Respect the Webcam – Tips for Acing that Online Video Interview

I was working recently with a graduate student who was stressed out over an interview she scheduled with one of her top targeted employers. Here’s why:

While hours-long interview days with multiple meetings are fairly common, her interview was different than most I’ve encountered. Rather than inviting her into the office for the day, it was scheduled over WebEx, a platform that is more commonly used for online webinars and collaborative meetings. Yikes!

Six-hour-long webcam interviews like this example are not the norm, employers are increasingly utilizing online interviews over platforms like Skype or Google Hangouts as a way to bridge the gap between telephone interviews and face-to-face interviews. And if you’re connecting for 20 minutes or six hours, much of the advice is the same. Webcam-specific interviewing tips include:

Ready Your Space

  1. Confirm a strong internet connection in advance. If possible, use a hardwired Ethernet connection for your computer; otherwise, make sure your Wi-Fi connection is robust.
  2. Make sure you’re not interrupted. Choose a room with a door, can make sure that door stays closed. Tell your roommates you’re interviewing and ask them to keep quiet. Even consider putting up signs around your space as a reminder. If you have potentially loud pets (dogs, birds, etc) figure out a humane way to keep them quiet as well.
  3. Check your background. Blank walls, curtains, tidy bookcases work well. Velvet Elvis paintings or messy bedrooms less so. Also, make sure the lighting is in your favor – more often than not, candidates will be too “backlit” – meaning that the background is bright, but their face is in shadows.
  4. Quiet your technology. Close all other programs on your computer*, and turn your phone OFF! Also check for noise from fans, air conditioners and the like.

Picture 10

Ready Your Professional Appearance

  1. Dress the part. Professional dress is best, even from the waist down. While you may be tempted to put on your suit up top with your sweats on under the desk, you never know if you might have to get up while on camera to close a door that pops open or to pick up a paper that falls to the floor – and those footie-pjs will then be on display for the interviewer to see.
  2. You will – for once – be free to slather yourself in cologne since there’s still no smell-o-vision setting for Skype, but the interviewers can still see you. Hair, makeup, shaving, or whatever your own grooming ritual entails is still important. Just finish it up before switching on your webcam.

Ready Your Resources

  1. Paper forces you to look down, not up. Remember the * in #4 above? The exception is if you want to have your resume, cover letter, and the job posting up on your screen, as well as the questions you want to ask. Printouts are ok, but will force you to look down at your desk instead of up at the webcam…which is particularly bad if you’re bald like me (the glare off the top of my head can be blinding…).
  2. An open bottle of water might be a good idea, or some in a plain coffee mug. No red solo cups, and no cans of Red Bull.

Ready Yourself

  1. The UConn Center for Career Development has paid for all our students to have access to BigInterview, an online practice interview system that utilizes webcams to record YOU responding to interview questions.
  2. Lean on family and friends. At the very least, have a Skype chat, Google Hangout, or FaceTime with a trusted person, maybe even your mom or grandparents. Not only will you get ready for your interview, but you’ll make your family happy as well.

Special Bonus Tip

My own pet peeve about video webchats is eye contact. Most people stare at themselves and forget to LOOK AT THE CAMERA so that the interviewer feels as if you’re making eye contact. Try this: Do away with your own image in the video chat software entirely, or as much as possible. Then make your interviewer’s picture fairly small and position it at the top center of your screen as close to the webcam as possible. That way, even if you forget to speak to the camera, it will at least be close to making eye contact.

Good luck on that next webcam interview!

By John Bau
John Bau Career Consultant, School of Engineering John Bau