phone or video interviewing: preparing for the new normal.

  • interviews
  • March 24, 2020

If you're looking for a new gig at the moment, the odds of you meeting your prospective employer face to face any time soon are unlikely. During a period of social distancing and self-isolation, even a simple in-person interview would put others at risk. Luckily, free video-conferencing software can easily replace in-person interviews, and more and more companies are turning to them to keep the hiring process moving.

While the usual interviewing rules still apply, acing a video interview requires a bit more prep — and a bit more self-awareness. Whether you've done scores of video interviews or are prepping for your first one, follow these tips to make your next on-screen interview a success.

prep the setting

Job interviews have always been an exercise in dealing with the unknown. What you'll be asked, what the setting is like and what your would-be employer expects you to wear have always been up in the air. But with video interviews, you have a bit more control of the situation. Just be sure you prepare accordingly in order to take advantage of that.

  • Charge your phone or computer (and don't forget those Bluetooth headphones) so you don't have to make awkward excuses to do so during an interview. After all, a power failure with your equipment will make you appear unprepared — and that's an interview killer.
  • Move to a quiet location, and make sure you eliminate any loud distractions or noise during the interview. Having to repeat yourself is awkward and can become incredibly frustrating for your interviewer. Smooth communication is essential for creating rapport with your interviewer, and you can't do that with barking dogs or screaming kiddos in the background.
  • Ensure a strong connection. You want to avoid a situation when your electronics drop the call. Find a location with a strong and reliable Wi-Fi or cell signal, then test the connection beforehand by calling a friend or family member the day before the interview and an hour before.
  • For video interviews, think about the setting behind you. It’s best to sit a few feet from a wall, and if you're able, use one or two tasteful decor items behind you (think a painting or a plant). Also, make sure to put any light source in front of you, not behind you. Sitting in front of a window or a lamp will likely make your face look too dark to be visible.
  • If you're on video, place your phone or laptop on a stack of books to bring the camera up to eye level. If you're looking down at your camera, it won't create the most flattering angle. Making your camera even with your eye line, on the other hand, will.

know your notes

Preparation is always key for interviews, and that's still true, even if you're interviewing from home. Seeming unprepared looks just as bad on video as it does in person, so make sure you've done your homework ahead of time.

  • Have notes ready. If you're interviewing over the phone, there's nothing wrong with having a few notes at your fingertips. However, whether you're on the phone or interviewing via video, don't create a messy distraction by shuffling through paper notes. Lay them out so you can see all of them at once, or consider putting your notes on your phone or tablet.
  • Study your notes beforehand. However, referring to your notes isn't the same as relying on them. If you rely on your notes, you can be sure that your voice will sound less confident and not prepared. The interviewer will notice these verbal cues, and it'll be clear that you're scrambling for an answer. Have your notes memorized so you sound confident and capable.
  • Focus on your connection with the company. Having a few facts in your notes is a great thing, but overdoing it by too much fact-citing may turn off the interviewer and distract from the interview. Any and all information that you use should be relevant to the conversation.

speak confidently to create rapport

How you communicate is equally important as what you communicate. Remember, your interviewer isn't just looking for the right answer, they're looking for the right person, and even if you say all the right things, if you don't come across as confident and personable, you aren't likely to land the gig.

  • Focus on building rapport with your interviewer by showing solid knowledge of the company, the role and its duties early on. Once the interviewer trusts that you know your stuff, you can actually begin to create a relationship.
  • Every question is a test. Don't gloss over the easy stuff at the beginning. "Did I catch you at an inconvenient time?" is code for "Are you prepared for me at the time that we set?" Look to build trust and rapport with every answer you provide.
  • Smile. Your smile projects confidence, and people can hear that over the phone. If you're on video, your smile will communicate your willingness to participate in the interview and your excitement for the opportunity. Plus, it just makes you seem more open and approachable.
  • Speaking of approachable, don't cross your arms on video. That's a defensive posture and makes you seem closed off to the interviewer and their questions. Try keeping one hand on the table or on your leg at all times to prevent you from accidentally crossing your arms.

Video and phone interviews will likely be standard for the foreseeable future, even late into the hiring process. This is our new normal, and it pays to prepare in advance. But with a little homework and practice ahead of time, you'll be able to field your next video or phone interview with confidence and ease. It may not be ideal, but it's just how things are now — and there's no time like the present to prep for it.

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