Video Interviews


I had a novel experience the other day. I’d applied for a project management job at a local software company. They replied by e-mail, saying they were interested, and wanted to set up an interview. But wait, what’s this? Click this link to do the on-line video interview before progressing to the next step. Wait, what?

I wasn’t sure what to expect. Turns out the process is fairly straight-forward and non-threatening. If you do your homework you can rise above other applicants. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be a little better than your competition, because in the land of the blind a one-eyed man is key.

I’ve broken it down into two parts – before and during the interview:

Before the Interview

Learn the technology

If you’ve never used a web-cam before, or don’t have one installed, you’re going to want to get comfortable with it. There are many resources out on the web, including video instructions on YouTube on how to use your digital camera as a web camera. Just stay away from anything that says “web-cam dance”.

Test to ensure your camera and microphone both work. If you’ve bought a laptop in the last couple of years you probably already have both already installed. Look at the top centre of your monitor frame and you’ll find it. It’s the little shiny hole with tiny lettering that says “Web Camera” next to it.

Research the Company – Just Like a Real Interview

Don’t be fooled just because you’re doing this in front of your computer. It’s a real interview and it’s purpose is to screen out unsuitable applicants. They’re not looking to hire you just yet. They’re looking for reasons to drop you. Do your homework and be prepared. Just like a good boy or girl Scout.

Research the Questions

Follow the link and register. Already? Yes, already. This isn’t an ambush. The questions are written out for you before you click the link. This is not an ambush. There is no reason not to answer these questions well. You’re on a computer. Wikipedia & Google are at your fingertips. Use the test button to check your camera & mike, and review the questions.

Look Nice

Shave if you’re a man, or trim your beard if you wear one. Wear a white or blue collared shirt, something that won’t distract or get all mixed up with the background. Dress like you would for an in-person interview. Comb your hair. Choose a non-distracting background. Be well-lit. Remember putting the flashlight under your chin to tell scary campfire stories? Not a good time for that.

Frame yourself well, which means from mid-chest up and as close to the camera as you can get without cutting the top of your head off.

During the Interview

Sit up Straight

Head up, shoulders back, face the camera, smile. Be confident. Slouching and looking at the desktop while you’re recording your response does the opposite. Imagine there’s a string running out of the top of your head to the ceiling, and it’s pulling you up. Raise your sternum, and pull your shoulder blades together behind you. Now you look like you’re awake, engaged, and paying attention.

Smile and Relax

I got multiple chances to record each answer. If you don’t like you’re response, or you stumbled over your words, you’ll get another try. Smile, take a deep breath, sit up straight, and try again.

Look at the Camera

This is the most important instruction. If you do nothing else look at the camera when answering the question.  Not at the video on your monitor, not the desktop, not the children dancing in the doorway trying to get your attention. Eye-contact makes connections, but looking at the monitor is weak eye contact. Be perceived as confident and honest, and speak directly to the people that are watching you. If you have a laptop, the light next to the camera at the centre top of your monitor frame will come on. Focus on that. You’ll get a chance to review your submission and do it again if you need to.

Practise this technique ahead of time.

Answer the Question

My video interview only allowed one-minute responses. It’s a good idea to limit yourself in a live interview as well. In either case just answer the fracking question.

If’ it’s a yes/no/salary question the first thing out of your mouth should be “Yes”, “No”, or “$90k, although I’d have to see the entire benefits package, and am flexible for the right opportunity.” Notice the “yes”, “no”, and “$90K” were up front. This isn’t a negotiation, it’s an interview. The purpose of the video interview is to get you a live interview. The purpose of the live interview is to get you an offer. Then the negotiation begins.

Knowing the answer to standard questions like “Tell me about yourself”, “Would you be willing to relocate?”, and “How much?” should be part of your preparation. Give them interviewer the bottom line up front, and then shape your answer afterwards. Anything other response to a straight-forward question just makes you look like you’re not prepared or trying to hid something.

Good luck!


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