As the world of work becomes evermore virtual, how can you make sure you come across as your best self over a video call job interview? An employment coach offers her advice.
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Interviewing for a job is a nerve-wracking task at the best of times. But as companies change the way they recruit following the Covid-19 pandemic, we must face up to the confusing tech dynamic that is the video call job interview.
Despite being a definite part of the reality of applying for jobs in 2021, video job interviews may make you feel out of sorts or less engaged with the company you’re hoping to impress because you’re not interviewing in person.
But Arit Eminue, a career development coach specialising in employment and entrepreneurship for women, suggests that there are many ways to use this technological pivot to your advantage, and she has helped scores of women do just this.
Video call job interviews are not only more cost-effective but, Arit explains, they can also make great jobs more accessible to people all across the country. “Job seekers are no longer necessarily restricted by locale,” she says. It also fosters diversity because it “allows those with disabilities or caring responsibilities to engage in the interview process in a way that supports them.”
But this doesn’t mean that this job interview format is without its challenges. From what to wear to how to deal with awkward silences, here is Arit’s professional guidance on making the video job interview experience your own, and blowing your prospective employer away.
Video call a friend first, to feel out any issues ahead of time
“I always recommend doing a run through beforehand with a friend – get them to play the role of the interviewer,” Arit says.
She also recommends recording the session, so that you can not only test your tech out for the real thing, but you’ll also be able to playback and see if you’re talking too fast, coming across too scripted and if your background is job interview appropriate.
If the angle of your camera is slightly awkward, it could be “offputting” for the interviewer, according to Arit. Also, you need to make sure any hand gestures you make to accompany your points are visible – you don’t want to sell yourself short by not being able to express body language.
Dress for the occasion
The act of doing a job interview from your home – instead of a nondescript office – might tempt you into leaning into habits like dressing for comfort. Arit advises against this.
“Sometimes if you wear something that’s overly informal, psychologically, you sit into that energy,” she advises. And for a job interview, that isn’t necessarily the mental space you want to step into.
“You don’t have to be suited and booted,” she insists. “But make sure that you’re smartly dressed. If you’re wearing your joggers on the bottom, that’s fine – just bear in mind that if something happens, like if you need to get up, then turn off your camera!”
If you’re not sure what you should be wearing, as you may not have visited your prospective employer’s office in real life at this point, Arit suggests looking up the company’s About Us page online and emulating what employees are wearing in website images.
Breathe through the preparation process
Arit recommends taking an hour to 45 minutes before your interview begins to prepare yourself mentally. The nerves from virtually transporting from the comfort of your home to a job interview mentality might trigger your body’s “fight or flight” mode, so she advises doing some “box breathing” exercises to prevent this, thus calming your lymphatic system.
How to try box breathing
- Exhale to a count of four
- Hold your lungs empty, counting to four while doing so
- Inhale to a count of four
- Hold the air you’ve breathed in your lungs for four
This forms a square – or box – of breathing. You should find a calming, quiet space in your house to do this.
Remember that your prospective employer has as much to prove to you as you do to them
Arit suggests thinking of the situation as “due diligence” on both sides, from the comfort of your own home, with your prospective employer having as many boxes to tick in your mind as you do in theirs. If they don’t, there’s a lot less in-real-life awkwardness to tackle, and you can make these decisions in a safe physical environment, separate from the offices of your prospective employer.
It also gives you access to the company from an early stage. “Video interviews are as much about you doing your [early] due diligence, as it is about a company doing theirs,” Arit says. “If you meet your potential line manager in that early-stage interview, and you think ‘actually, this is not the right role for me,’ then you don’t need to be doing the face-to-face interview later on down the line. It gives you choices.”
To that end, Arit insists that it’s important to view your contribution to any interview after you’ve been invited, instead of viewing it as an interrogation and a sole demand for you to prove your worth.
“When you see yourself as a solution, you see yourself as bringing something to the table, right?” she says. “They’ve invited you – you didn’t crash the party.”
Ensure that you “hold space”
“Zoom and other virtual platforms magnify some of the bad habits we picked up when we saw each other face to face – like regularly interrupting one another. When you’re in a virtual environment that is highlighted even more,” Arit says.
When it comes to fielding those awkward video call conversation dynamics on a job interview – whether it’s accidentally talking over someone or finding yourself in a digitally enhanced awkward silence – Arit draws on a coaching term called “holding space”.
Essentially, this term refers to maintaining silence for longer than might seem natural in the moment to ensure the conversation flows and you come up with your best possible responses.
“You can ‘hold space’ for two reasons that work to your benefit in a video interview setting – when you’re allowing a speaker space to ask a question, and then to give yourself space to answer a question,” she says.
“It’s an opportunity to make sure that you’ve understood – don’t be afraid if you need to take a beat to answer a question. Take a beat – we get nervous in silence, but there’s nothing wrong with it.”
Arit refers to the way we view conversations as “like a game a tennis”, one of back and forth. But with the added consideration of Zoom, it’s even more important to “hold space” when you are asked questions and when you are thinking about your answers.
Use your camera to work the right angles
Arit says that you should be going for “optimal eye contact” during your interview, bearing in mind where the camera is. “When you talk to people, it can look like they’re looking over your shoulder, and this can feel like you’re not connected with that person.”
Paying close attention to how you position your camera and whether you’re going to find your own face distracting on the screen are things to bear in mind beforehand too. Arit recommends looking into the camera as much as possible, even positioning the interviewers face as close to the camera as possible.
“Don’t sit too close to the camera,” she adds, “but also don’t be afraid to smile – try to feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible.”
Use your home court advantage
Use the fact that you’re in your own space to your advantage, if you can. Arit recommends having as many prompts or helpful devices that’ll get you through the interview on screen with you.
“The thing about video job interviews is that you can have all your bits and pieces on the screen,” she says. “You can have your key notes on the screen as you’re going through your interview.”
Prepare any notes or talking points that may elude you during the mental blur of the interview, so that you can make a quick side-eye glance to remind yourself. As long as you’re subtle, they’ll never know.
Get clear on the structure of the video interview
Due to the fact that there’s no slow rise out of your chair and a hand shake at the end of proceedings while over Zoom, Arit says it’s important to know before you go in how the process of the job interview is going to go over video.
This is so that you know when to flag your questions, when to start thinking about your sign-off smile or comments, and when to take a quick mental breather between stages, if possible.
Arit advises asking as early on in the process for a run-down of the interview structure, and to make clear when would be best to ask questions. “Establishing the rules of engagement as early as possible is great for both parties,” she says.
5 useful things to do before your video interview
- Organise a practice call with your friend
- Find an outfit that will put you into the right mental space
- Practice breathing exercises before the interview starts
- Set your camera up so you can make good eye contact during the interview
- Prepare notes and talking points on your screen
Adjusting your skillset to a video call job interview format can seem daunting, but Arit is adamant that these skills will stand the test of time and help you plan your professional future. Head to her website for more information on how to smash your professional goals, and check out more of Stylist’s career advice tips.
Arit Eminue, leadership and careers coach and trainer
Arit is a multi-award-winning entrepreneur, career development and leadership coach. She founded and runs DiVA, an award-winning recruitment and training organisation specialising in creative, business, and digital apprenticeships.