Wondering how to make yourself stand out in a video job interview? We asked the experts to share their top tips, from paying attention to your voice to making sure you end on a high.
While the basics of applying for a new job – such as crafting the perfect CV or writing a standout cover letter – remain the same, some aspects of the job-hunting process have had to adapt to the ‘new normal’.
One of the most prominent changes that has come about due to the pandemic has been the shift towards video interviews, as face-to-face meetings became impossible to facilitate. And while skipping out on a face-to-face interview may be preferable for some, the complexities of communicating on a virtual platform can be pretty anxiety-inducing for others.
With this being said, there are things you can do to boost your virtual interviewing skills if you’re feeling worried about communicating over video call. Preparation is key, of course (you can check out our guide to preparing for a virtual interview here), but you should also keep a number of things in mind during the interview to ensure you’re getting your points across in an effective and engaging way.
So what kind of things should you keep in mind to make sure you nail your next video interview? We asked Helen Tupper, co-founder of Amazing If and author of The Squiggly Career, and Russell Amerasekera, a careers and presentation expert and life coach, to give us their top tips for nailing a virtual job interview. Here’s what they had to say.
Eye contact is key
Just because you’re not talking to someone face-to-face in a physical sense, maintaining eye contact is still very important.
“Eye contact is really, really important,” Tupper explains. “Look at the camera as much as possible – wherever the camera is on your computer, that is the person you should be talking to, not necessarily the picture on screen.
“What can sometimes happen is people get really drawn in to looking at themselves when they’re talking – and that means their eyes are slightly lower – or they have the image of the person (or people) they’re talking to on the bottom right of their screen so that’s where their eyes go. But you’ve got to think about what the other person is seeing, and if you’re not looking at the camera, they’re not able to connect with you. It does feel slightly weird – it’s false eye contact in some ways.”
Amerasekera agrees: “Eyes are absolutely crucial in virtual interviews because they are your main communications tool. You want to be looking at the camera – very often you see people looking down, or they’re looking off to the side, and that’s disastrous when you’re doing an interview because people need to see your eyes; they’re trying to read whether you have knowledge, conviction, whether they’re believing you and whether they’re buying into you.”
Allow for moments of pause
Interrupting someone when they’re mid-sentence is even more difficult on a virtual platform, so you want to make sure you’re giving the interviewer plenty of opportunities to respond to something you said or ask a follow-up question.
“Recognise that you need to pause and listen more when you’re using a virtual medium,” Amerasekera recommends. “Listening is particularly important. Give the interviewer time to ask a question and pause before you answer – you don’t always need to fill the space.”
“Picking up a glass of water is very useful because it just gives you time to pause and think. It looks very natural when you’re doing it. Obviously you don’t want to be gulping down water every five seconds, but if you just take the occasional sip it just gives you something else to do with your hands and it creates a point of relaxation and interest because this is what we would do with normal life.”
Tupper also recommends taking time to listen and pausing regularly throughout your answers – in fact, she says you should expect to “say less than you would do if you were face to face with somebody”.
“If I’m in a room with somebody there’s more parasympathetic cues, so basically I can read you more easily – I can read your body language and your eye contact, and I can tell when you’re going to interrupt me, and I can respond more quickly. In virtual communication we have a delay going on so you need to make some space for those sorts of cues and reactions to appear.”
Tupper continues: “Someone’s unlikely to interrupt me if I’m talking so I need to create that space. So I would say: say a bit less, say it a bit slower and build in some pauses. Then you create the space for those questions and those responses, and you gain a moment to read their body language and the way they’re responding to you.”
Pay attention to your voice
As well as making sure you’re not talking for extended periods of time, for Amerasekera, paying attention to the volume and tone of your voice is also an incredibly important part of nailing a virtual interview.
“When we’re sitting at home, often our voices come across too quietly,” he points out. “They’re too dialled down. And this is particularly the case for women – women tend to do this more habitually – so you want to project your voice typically at about 20-30% louder than you would normally speak. This seems really strange but projection is really important because it means that you can be more authoritative and more purposeful in the way in which you get your point across. People aren’t used to doing this, but it’s a key part of selling yourself.”
Amerasekera adds: “It’s also very important to use tone of voice to create variance because when we’re working with such limited ability for people to see us and engage with us, the voice becomes disproportionately important. So just varying the tone of voice – sometimes softer, sometimes a little bit more empathetic as well as strong and decisive – that creates interest. You can practice this with a partner or a member of the family.”
Have some notes in front of you
The upside of doing an interview from home means you can tailor your environment to help you feel more relaxed – and that includes having notes on your desk to remind you of some key points you want to cover.
“A big advantage of a virtual interview is you can use notes in a way that you might not feel like you can when you’re in the room with somebody,” Tupper says. “So you could have some bullet points attached to your laptop screen that the other person can’t see that might help you to remember ‘OK, what’s one thing I want them to think about me when I’ve finished this’.
“You could also have a motivational quote sat next to your laptop which’ll help you to feel really confident.”
Make sure to finish on a high
Making the most of those last moments of an interview is more important than you might think – especially if you want to leave a last impressioning on the interviewer. So how can we make sure the interview ends in a positive way?
“Obviously thank the interviewer, express your interest and make sure you’ve asked some really curious questions,” Tupper says. “The minor tactical thing I would say is don’t end too early – don’t press end meeting before you’ve said goodbye. I would always say ‘before I leave, have you got any other questions you’d like to ask me’ and if they say no, say ‘okay, I’m going to leave now and I look forward to hearing from you’.
“I would end it quite tightly – when you leave an interview and it’s in a room someone will probably walk you out of that room, and they’d say goodbye and you’d have a softer exit. This is quite a final exit – you’re going to basically hang up. So I would say just close it very neatly and confidently.
“Just make sure you know where the end meeting button is – I join loads of meetings where you see people frantically trying to find the end meeting button, and that’s not the impression you want to give – you want the final impression you give to be that you’re confident, you’re calm, you’re passionate and you’re interested.”
On top of making sure to end the interview in a prompt and confident way, Amerasekera also recommends using those last moments to show off your relaxed, sociable side.
“It’s very important to make the end social,” he says. “If you think about what happens in normal interviews, we normally have a minute, sometimes even more, where we socially connect – we shake someone’s hand, for example, or we talk about the weather – we find something polite to make that social connection. So it’s very important to do the same thing in a video interview, as it gives that person a sense of connection.
“A good way of doing this is to find something personal to say to connect with the other person, so you could ask them a question, or you could say something just very human and empathetic like ‘I hope your lockdown period hasn’t been too challenging’ or ‘I hope you have had time with your family’ or ‘how have you found working from home?’ – just something that gives you a social connection.”