Video Interviews

By Melanie Wanzek CTW Features

Robin Spoehr was thrilled to land an interview for a research technician position at Upstate Medical University in New York state, but she had a problem: She lived in Minnesota.

“I was unable to afford a trip to Boston, where the interviewing executive was based, or Syracuse, where the lab was,” she said. But the executive was amenable to doing a video chat.

Spoehr practiced with her webcam, testing the sound levels, lighting, camera angles and what clothing to wear. She even had a friend conduct a mock interview with her using Skype, the software application that allows users to make free phone calls using the Internet. Following the interview, Spoehr landed the position and moved to New York soon after.

Less personal than an on-site interview yet more interactive than the phone, video interviews offer employers a long-distance interview option and offer job-seekers a convenient alternative to expensive travel.

Video interviewing is an experience all job-seekers should get used to, says Wade Burgess, director of sales at the social networking Web site LinkedIn. Burgess has been conducting video interviews for about three years and says the technology reduces cost, increases efficiency and will only continue grow as a hiring tool.

To prepare, get to know your webcam. Practice looking the camera “in the eye,” just as you would with a person, and test all aspects of the experience – the sound, lighting, background and your clothing – to make sure they work on camera and portray the right image. In addition, try a mock video interview with a friend to get used to the experience.

Video interviewing can feel awkward at first, but basic interviewing skills still apply. Just as in-person, the interview can amplify qualities about you, such as your ability to adapt and act professionally in a strange environment, or your confidence in your communication abilities.

Many potential video mishaps can be avoided by preparing yourself and your environment. Burgess says he has faced more than one interesting scenario via video, from a man who looked professional until he stood up and was wearing Bermuda shorts, to a college student who tried to text during the interview.

“One poor guy was doing a great job, then his daughter walked in without knocking and exclaimed, ‘Daddy, Joey’s peeing in the bushes again!’” he said. “I just lost it.”

Video Chat

Unless you’re aiming for the grand prize on “America’s Funniest Videos,” plan on careful preparation and several trial runs before clicking on the webcam for a video interview.

 Test the sound, lighting and the clothes you plan to wear.

 Examine the scenery behind you to make sure it isn’t distracting or inappropriate.

 Practice video chatting with a friend.

 Be sure to focus on the camera, not the screen.

 Check to make sure you and the interviewer use compatible versions of the video chat program.