The lighting was probably to blame. Lighting can mean the difference between looking fresh and perky or lifeless and faded.

 

Many professionally filmed interviews are shot using the three-point lighting technique, which plays up your main light source and accentuates the film subject. If you're interested in going for a professionally filmed look, MonkeySee has a good video that explains how to set it up. But if you just want to make sure you don't look bad, try out different lights in your house until you find a look you like. A dimmable lamp will give you plenty of options.

 

Check the background

No matter where you set your webcam, your potential boss will be able to see at least part of the room. Position your webcam, and look at the screen. Remove anything that doesn't look professional, and add things that do.  For example, if you've won any awards, display them behind you. Subtly showing off never hurts.

 

Practice

The first video conference I did was with a group of potential clients I really wanted to impress. But since I had never been on a webcam before, I made mistakes, like talking over other people and making sudden movements that made the camera lose focus. Result? My attempt at displaying my awesome skills turned into a 10-minute, one-woman comedy act.

 

Don't go in blind. A few days before your interview, use a video-chatting service like Skype or Google Hangouts, and hold mock interviews with a buddy. You'll get a feel for where and how to sit, when to talk and where to look.

 

Dress for success

Image: Businessman adjusting necktie © Tom Merton, OJO Images, Getty ImagesThe other day a friend sent me a joke about not wearing pants during a video conference. It was funny, but not great advice. Not only should you wear pants, you should dress as you would for any interview -- professionally from head to toe. Plan your outfit in advance, and give yourself plenty of time before the interview to fix your hair, put on makeup or do any other necessary prep.

 

Some outfits that look great in public might not on camera. TV people know that wearing narrow stripes can cause a flicker effect called "strobing." A white shirt can make you look washed out.  Best bet? Do a video chat with a friend, and show the person some options.

 

Prep early

Set the stage an hour or so before your interview begins. Clean off your desk, turn on the lights, and make sure your laptop and webcam are working properly. And don't forget to keep your laptop plugged in during your interview. It may sound obvious, but I once forgot to charge my laptop, and it died in the middle of a conference call. Another embarrassing moment.

 

Control the noise level

Stacy Johnson of Money Talks News likes to tell a story about doing a national radio interview from his home. All was going well until his dog spotted another dog in the front yard and freaked out. Result? The dog got a lot of national media exposure, and Stacy is still waiting for a callback.

 

A few minutes before your interview starts, turn off the radio and the TV, pop the kids in front of a book or a video game to keep them occupied, and put any pets as far away as possible. Webcams pick up any noise in the room (or even nearby rooms), and you don't want to spend part of your interview apologizing because of ambient sound.

Look at the camera

Once your interview starts, remember to look at the camera and not straight ahead at the screen. While it's more natural to watch your interviewer on screen, he'll see only the top of your head if you don't focus on the camera lens.

 

Be yourself

Everyone is nervous during an interview -- and perhaps more so on a video interview -- but you have the best chance of being hired if you let your personality shine through. Just remember to smile, answer the questions the best you can, and be your awesome self.

 

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