Videoconference interviews are becoming more common as law firms and corporations expand nationally and internationally, and as travel becomes more expensive and time-consuming. While most of the rules of in-person interviews remain the same, there are some techniques you can use to maximize your effectiveness on video.
1. Appearance: As with an in-person interview, dress professionally. On camera, however, you need to consider the color and pattern as well. Stay away from white which reflects too much light, black which can cause your face to be overexposed, and red which “smears”. Also avoid small prints, stripes, and plaids, which create a dizzying effect on camera. Best is a blue, medium gray, brown or other deep colored suit, with a blue or other pastel shirt and, when appropriate, a subdued tie. Good tailoring is important, as baggy or bulky clothing adds weight on screen. Tip: Pull down the back of your jacket and sit on it to prevent it hunching up around your shoulders.
If you wear glasses, avoid tinted lenses as it will interfere with eye contact. For women, makeup should be natural but you might want to add a touch more color to cheeks and lips. High gloss lips and dangly or glittery jewelry are no-no’s, however, as they reflect light and are distracting. Hair should be neat and out of your face. For examples of how to dress for the camera, study the top national newscasters.
2. Rehearsal: You may be surprised at how your body language, voice, and facial expressions translate on camera. Therefore, it is advisable to see and hear yourself on video beforehand to gain confidence and not be distracted by your image on the screen during the interview itself. Ask a friend to video you in your interview clothes, and carrying on a two-way conversation, so you can experience what your remote interviewers might see. Look for nervous habits such as playing with papers or your pen, rocking or swiveling in your chair, touching your hair or face. Check your voice modulation and pacing, and whether your facial expressions, body language and gestures are distracting. If necessary, practice in front of a mirror by yourself, and schedule further practice video sessions until you are comfortable your presentation on camera.
3. Set-up: Arrive at the videoconference site early enough to get comfortable with the equipment. You want to make sure that everything is working properly and that the table, chair, and microphone are set up to your advantage. Position yourself so that you are looking into the camera, not at the monitor, to give the impression of eye contact. Have the camera as close to eye level as possible so that you are not looking up or down at the interviewers. It is best to position the camera and the monitor so that you can glance at the other participants in the monitor briefly, without breaking your gaze at the camera too often.
Center yourself in the screen and at a medium distance rather than at the end of a long conference table. You should appear from about the middle of your upper arms and not have an excess of screen space above your head. Sit up straight; do not slouch or lean to the side. Leaning forward slightly towards the camera helps increase eye contact. Conversely, leaning back can create a feeling of distance.
Set up your notes, pen, water, and reading glasses so that they are accessible but out of camera range. Remember to refrain from shuffling papers or tapping a pen during the interview, however, as that will be picked up on the microphone.
If possible, arrange the lighting so that you are not in unflattering shadows or washed out, and your coloring is as lifelike as possible. Watch for reflection from your glasses. Don’t forget, however, that the camera catches everything while it is on. Therefore, do not use it as a mirror to fix your hair or makeup before the interview. Likewise, do not relax or comment inappropriately after the interview until you are sure the camera is off.
4. Etiquette: Ask the technician about any delays in sound transmission so you can pace yourself accordingly. If there is a delay, you must take care not to interrupt or talk over another person. Pause before answering each question to be sure the speaker has finished, and again when you complete what you have to say so that the other participants know that you are done. Speak clearly and listen carefully.
Each participant in the videoconference should introduce themselves, and state their location if there are various offices involved, at the beginning of the interview or anytime a new participant joins the session. Jot down this information so you can use your interviewers’ names during the interview, and address your questions and comments as appropriate.
Videoconference interviews also differ from in-person meetings in that there is no opportunity for a handshake to begin or end the session. Therefore, to wrap things up, summarize your main points, thank the interviewers for their time, let them know you are interested in the job, and ask about next steps. Pay attention to the time without obviously glancing at your watch and follow the interviewer’s cues that the session is drawing to a close.
Once you have followed these suggestions, try to forget about the camera and focus on your purpose. Be yourself and don’t forget to smile for your close-up.