Ten Tips on Acing a Video Interview

Video interviews are the new normal.

In an age of powerful technology, it’s no longer necessary or practical to bring candidates to you or to go to them. In fact, people are increasingly interviewed and hired without an in-person meeting. That’s how I was hired at Global Online Academy, and now it’s how I hire people.

In my role as Director of Teaching and Learning at GOA, I conduct a few dozen video interviews a year with teaching candidates from all over the world. These calls are the only way I can meet these candidates before making the decision to hire them or not. As far as conducting interviews this way, I’ve pretty much seen it all. What I’ve realized is that interviewing via video is a lot like when I traveled from the U.S. to England and had to drive a car: the fundamentals are the same, but there are some critical differences you should master to ensure you don’t crash.

In that spirit, I have ten tips on making sure you ace your next video interview:

1. Know your time zones.

Video allows us to speak across (great) distance. Make sure you’re clear if suggested interview times are in your time zone or the interviewer’s. If the interviewer asks you to use an electronic booking tool like youcanbook.me or calend.ly, look for the option to convert suggested times to your time zone to ensure you know exactly when the appointment will occur. If the interviewer clearly didn’t calculate time zones correctly in making the appointment (like that time I booked a candidate in India for 2 a.m. her time and she showed up), don’t be afraid to ask for clarification and correction.

2. Know your tech.

Familiarize yourself with whatever technology the interviewer has asked you to use (Skype, Zoom, etc.). If you’ve never used the tool before, get comfortable with the interface in advance: how should your computer be positioned so the interviewer can see your face at a comfortable angle? Are your camera and microphone connected and working? Is there an app to download beforehand? How do you mute your audio and video (see number four)? Share your screen? I consider facility with technology to be an essential professional skill, so I’m looking carefully at how comfortable a person is on the call, especially at the beginning of the interview. I’ve seen too many people enter a video call like this:

3. Minimize on-screen distractions.

An interview demands your full attention, whether it’s online or not. Before your interview, turn off all audio alerts on your computer, phone, and other devices. Close all windows on your desktop except for the ones you need. If you get pop-up alerts on your screen, turn those off, too. Nothing is more annoying to video interviewers than feeling like they’re competing with distractions like social media, texts, or emails. Assume the interviewer is going to ask you to share your screen (even if you’re confident it won’t be necessary). Would you want an interviewer to see the 1,276 files on your desktop? That you work with more than fifty browser tabs open?

4. Minimize off-screen distractions.

The only person you should be interacting with during a video interview is me. It’s a simple rule, but I’m surprised by how many people I interview who feel comfortable interacting with pets, colleagues, students, or family members during a call. Of course, some things can’t be helped (which is why you need to know how to mute your audio and video on the call) but it’s not professional behavior. Do what you need to do to establish a “cone of silence” around you during the interview. The father in this viral video was hilariously horrified for a reason:

5. It’s not just your professional background that matters. It’s your literal one, too.

When choosing a space to show up for a video interview, be conscious of how the setting you’re calling from reflects on you: choose a well-lit room where you can sit in front of a neutral background. Avoid backlighting (when no one can see your face) and spotlighting (when you sit with a light close to you and look like you’re telling a ghost story at a campfire). If you call from a messy room, your interviewer will notice. If, in the background, your spouse is cleaning or your children are fighting or or students are conducting what seem like dangerously unsupervised chemistry experiments (all experiences I’ve had), your interviewer will notice. Another reason to practice with the technology in advance: you can test how the lighting looks and how much of your background will show up on the call.

6. Be prepared for glitches.

Distractions will happen. Technology will fail. Stuff will come up. Handle these smoothly and professionally. A couple of months ago a candidate showed up for a video interview with me in the driver’s seat of her car. Her home was undergoing renovation, and she didn’t have wifi. Instead of canceling our meeting, she found a local coffee shop, discovered it was closed, so parked right in front, propped her iPad on the passenger seat, connected to the wifi, and was a charming, engaging interview. Ideal situation? No. But, I was impressed with her improvisational skills and her determination to make the appointment. She didn’t panic, and she got the job.

7. Be your best and authentic self.

Being unfamiliar or uncomfortable with technology is not an excuse for a poor interview. As soon as you know you’ll be doing a video interview, do what it takes to feel confident and at-ease on screen. If that means you need to practice in advance with a friend or colleague, do so. Try to schedule the interview so that the time when and the space where it happens will allow you to be focused and relaxed. Remember, a video call is essentially a close up of your face, so any discomfort or anxiety reads clearly to your interviewer.

8. Make sure the wifi is strong and reliable.

9. Make sure the wifi is strong and reliable.

10. Make sure the wifi is strong and reliable.

For more, see:

Why Online Collaboration and Connection Matter Now More Than Ever

Seven Ways to Build a Modern Professional Learning Network

Preparing Learners for a Faster Future: 9 Principles for “What’s Next” in Learning

Global Online Academy (GOA) reimagines learning to empower students and teachers to thrive in a globally networked society. Professional learning opportunities are open to any educator. To sign up or to learn more, see our Professional Learning Opportunities for Educators or email hello@GlobalOnlineAcademy.org with the subject title “Professional Learning.” Follow us on Twitter @GOALearning. To stay up to date on GOA learning opportunities, sign up for our newsletter here.

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