Expert performance tips for Skype and video interviews
Pre-recorded video interviews are rapidly becoming a commonplace element of the graduate job recruitment process and are often used to filter candidates at an early stage. According to a recent survey of members of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), which includes many big blue-chip companies, 42% of employers now use them. You are more likely to come across them in some kinds of business than others; more than half of investment banking, IT and consumer goods employers belonging to the AGR use video interviews, which are often outsourced to external organisations.
If you are given a video interview, you are likely to be invited to log in to a system where you will be asked to answer a series of pre-recorded questions. Skype interviews provide a live experience that is closer to the traditional face-to-face interview. Both types of interview offer benefits in terms of convenience, and save on travel costs and time; however, there are potential technical pitfalls and as with any interview, they can be intimidating for graduate job seekers. Whether you're being interviewed live or taking part in a standardised pre-recorded video interview, the following tips will help you to come across well on screen.
Practise on camera
If you're not used to talking via your laptop or recording yourself on it, you may feel self-conscious about the prospect of a video or Skype interview. If so, park your qualms in advance, switch on your camera, talk the talk and then watch yourself. Some of the specialist video companies that host interviews offer online practice sessions to give you a flavour of what’s expected, which you may find helpful.
What you see from most presenters and celebs on TV and online doesn’t come naturally; they’ve learnt how to feel comfortable in front of a camera. Feeling assured on-screen takes practice, according to media training specialist Sue Campbell.
‘The key issue is confidence in front of the camera and being positive to somebody who isn’t there. It is actually harder to do than if somebody was sitting in front of you,’ says Sue, who advises company executives and business leaders likely to face media questioning and interviews, and has conducted video conferencing interviews in her role as a former executive director of Darlington College.
‘Practice is fundamental to enabling you to present yourself in the right way; a lot of practice. Practise on your own, or with a friend,’ says Sue.
When you review how you're coming across, check your body language. Do you wave your hands in the air, pull faces like Jim Carrey or mutter into your boots when you talk? Do you slouch in your chair or fidget too much? Now’s the time to get a grip. You don’t have to look like a TV presenter or a professional YouTuber, but get a pal, a parent or a tutor to critique your performance and then work on it.
‘Don’t look down or away to answers on a piece of paper,’ says Sue, who recommends you make notes as bullet points, not scripts, and put them where you can see them to ensure you get everything across you want to. Then look into the camera, not into the screen, to make ‘eye contact.’
If you're going to be interviewed via Skype, think about the impression your Skype name will create. Will you come across as professional? You may get off on the wrong foot from the outset if your Skype name is jokey or overly informal. When a live interview is under way, avoid talking over your interviewer – especially if there’s a slight time lag between you because of the online connection.
‘That’s a general rule, of course, but wait until you're sure they have finished speaking. And take it slowly – don't hurry out the words,’ says Sue.
Even if you've been vlogging since primary school, you're still likely to need to adapt your style for a serious job interview, so it's important to practise and then review how you're coming across.
Dress the part and set the scene
A real-time Skype call may sound a friendly proposition but treating any interview like Skyping your mates would be a mistake, says Chris Krabbé, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). You need to dress the part: wearing joggers under the table might make you feel relaxed but if you had to stand up to adjust lighting or re-angle the camera, the game would be up. Treat your Skype or video interview as you would a face-to-face interview. If you’re in doubt about dress code check out the company website, and if it’s still not clear, dress smartly.
‘You need to look as if you've made an effort because first impressions will ALWAYS count, whether that's face to face or over a laptop connection,' Chris says. 'You don't get a second chance to make a first impression, so if you look as if you've just fallen out of bed, or indeed, if you haven't even got out of bed...’ It may sound like a joke but businesses are using video and Skype interviews to meet their recruitment goals and for them this is a serious enterprise that’s costing them money.
Clear the space behind you: don't risk an embarrassing on-screen moment in the middle of the call or recording. Just as you should ensure your Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media profiles and cover pictures are appropriate when you apply for a job, check out the background that your interviewer will see while interviewing you. Take a snapshot of what’s behind you – sometimes it’s easier to spot the scruffy posters or pile of dirty washing in a picture than it is after you’ve seen or stepped over it for the umpteenth time. If necessary, draw the curtains, shut out the wandering cat, silence the dog and warn your flatmates or family that you’ll need some peace and quiet for a while.
Six quick tips for a smooth video experience
- Be professional
- Dress the part
- Engage with the camera, not your screen
- Have a back-up plan if the connection fails.
Remember, pre-recorded video interviews are particularly likely to be used instead of phone interviews, but they are are not seen as a substitute for face-to-face second interviews and final selection. Most companies will offer the opportunity to view their premises and meet other employees at a later stage in the process, if you get through this first.