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5 Mistakes to Avoid in a Video Job Interview

Follow these tips to prevent common errors that could keep you from getting hired

spinner image a woman participates in an online interview with a man who is looking at her cv
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The next time you interview for a job, the conversation might happen online rather than in person, especially if you are applying for a job that lets you work from home.

According to a recent survey of hiring managers, recruiters and human resources professionals, one third of employers (33 percent) conduct their job interviews entirely through videoconferencing. An additional 21 percent say they begin the interview process online and only offer face-to-face interviews in the final rounds. Only 21 percent said that most of their company’s job interviews happen in person.

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The survey — conducted by TopResume, a resume-writing service that has partnered AARP for the Resume Advisor tool — suggests that video interviews are here to stay after becoming common during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. That means jobseekers should practice the skills necessary to succeed in a virtual interview.

“Although virtual interviews have become a ubiquitous part of the hiring process, even as more companies are requiring employees to return to the office, our data shows many job candidates have yet to master the art of the virtual interview — and it's sabotaging their candidacy,” said Amanda Augustine, a career expert for TopResume. “Fortunately, these mistakes can be easily avoided with modest preparation.”

The survey asked respondents to rank 11 types of mistakes applicants make in video interviews from most harmful to getting hired to least damaging. The good news is that technical glitches, such as inconsistent Wi-Fi, ranked low on the list, placing tenth. But several other common problems could get in the way of landing the job.

Here are the top five mistakes to avoid in a job interview, according to the survey.

1. Avoiding eye contact or staring into space

You may have had plenty of practice using Zoom and other videoconferencing apps in recent years, but it’s important to remember that a video job interview is not just another meeting or chat with friends. Employers want to see that you are focused on the conversation, so keep your eyes on the camera.

2. Sitting in a messy room

When you go to an in-person job interview, you get a peek at what the offices look like, who works there, and how you might feel there. Virtual interviews can be the exact opposite. If you don’t opt to blur or customize your background, the employer can see your workspace and judge what it says about you. That means that if you choose to do the interview in your home, make sure to tidy up your office with an eye for everything that will appear on camera. Alternatively, you might consider using a meeting room in your public library or similar community space that can be reserved free.

3. Leaving inappropriate tabs or apps open when screen-sharing

Before you launch the meeting app for your virtual interview, it’s a good idea to close all other programs you may be using. You also should turn off all email and messaging chimes that might interrupt the conversation.

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4. Using an unprofessional background

If you decide to use an image rather than blurring your background or showing the room you’re in, choose something simple. Avoid family photos, vacation pictures, cartoons, memes and the like that could derail the conversation about why you’re the best person for the job. You might instead opt for a simple design or a warm color.

 5. Being interrupted by the candidate's family members

Your friends and family can be great helping you practice for your job interview and perfect your pitch. But once the virtual interview has started, it’s best to keep them out of sight and earshot.

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