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4 Steps to Acing a Video Job Interview

Employers are turning to Zoom, Skype and other technologies to screen candidates remotely

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En español | Even though they may not be able to meet with job candidates face-to-face right now, employers are still hiring for positions they need to fill, whether for work-from-home jobs that are currently available or for in-office positions that will start once the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic are lifted.

One technology that is helping recruiters hire applicants is the video job interview. Instead of meeting with job hopefuls face-to-face in a company's office, employers can set up online chats to determine how well you might fit the position. Initially considered a way to attract talented workers who might not want to go through the full interview process when unemployment was low, video interviews have become more essential as people practice physical distancing to deter the spread of the coronavirus.

"Just a couple months ago, it was a really tight job market where job seekers were in the driver's seat and could be really choosy about the opportunities that they took,” says Alison Sullivan, career trends expert for the job search portal Glassdoor, which recently launched a hub for companies that are hiring now. “That really put the onus on employers to find ways they could most efficiently hire the right candidate that was going to be a great fit for their company and really help them. Obviously, that landscape looks a whole lot different than it did just a month ago."

Now, with more than 26 million people having filed new claims for unemployment benefits during the last month or so, video interviews have become a lifeline to connect job seekers with positions that would enable them to get back to work. But that doesn't mean every applicant — especially older job candidates — is already comfortable with how to land a job through a video interview.

"We're all used to that one-on-one in-person interaction, making connections with a recruiter or a company, and really feeling like, ‘Oh, yes, I can picture myself physically in this space,’ “Sullivan says. “So how do you replicate that on video when you're still in your respective homes and you're not in the workplace environment? That's a big question that I think both sides are really thinking about."

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Following these four steps can help you figure out how to master the technology and land the job you want.

Step 1. Test-drive the video technology

There are many different types of apps used for videoconferencing — Zoom, Webex, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting are just a few. As soon as an employer schedules your video interview, make sure you download and install the appropriate software and get familiar with how to operate it. One effective way to do that is to practice.

"Call up people, friends, family,” Sullivan says. “Have a nice coffee chat, through video. That will help you just feel really comfortable with what the tools are that you need to use. And being comfortable with that process will help you feel more relaxed when it comes time for the actual interview."

When you are practicing the application by talking with friends, be sure to ask how well they can hear and see you. Adjust your computer's audio settings and camera settings according to what your friends tell you they see on their end. One pro tip for lighting: Placing a lamp behind the computer screen you will be facing is a quick way to make sure your face is evenly lit. You want interviewers to see your face as clearly as possible.

Also keep an eye on whether your internet connection starts to run slow. If it does, you might try these tips for improving your internet speed.

Step 2. Stage yourself and your background

While employers may not be seeing you face-to-face in person, they are seeing you and will be basing their opinion of you, in part, on what shows up on their video monitor.

Start with your attire. Dress and groom as if you were going in for a traditional job interview, suited appropriately for the profession. “Are you wearing something that looks professional even though you're in your home?” Sullivan asks. Avoid bright colors and skip fabrics with patterns because they tend to blur on-screen.

Next, pick the spot where you will set up your computer, paying careful attention to what will be behind you. “Think about the optics of when you're on camera, what's in view,” Sullivan says. “Do you have a nice, neutral background that's very clean and not distracting?” You want the interviewer to be focused on you, not the artwork on your walls.

Step 3. Minimize distractions

When the time for the interview comes, make sure that you have closed all of the other software that may be running on your computer and have silenced any notifications or other chimes you normally get. The only things you should see on your screen are the chat window for the interview and perhaps your résumé for quick reference.

If you have young kids, are they in another room with snacks and something to do in order to keep them occupied? Same with pets. Countless video meetings have been disrupted by barking dogs.

Step 4. Keep your guard up

In the comfort of your home, chatting through a computer screen, it might be easy to relax and feel informal during your interview. But don't forget: Employers will be making their hiring decision based in part on this conversation.

Be sure to maintain eye contact with the interviewer on-screen — and not on whatever may be happening in another room or out the window, where the recruiter can't see. Sitting up straight and limiting your hand movements can help keep the focus on the conversation and the many skills you can bring to the job.

"All of these more optic things that you didn't have to worry about in the normal job search process are now things that you have to think about and make sure that you're checking the box for before you click that accept call,” Sullivan says.

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