How to nail the video job interview

Many organizations are using video to simplify candidate screening and make the interviewing process more cost-effective. Our experts offer eight etiquette tips to help you make the most of your next -- or your first -- 'screen test.'

How to nail the video job interview
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How to nail the video job interview

Many organizations are using video to simplify the candidate-screening process, speed time-to-hire and make the interviewing process less expensive. But for candidates, the video interviewing process comes with pitfalls unique to the medium. Here are expert tips on how to get your screen test just right.

Testing 1, 2, 3 …
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Testing 1, 2, 3 …

Every organization uses a different video platform, so first and foremost, make sure the technology is functional and that you know how to use it, says Chris Brown, director of human resources, sales recruitment for InterCall and head of HR at InterCall's parent company, West Corporation. "Make sure you test everything you can before your interview. Test links, make sure you have the right plug-ins downloaded, figure out which browsers are supported -- you want to have the optimal infrastructure for the platform. Leave enough time to do this and to fix anything you need to. Ideally, get started 24 hours before your call so you can ask your recruiter or the firm's hiring manager for help," Brown says.

Sometimes, the issue's not on your end but on that of the person interviewing you. If you're having trouble hearing them, seeing them or otherwise making the connection, have contact information ready so you can shoot a quick email or text and let them know, Brown says.

Voice over
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Voice over

A video interview isn't just about the visual -- you also should test your audio to make sure you sound great. While you want to make sure you're well-spoken and clear, avoid the temptation to yell, says Craig Malloy, CEO of high definition communications provider LifeSize.

"It's an unconscious tendency many of us have when we're doing any kind of remote collaboration -- the other person's far away from you, so you have this need to yell to be heard. It's incredibly disruptive and annoying," says Malloy.

Beware, however, he warns, "On the flip side, technology's so good in this area that microphones will pick up on even the quietest sounds. If you're trying to have a whispered side conversation, the mic will pick that up. They're more sensitive than you think!"

Get your good side
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Get your good side

Make sure you're using a stationary technology to do the call, too, says Brown, like a laptop, a tablet or a desktop. "We've had a few instances where people try and do video interviews using their cell phones and it just doesn't work. It looks like they're in the "Blair Witch Project" -- it's nearly impossible to keep the phone still," Brown says.

Using basic photography principles can also be helpful. Make sure you're sitting at an appropriate distance from the camera, not too close so you're just a talking head, but not too far that the interviewers can't see your facial expressions. "Avoid sitting in front of a window, or you risk looking like you're in witness protection," Malloy says. "You wouldn't take a picture that way, so don't do a video interview that way,"

Wardrobe
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Wardrobe

You'd think this would be a no-brainer, but it's worth repeating: dress like you're going to an interview, because you are, says Brown. Do your research to find out what the culture is like at the company and if it has any dress code requirements that could be a faux pas, and avoid trying to be gimmicky, he says.

"Even if the dress code is sloppy casual, you don't want to inadvertently tick off anyone interviewing you. Even if your first-round interviewer's a Blackhawks fan and loves that you wore your jersey to the interview, his boss -- the next round -- could be a Detroit fan, and then you're really in trouble," says Brown.

"Dress appropriately for an interview -- it's that simple. You can change back into your ratty t-shirt and hoodie as soon as you disconnect, but this isn't the time to show off your casual fashion," says Malloy.

Eliminate distractions
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Eliminate distractions

Phones, tablets, television, if it makes a sound that could distract from the interview, turn it off. If there are distractions outside your control, like a once-weekly test of your neighborhood's tornado warning siren, make sure you don't schedule the interview in that timeframe. "If you have pets, try and corral them someplace they won't be a distraction. You don't want your cat walking in front of your camera in the middle of the interview. Even if your camera is positioned in a way that the interviewer can't see that your dog just walked through the kitchen, you can see it, and it can draw your attention," Brown says.

Make the most of your screen time
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Make the most of your screen time

In a traditional, on-site interview, time is a bit more flexible, says Brown, but a video interview doesn't have that luxury.

"When you're on-site, it's easy for an interviewer to either walk you out of the office or add additional time to the interview, but on video, it's pretty cut -and-dried when it begins and ends. Add in some time for small-talk and introductions and you're cutting your time down from, say, 30 minutes to 25 or 20," says Brown. Make sure you're not doing anything that can cut into that time like eating, drinking or rambling in your answers.

On location
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On location

Consider your background. Remove clutter, sit in front of a neutral background and face the camera straight on, advises Malloy.

Set the stage for success by making sure your environment is comfortable and conducive to an interview without being distracting. Don't do video interviews from your current place of work, and try not to fidget too much. If you have dual monitors, turn one off so you aren't looking off in a different direction when you're conversing with your interviewers. Sit in front of a neutral background in a comfortable chair with only the technology and notes in front of you that you need for the interview, says Brown.

Act natural
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Act natural

"We're all used to dialing into an audio conference and introducing ourselves, and it's the same with a video conference. The issue is that once that initial introductions are taking care of, you're left staring at another person on camera. This is when you need to pretend like you're really in the room with them," says Malloy. "Make small talk, ask questions, share an anecdote -- but don't just pretend you can't see the other person when they're literally staring you in the face," he says.

There's definitely a learning curve and an initial awkwardness with video interviews, but by following these tips and using your manners, you'll be sure to land the starring role.