By Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D
Don’t like being interviewed on video? Prefer an in-person meeting? Well, according to Chris Brown, Vice President of Human Resources at West Corporation, you are out of luck. Video interviewing is here to stay. Love it (most Millennials) or loathe it (many of the rest of us) we’ve all got to get better at it. And “getting better at it” means avoiding some of the pitfalls that are inherent in this kind of virtual interaction. So when I spoke with Brown last week, I was eager to hear his tips.
Carol Kinsey Goman: After all the interviews you’ve conducted via video, I’m sure you’ve seen your share of potentially career-limiting errors. Can you give me a “to do” list of how to best prepare for the kinds of technical glitches that can derail an interview.
Chris Brown: Here are a few basic steps to follow.
- Give yourself plenty of time to set up and test meeting equipment before the interview. To make sure your technology is compatible, do a dry run before your interview. Video call a friend and test out the clarity and sound of your video chat. Calling into the interview early also gives you the chance to make sure all equipment is working properly and test for connectivity issues. In the end, giving yourself an extra few minutes will help you feel more calm and confident at the start of the call.
- Be proactive. If your computer needs rebooting, make sure you do that before the interview begins. Shutting down programs you don’t need during the call avoids possible alerts or pop ups and keeps your computer from getting bogged down. In general, a wired connection is better than a wireless connection, so use land lines or Ethernet cables when possible to avoid signal issues. Make sure your audio quality is strong. I think a headset works best.
- Share large and important files beforehand. If you’re planning to share or go over big files with the interviewer, send them in advance. Not only will this help you prepare, it will reduce the likelihood that pieces get “lost” – either in the web or in other participants’ inboxes – while on the call.
- Skip the free conference call services. While free services can seem very appealing, free generally means low quality and inconsistency which can leave a bad impression on your customers. Unlike free services, trusted providers not only own the infrastructure they operate, they operate at fractional capacity to ensure peak times are covered and service delivery is consistent. While you don’t always have control over which video conference service the interviewer uses, if possible see if they have enterprise grade services you can use.
- Work through glitches. If glitches are minor, try your best to ignore them and keep moving forward. However, if technology problems are blatant and preventing effective communication, acknowledge and apologize for the issue. If video is giving you trouble, try switching to audio only. And make sure you have the number for tech support or customer service at hand. Do your best to keep talking while they work to fix problems.
- Always have an alternative way to connect. If you are nervous about having connectivity issues, it’s smart to share your contact info with your interviewer beforehand, either via email or in the chat element of the product that you are using. That way, your interviewer has a way to reach you in case technical glitches prevent the interview from going as planned. Make sure you have the information and confidence to dial in both ways. Being prepared to switch to Plan B saves times and energy when you’re trying to get your interview back on track. Outages happen. Ask for a phone number and have an email addressed, up, and ready to send if there is a problem.
What is the most annoying technical mistake an applicant has made in an interview with you?
Brown: Well, I don’t know if you’d call this “technical,” but one applicant scheduled the interview while his house was being renovated and we had to pause several times due to the sawing noise of workman cutting drywall. Although he apologized for the interruptions, it was irritating because I felt as though he thought so little of my time that he couldn’t be bothered to make other arrangements. (Note: This comes under an expanded category that Brow has labeled “Don’t Be That Story,” and illustrates why it is important to do all you can to make the interview go smoothly.)
Goman: Which brings up the issue of where we should set up our computer for the interview.
Brown: Yes, the setting is important – especially if it proves to be a distraction. A plain background works best. Also be aware of the lighting – and how it may change during the day, depending on where you are setting up. And no pets or babies, please.Goman: Okay, we’ve got the technical side covered. What else should a candidate in a video interview prepare for?
Brown: I think the number one thing to keep in mind is that unlike an in-person interview, where a hand-written note is all the evidence of what you said, this interaction is being recorded. You need to anticipate that your interview will be shared with other interested parties. When you answer questions you need to think about what other people in the hiring process might want to hear from you. And if you are asked back for a second round, don’t be surprised if you are asked to expand on something you said previously. So be prepared.
Goman: I understand the importance of impression management in any interview. How is this different in a virtual setting?
Brown: Just an in a face-to-face interview, first impressions matter. A lot. That’s why you need to be technically connected early. If you are late, the interviewer’s perception is that you are not prepared – or you simply don’t care. And an interviewer is impressed when it is apparent that you’ve has done your homework and can subtly display your knowledge of the company’s history, value proposition, or recent product announcement. Remember to speak to the camera and not the picture so that you’ll give the impression of making eye contact. Smile. HR professionals want prospective employees to be upbeat and display good, positive energy. (Note: One of Brown’s suggestions is to listen to “happy music” as part of preparing for the interview. My suggestions include “power posing” – like Superman or Wonder Woman – for two minutes before the interview and reading a list of your successes to “prime” your brain).
Goman: Is there anything you want to add that I haven’t asked?
Brown: There is one more important tip: Just because you are conducting the interview in the comfort of your home, don’t treat it lightly. Be genuine, be yourself, but don’t get sloppy. This is a business meeting. Look like a professional. Dress and conduct yourself as you would if the setting were more corporate.
Goman: Thank you so much!