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Like it or not, the video interview is a recent development that's here to stay. At my executive search firm, Koya Leadership Partners, we leverage video interviews as a standard part of our candidate evaluation process, and more and more clients are building them into their own processes in order to save time and money. But for job candidates, they require a bit of a different approach.
Here are a few tips that will help you make a great impression in your next (or first!) video interview.
Do a test run. Download the software used by your recruiting agency or the employer you hope to be working for and test it with a friend for the things like volume levels and lighting. If you're using Skype, make sure your profile image and ID are professional and appropriate.
Pay attention to the background and your appearance. Make sure the physical space immediately around and behind you is neat and professional looking. The ideal location has a plain background (move that giant movie poster or funky piece of art!) and a chair at a desk or table that puts you at the right height for the camera to frame your upper body and face.
Don't forget about lighting. A bright light behind your head will cast a dark shadow on your face. It's also important to choose the right attire. Regardless of the time of day or your location, make sure your outfit is professional and appropriate.
Use headphones. Headphones can drastically improve sound quality for you and the people at the other end by cutting down on audio distractions such as keyboard clicking, paper shuffling, or ambient noise like the traffic outside your window.
Eliminate distractions. Close any open windows on your screen, including your email and notification services. Mute your cell phone and desk phone. Make sure pets, children, or any people in your vicinity are kept out of the room, and let everyone know you're doing an interview and they need to be quiet.
Make eye contact. Address your attention to the camera when you're talking, not the image of the person or people you're talking to. It's not unusual for people to get distracted by their own image on the screen — if this is an issue for you, minimize the screen so you can't see yourself.
Take notes with pen and paper rather than typing them. It's fine to take notes during the interview, and you should let the interviewer(s) know you plan to do so. But don't use a keyboard, as the noise of it can be distracting.
Let the other party sign off first. Don't rush to click on the button that ends the video session. Your interviewer may have a last-minute addition or thought she wants to get in, and you never want to appear eager to end an interview.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, treat the interview as seriously as you would an in-person interview. It's increasingly common for hiring managers to use video interviews as a tool for deciding which candidates are worth a bigger investment of their in-person time, and the video interview could be your only chance to advance to the next stage of the process. Do your homework, take a little time to get the details right, and don't forget to follow up with a thank you!
Molly Brennan is founding partner of Koya Leadership Partners, a national executive search firm dedicated to the nonprofit sector. In her last post, she shared some tips about the right way to request a flexible work arrangement.