Be prepared - you could encounter the job interview situation known as a a Video Interview or Video Conferencing Interview.
When it comes to the interview, nothing beats a live, face-to-face interview.
However, a videoconference is considered the next best thing by many employers.
Video interviews are becoming increasingly popular, particularly if you are not in the same geography as the employer as when the job is "remote."
Of course, because technology is involved, they are often not as easy or simple as we expect.
What Is a Video or Video Conferencing Interview?
The videoconference interview is exactly what it sounds like: an interview performed long distance by videoconferencing.
While not necessarily a new function in interviews, this is worth considering as it dramatically cuts travel costs of initial interviews while adding the perks of seeing you in an interview, an improvement over a phone interview.
There are two basic approaches:
1. Communicating using your own technology such as a video camera and microphone on your computer, laptop, or smart phone, OR
2. Having to physically go to a facility where the company has videoconferencing facilities established.
Most likely, you will be communicating using your own technology rather than going to a videoconference facility.
Questions to Ask Before the Interview
When the interview is being scheduled, you need to ask questions so you can be well-prepared to succeed.
In addition to the date and time, you also need the following very important information:
Which technology do they plan to use?
Many different options exist, and you need to know which one is being used so you can be ready when the interview starts. The options include Skype, Apple's FaceTime, Google's Hangouts, HireVue, SparkHire, etc.
Who will be interviewing you?
Ask for the names and job titles of the people who will be -- or who might be (if they aren't sure) -- interviwing you. This allows you do address them correctly and also to do your pre-interview research to learn as much as you can about them.
When asked to participate in a videoconferencing interview, be ready in advance --
If you are connecting from home be sure to download any necessary software, and test your connection and your comfort with communicating by web camera.
Typically, Skype is used for these interviews, but Google Hangouts or a proprietary method may be used instead. (If you are interviewing with Apple, expect to use Apple's FaceTime service.)
When the interview is scheduled, ask what method is being used (Skype, etc.) so you can set up an account, test your equipment, and be well-prepared.
At a videoconference facility:
If you need to go to a facility, be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early (or the time designated by the interviewer) for orientation to the equipment and process.
Do NOT do this interview from your workplace if you currently have a job. That can be a quick way to lose your job and also more likely to have interruptions ruining the interview.
What to Wear
What you wear is important to avoid distractions:
Avoid large plaids and prints which may be overemphasized on the screen.
Consider a pastel color rather than white, because white may glare.
When wearing white, add a dark jacket to cut down on glare.
Watch out for red as it may "bleed" and should be avoided if possible.
Cut out flashy jewelry that will catch the light.
Of course, colors like red can be too powerful for many interviews and flashy jewelry and big prints detract from you and what you have to say, so they are never a best first choice for any interview!
Try to avoid all-light or all-dark clothing as a camera's automatic brightness control can be tricked by these. If too much light-colored clothing is worn, the camera will automatically darken the picture, which can make your face appear shadowed.
Set-Up at Home
For the best results, pay attention to the background behind you and to the lighting in front of you.
Have an appropriate account ready. If necessary, set up an account with the video conference provider, if you don't already have one, and make sure it works before the day of the interview, if possible.
Test your equipment, particularly the camera and microphone being used, well before the interview is scheduled to happen so you can make any necessary adjustments in advance.
Put the computer on a solid surface like a table or desk, not your lap, so that you can move easily without making the image the interview sees jiggle wildly.
Have lighting in front of you, preferably somewhat above you (most of us look better that way). Or, open the curtains and shades to let the outdoor light in so that the light shines on your face, not on the back of your head.
Sit in front of a blank wall (if possible) so that the background behind you isn't cluttered or distracting.
Position the camera close enough to you so that things beside you aren't visible. A picture or window behind you might be OK, if the lights behind the camera don't bounce off glass back into the camera. If you don't have a blank wall, stretch a plain blanket or sheet behind you.
If you normally wear make-up, wear a bit more than usual.
Have the documents in front of you -- the job description, the resume and/or application you submitted, the names and job titles of the people interviewing you (plus any notes you have about them), examples of your work (with URLs, if appropriate), and anything else that you may need during the interview.
The best thing to do is to do some test runs, particularly if you are at home for the interview.
During the Interview...
Final tips to consider, whether you are on your web camera or at a facility:
The camera is your "eye contact" with the interviewer(s). Look directly at the camera not at your computer screen when you are answering the question. Try to mentally imagine the interviewer is behind the camera lens.
Be aware of the transmission delay (about a half second). Pause for the interviewer to comment.
Be yourself. You should speak naturally, and think of the interviewer(s) as sitting across the table from you.
Keep the microphone muted if no one is speaking. Try not to shuffle papers, drum fingers, or make unnecessary noise distractions near the microphone as any of these issues may cause the camera to shift to the site of the noise and they will co.
Avoid too much body motion as this may create blurry or jumpy images at the receiving end.
Have family members and friends out of the house during the time the appointment is scheduled so you have no distractions. This can go for barking dogs and nosy cats as well.
Turn off your cellphones and any other regular phone ringers to avoid other noisy interruptions.
Dress professionally from head to toe. In other words, don’t think that just because you are sitting at your desk and can only be seen from the chest up that it is OK to have on shorts or worse, just your underwear. It has happened, and it can be very embarrassing – you jump up to grab something forgetting you are on web cam... Don’t let this happen to you!
Keep your resume and a copy of the job description, plus any other documents you may need, spread out in front of you for easy reference.
Questions to Ask at the End of the Interview
Just as for a "real" interview, you need to collect important information at the end of the interview so that you know what you may expect and so you can stay in touch appropriately.
If you don't already know, ask for the name, job title, and email address of everyone who interviewed you. You need the email addresses so you can send your thank you notes (below).
Be sure you have the correct spelling of names and email addresses. Cindy Smith could be Cindi Smyth or some other unique spelling. Don't be afraid to confirm the spelling if you aren't sure.
Ask about the next steps in their hiring process. Will another interview be scheduled? When will you know about the next interview, if there is one?
Ask who is the person who will act as your main contact now. This is the person you will stay in touch with as the rest of the hiring process progresses (or not). Again, be sure to have the correct spelling of their name. Also ask for the preferred contact method, phone or email, and the appropriate phone number or email address.
These questions are very easy to forget to ask, and then you are unable to continue the rest of the process smoothly (and professionally).
Promptly Send Your Interview Thank You Note(s)
Immediately after the interview, send your thank you email to each person. Don't send the same email to everyone. Make each message unique and perfect (no typos or misspellings!) because they will very likely be shared as the hiring process continues.
Video-based interviews can pop up for candidates at all levels, but are more expected for mid-level professional positions, technical positions, and telecommuting jobs. If one comes up for you, just follow the easy strategies above and you will be a natural.
Laura DeCarlo is recognized as the career industry’s ‘career hero’ making a difference to both job seekers and career professionals as the founder of Career Directors International. She possesses 11 top-level certifications in resume writing, career coaching, and career management; 7 first place resume and job placement awards; and has written three books on interviewing and job search including Interview Pocket RX, Interviewing: The Gold Standard, Resumes for Dummies,and Job Search Bloopers. Follow Laura on Twitter at @careerhero.