Virtual Interviews – Part II

 In Career Tips, Interviewing Strategies

Virtual Interviews – Part IILast month I started a discussion about the importance of preparing for telephone interviews which are commonly the precursor for in-person interviews. With technology advancing, video interviews are gaining in popularity, so this article will share tips for preparing for an on-screen interview.

There are two types of video interviews — live interviews (using Skype, FaceTime, or LiveMessenger) and recorded Question-and-Answer interviews, also called “time-shifted” video interviews.

In a recorded interview, the jobseeker is directed to a website to answer questions on video, using their computer’s webcam. Video interviews provide an apples-to-apples approach to assessing candidates. All applicants are asked the same questions, and the hiring manager can review and rate the responses. These interviews can be easily set up by the company’s HR staff and the recording forwarded to the hiring manager for selection for the next round of interviews.

More common, however, are live video interviews.

A recent survey by OfficeTeam found that 63% of HR managers use video technology to conduct job interviews. This was a significant increase from 14% who conducted Skype interviews in 2011.

Skype usage has increased dramatically in recent years: more than 300 million minutes of video calls are logged every day. An increasing number of those calls are job interviews.

Video Interview Preparation

You can conduct a video interview on a laptop with a webcam, a traditional computer with a webcam, or using the Skype app on your iPad.

Even though the interview is being conducted by webcam, this is a “real” live interview, and you should be as prepared as if you were sitting across the desk from the interviewer. Plus, you need to be mindful of where you set up for your video interview. Be sure the area is free of visual distractions (clutter). Carefully consider what is in the background of your Skype interview. Make the background interesting, but not distracting. Plain white walls are fine, but boring. Can you frame a desk or bookshelves behind you instead?

Check out your technology well in advance of the interview. Make sure you have Internet connectivity and that your webcam and microphone are working. You may also have to download the software if it is the first time you are using the application.

One of the best things you can do to prepare for a live video interview is practice. Practice doing a couple of Skype interviews with friends or family members before your job interview. Check the lighting and your volume.

As with a phone interview, recording your practice video interview can help you identify areas to work on, or fix. Have your test partner take a few screenshots if you cannot record the call. You want to make sure your webcam is providing a decent picture. (High definition webcams are available for under $100 if yours is not providing a clear picture.)

Clarify with the interviewer who will initiate the Skype call and double-check the username. Also be sure to account for any time zone differences.

Video Interview Do’s and Don’ts

Review the guidelines for phone interviews, but also keep these “do’s” and “don’ts” in mind.


Dress nicely — more than one jobseeker has scheduled a Skype interview, thinking it would be voice only — and then accidentally found himself or herself on a video Skype call. Dress from head-to-toe. You may think you do not need to wear dress pants with the shirt and tie since the interviewer is only going to see the top half of your outfit. But you should always expect the unexpected. You never know when you might need to stand during an interview. Pajama pants or shorts with a dress shirt, tie, and jacket just do not work.

Keep your clothing color choice in mind. Check how the colors of your clothing appear on camera. Just like TV news anchors avoid some colors — and most small patterns, pick colors that will show up well on video. Jewel tones or pastel colors work best. Do not wear white or black.

Practice your Skype interview wearing the exact outfit you are planning to wear. This trial run will also allow you to test the volume of your system, see how the software works (if you are not familiar with Skype), and make sure your lighting is appropriate. If the light source is behind you, you may appear as a dark silhouette on the screen. Position a lamp or other light source in front of you.

Positioning is also important. Prop up the computer so that you are not looking down at it and practice where to sit so you are framed correctly by the webcam. Make sure your torso is visible — including your hands — especially if you “talk” with your hands.

Look at the webcam when you speak, not at the interviewer’s face on your screen. When you look into the camera, it appears to the interviewer that you are looking at them directly.

One “pro” tip is to use a USB-connected headset for an interview instead of using the computer’s speakers. Headsets are inexpensive and can provide a much clearer interview experience.

If you are using a laptop for the Skype session, plug it in so you have plenty of “juice” (battery life) for the call. You do not want to have to dig for a cord to keep the computer from shutting down.

Turn off notifications on your computer and close other software programs. You do not want to be distracted by beeps every time you receive an email.

Dial up the enthusiasm! Someone who speaks with normal energy in a one-on-one conversation can come across as flat and monotone on a video interview. So it is important to be a little more enthusiastic in a Skype interview than normal.

Smiling is an important strategy for video interviews. Most of the time, when we are listening to someone else, we have a blank expression on our face. But on a video interview, a blank expression comes across as a frown. Keep a slight smile on your face: not a huge grin, just show a few teeth and raise your cheeks slightly. Practice this in a mirror ahead of time.

Be mindful of your nervous habits. Just like in a face-to-face interview, the interviewer will notice when you twirl your hair or chew your lip.

You can take notes during a Skype interview, but do not take too many, or you will come off looking distracted. Take notes with a pen and paper, not on your computer.


Choose a cutesy or unprofessional Skype name — no nicknames and minimize numbers and keyboard characters. Online, your first impression is your Skype username and photo, so make sure both are professional. Your best bet is your first name and last name as your username.

Be too quick to answer. With video, there is sometimes a delay or interference, so make sure you pause before answering a question to avoid overtalking the interviewer.

At The End of the Interview

As with an in-person interview, be sure to inquire about what the next step will be. And write a handwritten thank you note or email as soon as you are off the call.

Follow-up is key after a phone or video interview. Research indicates that employers are less likely to keep jobseekers up-to-date about their prospects with the company after a phone interview than with an in-person interview.

Kathy Keshemberg is a Nationally Certified Resume Writer and Certified Career Management Coach. Since 1983, she has created thousands of interview-winning resumes and related job-search materials for satisfied clients around the world. Need assistance with your career? We’re here to help!

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