Tips for How to Prepare for a Video Interview
We’ve all been there: you get past the ‘phone screen’ step of the interview process (great job so far, by the way) and now you need to find out how to ace a remote job interview.
Whether the company at which you’re interviewing calls it a “remote interview,” “online interview,” “video interview” or “virtual interview,” you have to know how to prepare for a video interview because you need to pass this step.
If you’re already on a daily schedule of working remotely or working from home, then you’re familiar with how to stay connected while working remotely. There are lots of ways to get some face-to-face time even when you’re not in a traditional office.
These days, it’s more and more common to be offered a remote video interview as a first-round interview for a job in your city. You also may experience first, second and third-round interviews for a remote job.
Tip: If you’re looking for remote work for the first time, or looking for a remote side hustle, subscribe to FlexJobs for vetted and flexible work-from-home jobs.
A remote video interview sure does put more of a face to a name than a simple phone call, especially if you’re interviewing for a remote role or if the direct manager for the role is located in an office on the other side of the world.
No one said taking a remote interview is easy, especially when there are so many factors to navigate.
You’re going to want to know what to wear to a remote interview, what to know about online interview tips and what to expect in the remote job interview process.
Tip: Consider that on the bright side, a video interview is a great way to stay connected if you’re already working remotely. It provides a nice way to let your personality shine.
For now, we’re going to introduce you to a few main categories of online interview and video interview tips:
- How to stand out in a video interview
- How to prepare for a virtual interview
- How to nail a video interview location, environment and setup
How to stand out in a video interview
An in-person interview gives you time to shine. You get to show your future (hopefully) employer how you hold a conversation, how you shake hands and how you hold eye contact confidently.
In a video interview, you’re trying to look at that tiny black hole of a camera in your laptop screen where your interviewer sits, on the other side, waiting to be impressed.
Naturally, you have to stand out. How can you be the memorable candidate of the day?
Make sure – absolutely sure – to smile.
Smile. Smile. Smile.
A smile is something that can shine through the computer screen like a bright light if you choose to act confident, grateful and happy to be speaking with your interviewer(s).
It’s been proven that smiles make people likable, so why not start off with a bright and cheery smile, whether you’re excited, nervous, anxious or eager? Lucky for you, your shaky and sweaty hands are actually something you can hide in a video interview. Cover it up with a great smile.
Do have your questions about the role and company handy on real paper.
We’ll cover this again in the rest of this guide, but take note: it’s okay to have things written down on your trusty notepad or notebook. It’s less ideal to have your interview questions in a Google doc that you have to toggle or Alt+Tab away to, within your desktop.
Essentially, having a notebook at your fingertips and your notes and questions written there allows you to continue giving your interviewer attention while you reference the remarks you’d like to bring up. Squinting at an online document that you might accidentally hit “share screen” on is less than optimal.
Pause and listen closely, as to not interrupt the interviewer.
If you or your interviewer are hard to hear, it’s easier and easier to interrupt each other, and that’s especially possible if there’s a delay.
Pausing can be painful, as can delays or echoes (we’ll get into how to avoid bad connections later), but remember that interrupting can be worse. Stay patient.
Do thank your interviewer immediately as you begin, and as you conclude.
Just as you would do in a regular interview, remember to immediately thank your interviewer for his/her/their time as you begin, and remember that ‘thank you’ should be your last words before signing off the video call.
“Arrive early” for the video call.
As you would aim to arrive 10 minutes early for an in-person interview, aim to join the Zoom call or Google Hangout with a 3-5 minute lead time. This is a good precaution to take and a good ideal practice just in case your interviewer also signs in early and sees that you were ready to go.
Avoid taking notes on your laptop and use a notebook instead.
The first reason to avoid taking notes on your laptop during a video interview is this: because the typing sounds can come in through your laptop’s mic, your interviewer will hear typing sounds coming through. Plus, with some laptops (several brands and models of PCs), the webcam is on the bottom corner of the screen, so the fingers that will be typing are actually at eye-level on video!
As we mention above, avoid using other applications within your computer during a video interview unless you’ll be sharing your screen to show off a recent project, accomplishment or sample technical test.
Have a pen and paper nearby, as old-fashioned as it sounds. Having a pen and paper or notebook handy will allow you to touch your computer less. The less you touch your computer means the fewer times your interviewer sees you fidgeting and losing focus.
Tip: After Becca got the Dell XPS, she had to adapt to the fact that the camera is on the bottom portion of the screen. Consider how you look to your interviewer based on camera location on your laptop or webcam.
How to prepare for a virtual interview
Now that you’re aware of the professional advice that comprises online interview tips, let’s see how to get ready for a video interview.
In preparing for a virtual interview, it pays to have your video setup ready at your laptop or home desktop computer.
In order to stand out during this video interview as a candidate who has prepared well, what can you do to perfect your setup?
If using a Mac, you can use Photobooth to see how you look.
Remember Photobooth? It took my college campus by storm between 2006-2007. If you have a Macbook, hopefully you have the Photobooth app.
Photobooth isn’t just for stretching your face with the funny filters – it’s a way of seeing how you look without using Zoom or making a test video call over Google Hangouts.
See how you look and if your video interview location is appropriate. We’ll get into this shortly!
Find out the company’s appropriate and expected dress code.
Consider that what to wear to a remote interview depends on industry. The “video interview dress code” will vary, whether you’re interviewing at a chilled-out tech startup or an international bank.
If you are able to, ask a friend in a similar industry which type of dress is expected for this video interview.
Working from home can make you forget how to dress up. Use our work from home tips to brush up on how dressing up can make you ‘feel’ professional even if you’re in your house.
Determine what to wear to dress up (even if it’s only on top).
When picking out what to wear to a remote interview, give yourself that test run and see how you’ll look to the interviewer. Remember to avoid distracting prints or stripes, which may look funny on screen.
If you’re in an industry that expects professional and formal dress, keep in mind that you’ll only be seen from above your waist. If it’ll help you mentally feel ready, dress up from head to toe.
Tip: Wear shoes, too! Being barefoot can make you feel ‘too comfortable.’ We recommend some ideas for flats for women in our ladies’ shoes guide.
Research your interviewer.
Every applicant should research his or her interviewer. If you’ve been speaking with a recruiter up until this point, the recruiter will likely provide the name of your remote video interviewer, and his or her LinkedIn.
You can also Google this person to find out more about their professional accomplishments, specialties, former places of work, and so on.
Practice avoiding touching your face and your hair.
Many people touch their face and hair when they get nervous. The bright side of an interview is that you’ll realize when you touch your face and hair or adjust your glasses, because you’ll be looking at yourself.
The day before your interview, take a half hour to mindfully practice touching your face and hair less. If you like wearing your hair ‘down,’ reconsider if this’ll mean you’ll be fidgeting with your hair a lot. It can be distracting to the interviewer, who gets a clear view of you on a screen.
Don’t toggle into a separate screen.
I learned this the hard way: if you plan to have some other type of information available for reference, avoid having it in electronic format. It means that you’ll have to toggle away from the video interview itself, while it’s in progress, and you’ll be distracted in your documents and spreadsheets.
Remember that you want to impress the interviewer and give him or her your full attention.
How to nail a video interview location, environment and setup
There are a few unspoken rules to setting up your video interview location and making sure your environment is as top-notch as it can be for this remote interview.
Below, we’ll fill you in on some tips and tricks from the tech side about preparing for a virtual interview so that everything is successful.
Find the perfect spot for sitting in to take a video call.
A perfect video interview location in your home should be one without distraction. Your video interview background could be a wall, or if your space does not allow it, then having more depth is okay if you can guarantee that no family members, roommates or pets will walk by.
Remember also that having a window as a background can create some problems when it comes to a video interview backdrop. Windows will create back-lit scenarios, making your face dark. Also, if you have a window to one of your sides and not the other, it could create an awkward shadow.
I recommend drawing the curtains closed and working with a lighting setup over which you have control.
See more home office tips describing how light and setup can affect how you work.
Sign into the video meeting early to get a clear test run.
Always be early! When it comes to video interview setup, sign in early for a few reasons:
- so that you can see how you look
- so that you can test your sound
- so that you can see how your video interview background is working out
Take the video call where your WiFi is strongest.
As we mention in our home office setup guide, some houses will experience stronger WiFi in some rooms than in others.
If you’re aware of how WiFi is stronger in the TV room than in the living room, choose the TV room for the interview and start your virtual interview setup there.
The reason for really being picky about WiFi is that video takes a lot of bandwidth and if your internet is a dab less than stellar, your interview may have lag or a delay, or you may even appear blurry.
Determine if you will use headphones or computer audio.
Whether to use headphones or computer audio for a video interview is up to everyone’s preference. While Dan likes taking his video meetings with these noise-cancelling headphones, I prefer to use computer audio and I feel more comfortable that way.
Again, this is totally up to preference, so if you can do a trial run for your video interview setup with a family member or a friend over Skype or Google Hangouts, you’ll have a better idea of how you’re comfortable listening and speaking.
Test your remote video setup for background noise.
Continue the practice run of your virtual interview by testing for background noise and how to get rid of it. If you live in NYC, you’re probably pretty accustomed to loud airplanes flying nearby (Queens and Brooklyn) and very frequent ambulances and firetrucks with alarms sounding (Manhattan, where the noise reverberates off buildings like a big echo).
If you have noisy heat pipes or noisy vents, try to stay clear of those as well. If you have a puppy, try to put him or her in a closed room where barking or yelping won’t be a distraction. This is the same for if you have small children: arrange for a parent or caretaker to be engaging small children so that they can leave you with some quiet.
If using a new platform, test the service (Zoom) with a friend.
During the remote job interview process, you may find out that your video interviewer would like to hold the interview over a platform you’ve never heard of before.
I don’t remember the first time I heard of Zoom, but I know for sure that there must have been a first time in which I had to navigate use of a brand new program and download the desktop version.
If your video interviewer denotes that the virtual interview will take place over a program that’s new to you, do your research and download it for a test run.
See more about Zoom in our guide to staying connected as a remote worker or while working from home.
Use Krsip.ai to cancel background noise.
Have you heard of Krisp? Please note that this is not an ad at all! We heard about Krisp through a professional connection, and as it turns out, Krisp.ai is an app that cancels background noise with the click of a button. You can speak without background noise, and you can also listen to other participants in a call without their background noise.
Make sure you’re connected to the 5G version of your router.
Most routers nowadays have a regular network and a 5G version of the network. Make sure you’re connected to the 5G version for your video interview call.
Having a phone call as a backup plan.
If internet speed is problematic, you can start with video enabled, and have an introduction, and say ahead of time that you may be experiencing connectivity issues, but you wanted to be able to meet face-to-face.
Tell your interviewer that you’ll continue the interview with video so that the audio is as seamless as possible.
If Google Hangouts is problematic, have a backup plan like a call-in number through a phone, or a Skype or Zoom account.
It also helps to be able to foresee a need for this, and if the recruiter who sets up your video interview does not provide a backup phone number, you can request one for the call.
Tip: In case you need to resort to a phone interview if there are technical difficulties with video, keep your phone fully-charged (and on silent) close to your laptop. While you take your video interview, do keep your cell phone face-down, as to not distract from getting texts or notifications!
Plan B: Create a Whereby room.
Have you heard of Whereby? As an alternative to having a phone call if your virtual interview setup backfires, you can create a Whereby room that your interviewer can hop into. (This is also not an ad.)
Adjust Google Hangouts bandwidth settings.
Specifically with virtual interviews being held via Google Hangouts, you can change your settings and change your bandwidth settings. In doing this, you can make the other end of the video lower-quality to help save and be smart about bandwidth.
Have a backup pair of headphones.
In case noise-cancelling headphones die or decide not to work, have a backup pair of headphones nearby!
This has worked for me when I’ve counted on my Airpods working and then they decide to act up. So, I suggest having some old-fashioned non-Bluetooth headphones (maybe your old ones from yesteryear) sitting right nearby for backup use. I recommend the Apple headphones with the cords.
If your headphones are wireless, make sure they’re charged.
Make sure those wireless headphones get charged the day before or the morning before the video call.
No one wants headphones that go dead during the middle of a virtual interview!
Tip: In addition to charging headphones, make sure your laptop is charged, if you’ve brought it into another room and away from your charger. Or, bring your charger with you and stay plugged in during the interview, which is the optimal route.
The day before, run a speed test to determine the volume on your network.
We’re going to teach you a trick.
Go to Fast.com, let the page load, and when the speed test finishes, click on “Show More Info.” Then, look at “upload speed.”
The video that you’ll be projecting during your video interview is going to be sent over through upload speed, so you want to make sure it’s as fast as it can be. Otherwise, the video for the interviewer will be choppy from their end.
Make sure any service or usage within your WiFi network that’s using bandwidth in the background (like Dropbox syncing) is disabled during the interview.
Remember and bookmark all these video interview tips for future virtual interviews.
Good luck! You’ll be great!
Now that you’ve completed your preparation for your online video interview, see how to stay connected when you’re working from home or working remotely.
Make sure you see all our tips, including how to work from home with your partner, how to make your work-at-home schedule and the best tips for setting up that home office, even if you have a small apartment to work from.