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6 Ways To Crush The Competition During Your Next Video Interview

During my first industry job search, I was doing everything I could to prepare for in-person interviews.

I got together with friends and colleagues, asked them to act as the interviewer and give me the tough questions. I asked them to critique my body language, my speech, and even how I planned to dress.  

I really thought I was ready.

So, after my first successful phone screen, I was completely sidelined when they told me the next steps included a video interview.

A video interview? I wasn’t ready for this!

At first, I prepared for it as I would an in-person interview, but then I started hearing horror stories from my colleagues.

During video interviews, some had their computer crash while others felt so awkward on screen that they completely flubbed the interview.

It was then I realized that this needed a much different approach.

Other Cheeky Scientist members agree with this notion. One member recently shared their first video interview experience:

“For my first virtual interview, I prepared as I would any interview. I assumed the mechanics were all the same.

But I quickly learned that there were many factors that I failed to consider.

First thing that happened during my interview was my internet connection suddenly became unstable. I had to keep logging out and logging back in.

Eventually, I had to turn off my camera in order to continue the conversation. It was mortifying. Not only that, but it completely threw me off.

I didn’t answer interview questions as I had prepared. The technological problems had made me nervous, and it showed.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t make it to the next round of interviews.

Lesson learned. Next time I have a video interview, I’ll be sure to prepare in ways I hadn’t before.”

Why Your Video Interview Performance Matters So Much

It’s easy to assume that video interviews are a byproduct of the pandemic.

But the reality is, companies have been interviewing job candidates virtually for a long time.

The pandemic has only instigated a rise in their use.  

In a 2015 survey, 75% of companies reported using video interviews as part of their hiring process. Since the pandemic, this number has risen to 82%.

And of these companies, 93% expect to use virtual interviews in the future.

Virtual screening is also on the rise with 60% of recruiters reporting the use of video interviews in their recruiting efforts.

And when asked about the future of virtual screening methods, 81% of recruiters said they think virtual recruitment will continue even post-pandemic.

So, if you assume that video interviews are a transient trend not to be taken seriously, think again.  

Not only are they here to stay, but for many companies, they’re considered superior when it comes to recruiting top talent.   

At this point, the message should be clear: video interviews are common, and they shouldn’t be taken lightly.

And when it comes to video interviews (or any interview for that matter) preparation is key.

How To Dominate Your Next Video Interview (6 Keys)

Surprisingly, 43% of job candidates consider video interviews more stressful than in-person interviews. And PhDs are no exception.

That’s because there’s so much out of your control. What if the internet goes out? What if my computer glitches and I lose my audio?

Interviews are nerve-wrecking enough without the technological challenges.

You may feel like you’re not in control, but as I said before, the solution to many of these potential problems is preparation.

Today I’ll discuss the 6 ways to prepare for and conduct a winning video interview that will put the control back into your hands and ensure you get to the next stage of the hiring process.  

1. Eliminate, yet prepare, for distractions.   

During a video interview, the interviewers’ background may be busy and distracting.

It might take place in an open space or in a glass-walled conference room – you may see people walking around or even having conversations behind the interviewer.

To ensure nothing is a surprise, ask beforehand where your interview will take place.

Ask whether you’ll have individual interviews or a panel interview – or if everyone will be in the same space or on individual screens in separate locations.

The more information you have, the better. That way, even if the interview takes place in a distracting environment, you’ll at least know this and be mentally prepared.

As for your background, keep it as clean, neutral, and distraction-free as possible. Even having a classy painting on the wall behind you can be a distraction.

What if someone doesn’t like your taste in art? You don’t want them to remember you for what they deem poor interior design.

Choose a blank wall of neutral color in a well-lit room. Set up lighting that illuminates your face, particularly your eyes. Eye contact is one of the easiest ways to build rapport during a video interview.

Experiment with lighting options during the same time of day your interview will take place. Especially if you’re relying – at least in part – on natural light.

You don’t want the sun to unexpectedly bleach out your face mid-interview.

Overall, a background that isn’t distracting, exudes professionalism, and highlights you – and only you – is a great way to show interviewers that you’re serious about the job.

2. Check these two things to ensure a good first impression.

First impressions are everything.

And when it comes to video interviews, first impressions rely on factors that are not standard components of an in-person interview.

In person, you can make a good first impression through your physical presence – professional attire, positive body language, and a good handshake goes a long way.

But you can’t rely on these during your video interview – at least not fully.

Of course, one way to make a good first impression is to set up a distraction-free professional background. However, other factors – such as your audio and video – also play a role.

Know that many companies will conduct video interviews in a panel format.

For many companies, it’s preferred – they want employees from all departments to meet you without taking up too much company time.

In this format, panelists are all present in the same room, and oftentimes, your video feed is blown up on a large screen in the front of the room.

This means any distraction you have in the background will appear larger than life. Your micro-expressions and eye movement will also be exaggerated, and your audio may be louder than you think.

Be prepared for this.

You may have little control over the format of the interview, but what you do have control over is you and your environment. Make sure both remain professional and minimally distracting.

Set up a mock interview over video with a friend or colleague. Ask them if they can hear and see you clearly.

If they can’t, consider other audio and/or video options. External sources are often higher quality than those included in a standard computer setup.

If you do go with an external audio/video source, choose direct plugin options. You don’t want your Bluetooth to suddenly disconnect during your interview.

This may seem like a lot of work just to set up for an interview.

However, ensuring beforehand that your video and audio feed are high quality will allow you to focus on what matters most during your interview – the interviewers and their questions.

3. Do your due diligence.

As with any kind of interview, you should go into your video interview knowing about the company and the people that are involved in your interview process.

You can glean a lot about a company just from a basic online search.

Study the company website; peruse newsfeeds for any recent mergers or acquisitions; identify recent milestones and achievements. Really understand what the company stands for – their goals and values.  

Before an interview, many companies will provide you with an itinerary, or at the very least, a list of people that you will be interviewing with.

If this isn’t provided, then don’t hesitate to ask your company contact for this information.  

Once again, put those research skills to use. Find your interviewers on LinkedIn – write down their job title, background, and/or professional interests.

This information will not only provide you with talking points during the interview, but it’ll also help you better understand what role they play in the company.

What department a person reports to and what job title they currently have will dictate what kinds of questions they’ll ask during an interview.

So, underneath each person’s name, jot down a few questions you would anticipate them to ask. This reduces the chance of getting blind-sided.

4. Create an engaging conversation.

Video interviews are different from in-person interviews in a variety of ways. But there are also many similarities.

Including the requirements.

For one, you should always dress professionally – from head to toe. Resist the urge to play professional from the waist up while sporting pajama pants on the bottom.

You never know when you’ll have to shift your camera angle or get up to get something mid-interview.

Also make sure to address everyone in the room just as you would in person.

If people are trickling into the room, address each person individually. After they’ve introduced themselves, respond with a smile and a warm response – like, “nice to meet you”.

And always make eye contact with the person you’re speaking to.

You may not think your eye movements are noticeable, but remember, your face may be projected onto a big screen – even the slightest shift in focus is discernable.  

Similarly, when providing answers to their questions, speak to the whole room just as you would your audience during a presentation.  

Many PhDs pick a person and remain hyper focused on them throughout the interview – perhaps it’s the most outgoing person in the room, or the one that’s smiling the most and eagerly nodding.

Don’t do this.

For one, it’s super creepy. And secondly, every person in the room is part of the hiring decision – that means you need a unanimous “yes” to get the job.  

Instead, be vigilant about pausing on each face when answering a question. If your internet speed will allow it, you can also make hand gestures towards each person as you speak.  

Then, as you being to wrap up your answer, return your focus to the person that asked the question.

The bottom line is, you must treat a video interview just as seriously as you would an in-person interview.

That means dress like a professional, act like a professional, and speak like a professional.

5. Get over your fear of notetaking.

Before the interview really gets into the weeds, ask the interviewers if they’re comfortable with you taking notes.

Most people are fine with it. In fact, many expect you to take notes during a video interview.

Taking notes will help you in a number of ways.

For one, it shows them that you’re an engaged professional. Secondly, it allows you to keep track of who is present. And lastly, it helps you keep pertinent information on hand.

You may need this information later on in the interview – or even in subsequent interviews.

Your first note should include each panelist’s name along with their location in the room. Create a rough map to remind you who is sitting where.

Also, jot down each interview question asked and your response in short form. A panelist may refer to a question that was asked by someone else earlier in the interview.

You want to ensure your answers remain consistent.

Like many PhDs, you may find this level of multi-tasking extremely challenging.

If you think you’re going to feel awkward, lose your concentration, or compromise your professionalism while taking notes, include notetaking in your mock video interviews.

As always, practice makes perfect.

Overall, you may think you have a steel trap for a mind – and perhaps under normal circumstances, you do. After all, you’re a PhD. But after a half-dozen tricky interview questions, your mind may draw a blank.

Don’t leave anything to chance.  

6. Leave the interview with a resounding “yes” in your pocket.

If the start of the interview is your chance to make a good first impression, and the middle of the interview is your time to build a rapport, then the end of the interview is your opportunity to leave a lasting impression.

You want to end on a positive note.  

So, as the interview questions dwindle, provide the panelists an opportunity to ask any remaining questions or express potential doubts.

You can ask, “Is there any additional information you would like to hear from me today?”. After asking, allow your eyes to scan the room as you await a response.

Silence may arise at this point in the interview. In fact, short silences are a common tactic used by interviewers – they want to see if you’ll continue rambling.

So, don’t let it derail you. Keep silent and allow them to answer.

Pauses are actually a good thing – they allow people to think. They also ensure that neither party is speaking over the other.

This is particularly important during a video interview where video and audio lag tend to occur.

Another good question is, “Do you have any doubts you would like me to address before we move to onto the next phase of the interview process?”.

This will allow them to express their doubts and provide you with an opportunity to address them.

This is the time to flip their doubt on its head – prove that despite, or maybe even because of, a particular shortcoming, you bring value to the company.  

Asking this rather blunt question also allows panelists to reflect on the interview as a whole.

Oftentimes, rather than bringing up doubts, this question can solidify the lack of doubts in their mind. In either case, it’s sure to make an impression.

It shows that you’re willing to address shortcomings and do so in a professional manner.

Concluding Remarks

Making a good first impression during your video interview is the only way to move to the next phase of interviews. To succeed, you must prepare. Video interviews require more technical preparation. Make sure your environment is professional and ensure your audio and video are working. You don’t want technology to be the reason you fail an interview. Also realize that many video interviews are in panel format. That means you need to engage with everyone that is present. Make eye contact with each individual while answering questions. And lastly, take notes and leave the interview on a positive note. Overall, a good video interview requires preparation, knowledge of the circumstance, and a professional attitude. Follow these guidelines and you’re sure to impress your next panel of interviewers, landing you a spot on any company’s candidate roster.

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

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Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by millions of PhDs and other professionals in hundreds of different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Hankel has published 3X bestselling books and his latest book, The Power of a PhD, debuted on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. His methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

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