(Non-SEO title: The Coronavirus and Your Career Part 2: Video Interviews)
Facebook, Google, and Amazon all put contingency plans in place last week to avoid in-person interviews. As we discussed in the last post on remote work, we are at the flash point of a changing paradigm when it comes to in-person interviews. Companies will find this process is suitable, works for everyone better, and due to the complicated and uncertain hiring process, probably won’t go back to their old ways.
We’re not going to talk too much about our theories about the change. This isn’t advice about how to be successful in an interview or what you should do to show professionalism before/during/after any interview – plenty of that out there already. This is everything you need to do to prepare before and perform at an optimal level during a video interview
Not all of this advice will work for everyone. We tried to be unbiased and sort out theory from the preferences of particular talking heads in the career space, and we came up with a few theories of our own. We went at this from a slightly different perspective – we did research on how to do a great video interviews but also looked into talent auditions. This is an audition and it should be treated as such. You’re performing as much as you’re interviewing.
If you’re reading this, you know that a little extra goes a long way. You don’t have to do everything here if you want to ace an interview, but if you’re not doing this and another candidate is, point for them.
We took the last three days investigating this subject in detail, read/watched about 50 different viewpoints on video interviews, auditions, and AV setups – all relevant links are posted at the bottom of the article. Here’s what we discovered and what we recommend:
What you’ll look like:
Dress in solid colors.
No logos, even/especially if you own apparel with the company’s logo (looks presumptive/try-hard).
Not too flashy (unless you’re interviewing somewhere where flashy is fabulous).
The colors should contrast your skin tone and the background. If you’re going to wear two tones, those should be complementary. People say don’t wear white, don’t shoot yourself on a white background, but that advice ignores skin tone. White is fine for someone who isn’t white (but never white shirt/white background – then you’ll look like a floating head).
DON’T DRESS FOR AN INTERVIEW! Some links mention you should “dress one level up from whatever the business attire is. When thinking of the psychological effects that this has on the interviewer, this is completely off-base. At the end of the interview, you want them to feel like they’ve just left a meeting with a colleague, NOT their district manager, so dress like you already have the job. Find out what the dress code is and match that. If you’ll be in a uniform at your role, dress business casual. If you’ll be in meetings with C-level finance executives, you might wear a suit and tie. With C-level tech executives, business casual. Do the research or if you can’t figure it out, make an educated guess. If it’s a large enough firm, and the information isn’t published anywhere, feel free to call in anonymously and ask the question directly.
If you wear glasses, get an anti-glare coating for them.
Use an anti-shine makeup; goes for all genders. Check out the FaceSaver link below for a suggestion.
How you’ll prepare:
Let everyone sharing your space know exactly when you’re having your interview. Don’t leave it to chance that one of your kids is going to walk in halfway through the session. Mitigate these distractions ahead of time.
Stop syncing your Dropbox. Make sure no one is uploading/downloading a 60GB file, watching Netflix, streaming YouTube videos, and listening to Spotify in another room during your interview.
If you have questions you want answered during the interview or things about your career that you want to remember to point out, put those reminders on sticky notes as close as you can to your camera so you don’t have to stare away for an extended period of time. If you have a lot of questions or can’t read the sticky notes from that distance, have a clipboard or notepad with the questions nearby.
Get excited. Get the blood flowing. Do a few jumping jacks (not too many).
Do some power poses. Give some invisible co-workers the finger guns. Freeze like a deer in the headlights, then put up your dukes like you’re ready to fight. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
Do some face exercises. Smile big, mouth open, then mean mug it, then fake a laugh, fake a cry, look quizzically at your cat. Go through the range of emotions and get it all out.
Sing that “I am the very model of a modern major-general” song or “We didn’t start the Fire” or maybe for you it’s “Rap God.” Pick something that helps you practice enunciating more clearly. Practice projecting your voice.
Then relax. Take a few deep breaths. Meditate. Have a CBD gummy or take a shot of whiskey. However you need to do it, get loosened up a few minutes before entering the interview.
Do all of this and then get on camera with a friend a day ahead of time for a practice interview. Prepare just like you’re doing the actual interview (hair/makeup/wardrobe/power poses/CBD gummy). Send them some ideas on questions and ask them to throw in a few stumpers.
Turn off all your other apps.
Mute your phone and put it face down on silent in a drawer in another room. Make sure the notifications center on your computer is set to do not disturb.
When the interview time comes, be there early. If there’s a login, get on 5-10 minutes prior to the interview start time. If it’s just a video call, be ready and relaxed 5-10 minutes early and maybe listen to some hype/soothing music – whatever you feel you need.
What you’ll do during the interview:
Every other recommendation online is to sit during your interview. Most interviews are done sitting, they’ll be sitting … We know this, but every interaction with your potential employer is an opportunity to differentiate yourself, and it’s my recommendation to stand up with good posture during your interview. Sure, they’ll probably be sitting, but I think that the benefit to standing while interviewing gives them a more accurate idea of who you are as a person by letting them see more of your body language. If you’re using a white board (see below) standing is necessary. If you don’t feel super confident about your body language, ignore me on this one.
One foot slightly forward during the entire interview, don’t stand feet-planted, dead center, looking straight at the camera.
Look into the camera the whole time. Resist the urge to look at your video.
Have a glass of water nearby.
How you’ll design the best video experience:
Your computer camera probably isn’t going to work for this one, but your phone’s camera will. Only problem here is that your phone’s microphone won’t be great from the distance that you’re filming. To save money, you could get a plug in lapel mic (search for “lavalier mic”) and a mic extension cord and make it work. If you plan to be working remotely for a while, it might be something you use often. You can probably get a suitable setup for under $200.
You’ll probably need a tripod to set up your camera or be handy with creating something to hold it in place for the entire interview.
You should be filming horizontally, not vertically (unless interviewing with Snap, TikTok, Instagram et. al.). Of course, if you’re not filming with your phone, you’ll always be filming horizontally.
Take the shot from just below your waist up. You should be framed so you can drop your hands to your side while the cuffs of your shirt are still entirely on-screen and there’s 2-3″ of space above your head.
If your setup allows it, start out with a head to toe shot, then get into your position for the interview. If you can shift your camera’s frame on the fly, great. If you can shift your camera’s frame on the fly with a remote, even better.
Eliminate the distractions from your background. No clutter, no photos, no memorabilia, no toys, no TV, no pets, no kids … no indicators of your personality of any kind. Stuff like this can bias the hiring manager.
That being said, if you happen to know they’re a fan of your sports team, attended your university, you’re both sneakerheads, you both have English Bulldogs … screw it. Make the decision on what gets into the shot but don’t spend a lot of time talking about it, you might be wasting time getting into how you’re well-suited for the role. If you have industry awards and you can place them in the background without it looking like they were put there for the interview, do it. If they think you’re pandering, that’s a negative, but a little connection goes a long way.
If you do choose to stand up for the interview, we suggest a white board for your background. The professional recommendation of interview experts is to never do video on a white background, but again, we think this recommendation isn’t sensitive to race, because the articles/videos reason it’s to make sure you pop against the background. Obviously, if you’re not white, this recommendation isn’t a concern of yours. If you are, get a tan and a white board. The white board tells a story and helps tell stories. It allows you to give your interview another dimension, but it also lets the interviewer know you have a home office (or at least it makes you look like you do), and gives an indication that you’re more prepared to get on a video call with a colleague and get down to business. Feel free something like “Thanks, COMPANY_NAME” or “Thank you for your time, HIRING_MANAGER_NAME!” If you’re going to use the white board, use blue or black marker.
For lighting, two diffuse lights of the same intensity and tone (preferably white light, not fluorescent) at 45° and 135° angles from where you’ll be standing in the shot. The cheapest setup would be to get two clamp lights and bulbs ($20-30) and diffuse them with some thin paper.
Put a mark on the floor where you’ll stand during the interview.
Lastly, test out your video setup with someone else (preferably on the same platform where the interview is taking place) to confirm everything works the way you’ve planned. Move around, gesture, speak as you’d normally speak, get your friend to record it so you can confirm it’s all good, don’t just take their word for it.
If your interview is pre-recorded:
For each response, write out and order bullet points to touch upon and answer with unrehearsed speech.
With every answer, try to ask a question that, if answered, would help you answer with more clarity at the end of your response.
Do multiple takes, save each, pick the best one.
If you’re logging into an interview app where it flashes a question at you, starts recording, gives you a time limit to answer, and you only get one shot, our advice is to cease your pursuit of a job with this company altogether. This masochistic interview format is a big, billowy red flag. If your heart is set on this role, practice as many times as they let you and refer to the second bullet point about asking questions to help differentiate yourself. If things go sideways, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
What you won’t do:
If you find yourself in a situation where there was an emergency, you had to be somewhere else, and couldn’t get back to your spot in time (or you just forgot and are in line at Starbucks), postpone. Don’t take an interview if you’re not in your spot, unless you’re a big shot, they really want you, and you know it (that person is probably not reading this – or maybe you’re reading this because you want to become that person).
No hats unless you’re interviewing with a streetwear company or a haberdashery. If there’s any other reason you really think you can pull it off, go for it (and send us the screenshot and your reasoning).
No identifying jewelry, makeup, religious garb/paraphernalia. Based on the numbers, there is racial/religious bias in the hiring process. If you can avoid feeding into that bias, we recommend doing so. And again, if you 100% know the person you’re meeting with is in alignment with any of it, feel free to ignore this recommendation.
Is there an ambulance going by? A groundskeeper outside blowing leaves? Don’t apologize. Pause and wait for the distraction to end or if you think it’s going to last a while, raise your voice a bit and fight through it.
Don’t shift around too much, fiddle with a pen, fidget, pick your nose, adjust your nether-regions, look something up on the internet, etc.