Best Practices for Video Interviewing: Part 3 (of 3) – On-Camera Presence and Behavior

Hello, I’m John Hutchings, Associate Director, in the Jenkins MBA Career Management Center. Thank you for watching this three-video series about how to best interview on video.

In the previous videos, I discussed your pre-interview set-up and your physical and virtual interview space preparation. In this video I will give you tips on minding your on-camera presence and behavior.

1) Prepare Like You Would for an In-Person Interview

Just because your interview is happening over Zoom, WebEx, Skype, or some other platform, doesn’t mean it’s not a real interview. Other than preparations to travel to the interview, you still need to prepare the same way you would if you were going into the office. That means researching the company and role, preparing to answer common interview questions, and coming up with questions to ask your interviewer in return. Your interviewer is still looking for someone they can see themselves working with and who is passionate and knowledgeable about the role they’re applying to—be ready to show them why that’s you.

2) Prep your talking points and be ready to take notes.

While I recommend bringing in a talking points cheatsheet in a padfolio for in an in-person interview, it can be especially valuable in video interviews. If you carefully place it below the camera’s view you can occasionally reference it if you get lost or want to remind yourself of questions you wanted to ask the hiring manager.
The interviewer can’t see what’s not on camera, so use your interview space to your advantage. Stick a Post-It Note cheat sheet with notes and questions directly to the screen or to the wall behind your camera.
The caveat is that you have to be discrete and keep your talking points brief. Have a just a few notes of which you can glance at them discretely. If you have “paragraphs” of notes on your computer screen or on a side piece of paper, the interviewer will pick up that you are reading your interview answers. This will distract you from making a connection during the interview.

3) Keep Your Eyes Forward

This takes some practice and feels unnatural, but during your interview you should look at the camera as much as possible, not the picture of the other person on the screen. Looking at the camera is as close as you can get to making eye contact with the interviewer, while looking at the screen will appear to the other side like you’re staring off into space.
When doing your interview on a laptop, you can shrink the size of the window and position it as close as possible to the webcam.

4) Dress Like an In-Person Interview

What you wear on video is no different than what you would wear in an in-person interview. Whatever you would wear to a regular interview is a good choice for a video interview too – including bottoms and shoes.
Some simple guidelines:
Avoid pinstripes, houndstooth, herringbone, or anything that has a busy pattern. They tend to create a movement pattern on camera.

5) “Show Up” a Few Minutes Early (but not too early)

You wouldn’t walk into the building where a 3 PM interview was being held at exactly 3 PM, so you shouldn’t cut it so close for a video interview either. Prepare your computer by closing all extra windows and tabs. And if you have a portfolio or anything similar you’d like to be able to show via screen share during your interview, make sure that it’s ready in an easy-to-access, but minimized, window.
Open up the program where your video interview will take place a few minutes early. Before you fully enter the meeting, a lot of the common video interview software will give you a chance to check your shot. However, be prepared if the software does not have some kind of waiting room.

6) Acknowledge the Differences

It’s OK to mention in the moment that a video interview isn’t the same as an in-person interview. Acknowledging things are different helps put people at ease. And don’t be afraid to say if something feels off—if you can’t hear or see your interviewer well, for example. It’ll just demonstrate that you’re willing to speak up and be straightforward about issues.

7) Maintain Good Posture

Because you’re at home, it’s natural to be a little more relaxed. Try not to let this translate into you slumping down in your seat. It makes you look less engaged. Instead, you want to pull your chair away from the table, sit on the edge of the seat, plant your feet on the ground, and place your hands on the table. This will let you use your body without blocking the camera.
Sitting up straight also naturally gives you a bit more energy and helps you communicate your excitement about the job.
Consider standing as an alternative if that’s an easier way for you to keep your energy up—but not if you have a tendency to pace or shift a lot.

8) Use Your Face to Show You’re Engaged

Nonverbal communication is important in any conversation. But when it comes to a video interview, a lot of the avenues through which we usually give nonverbal cues—eye contact, body language, and small murmurs of agreement—are cut off. So we have to lean more heavily on what we have left, namely facial expressions.
In most video interview platforms, only one mic can be used at once. So small verbal connections of engagement like “mm-hm” or “yeah,” interrupt the verbal flow. So nodding or smiling gives feedback without using your mic and risking over speaking your interviewer.

9) Maintain good eye contact

We all know how important it is to make confident eye contact during a job interview. This is much tougher to do via video. When you’re speaking to someone via video conference, your eyes naturally want to focus on the face of your conversation partner. Depending on where that face is on your monitor and the location of your webcam, this can cause you to appear on-screen as if you are looking down or away.
You can avoid this by resizing and moving the window with the person’s video image. Move it up or as close to your webcam as possible. This will give the closest approximation to real human eye contact.
Look straight into the camera
It’s easy to get distracted looking at yourself or the people you’re speaking to on the video screen in front of you. But if you want to give the impression of normal human eye contact, you should actually focus your gaze directly into that little black hole in your laptop or phone. By staring straight into the camera when you’re speaking, you’ll exude confidence and give your audience the feeling that you’re looking right at them.
That doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally glance at the video screen showing your interviewer’s face, since you’ll also want to be looking out for body language responses on their end, too.

10) Smile genuinely

Of course, smiling is a great way to show friendliness and approachability. When people try to force a smile, though, it can come across as fake, which can be a big turn off for a potential employer. So be sure to smile during your job interview when it feels right.

11) Account for the audio lag – let the Other Person Finish Speaking

Even with a great internet connection, there is always a little bit of a verbal lag which can mess up with your conversation flow. To account for lag, allow more pauses than you normally would. Take an extra beat before jumping in to answer your interviewer’s question to ensure they’re done speaking. A moment of silence might feel like an eternity to you, but in reality, it’ll make you seem more thoughtful and help reduce the risk of speaking over one another.

12) Signal When Your Answers Are Complete

In the same vein, it’s helpful for the other person if you signal the end of your answer, especially if it’s a long one. You can do this through a visual cue like nodding or you can make sure you conclude your answer strongly or ask the interviewer a question like “does that answer your question?” or “Do you have any follow-up questions?” to ensure they have the chance to converse back and forth, and to signal that you’re done.. A long silence while your interviewer guesses whether or not you’re done can be awkward over video, whereas in person, it’s usually clearer that the other person is finished speaking.

13) Explain Any Long Pauses

Because of the various limitations of video calls, it might not always be clear to your interviewer what you’re doing if no one is speaking. Tell them if you’re pausing to write down a few notes, pull up some information for them, or even just formulate your answer to a question. This shows that you’re aware of their experience while also reassuring them that no technical glitches have occurred.

14) Control fidgeting and other nervous energy

We all have some little nervous tics or twitches or distracting habits — it’s normal. But in a video interview, we really have to make a concerted effort to be aware of them and avoid them as much as possible.
Record yourself multiple times to see and correct your fidgeting. And to correct your verbal non-words.

Thank you for watching this three video series about video interviewing. We addressed your pre-interview preparation, setting up your physical and virtual space, and controlling your presence on the computer screen.
These tips should help you improve your virtual performance.