Video interview 101 in the year 2021 – Execs take note!

I thought I was a pretty skilled video interviewer. I mean, I’ve been doing this for more than a year now, day in and day out, and I can’t recall any particular disasters to date. I certainly believed that my video interview chops were right up there, no doubts about it. The occasional ‘you’re on mute’ or other tech fail happened of course, but on the whole, I would have given myself more than a passing grade on this particular KPI… Until I attended a webinar on the topic, delivered by the outstanding duo from Eloqui – Deborah Shames and David Booth. Post webinar, I realised that I have a fair amount of brushing up and polishing off to do in order to get top marks.

Considering that we’re likely to be in some kind of ongoing ‘hybrid’ mode at least for the medium term, with some of the initial phases of the interview process likely to be conducted virtually in any event, even if we do go back to normal normal at some stage, these tips and techniques should be mastered – whether you’re the interviewer or candidate.

Here are the key take-outs that resonated with me, and which I believe can take all of our interviewing skills to the next level:

  1. Camera and lighting

There is nothing more annoying than looking at someone’s throat or the top of their head because the camera on the device is placed at a poor angle. Aesthetic irritation aside, we need to maximise all of the opportunities for connection on a video call (body language counts, even virtually!) and not being able to look someone in the eye because your camera is weirdly positioned is a missed opportunity. Figure out a way to level your camera angle.

And then – lighting. I’ve been a big culprit of not having decent lighting on my desk, and learned the following really great tips:

  • Get a decent ring light, turn it to amber, and place it at the appropriate angle to light your face well.
  • Make sure there’s no backlight streaming in from a window or other light source, which will relegate your face to the shadows.
  1. Minimize distractions, optimize connection

If at all possible, do NOT use virtual backgrounds – I think by now we all know that they make us ‘disappear’ from time to time, and for the most part are somewhat distracting to the viewer. (Not to mention – the novelty has worn off now…).

Of course, if the only private space to sit is in front of the washing machine, a virtual background may be a better option, but then choose the least distracting option possible. Do NOT go for the tropical beach with the palm fronds blowing in the wind!

And then, the golden tip – wear blue. I was reminded of the data that shows how blue conveys trust, confidence and calm, and is widely regarded as a good color for all types of important meetings, including interviews. I have just gone blue-clothes shopping, as my entire Covid wardrobe seems to consist of black.

  1. Brevity and energy levels

A key interview tip with ALL interviews is to stay succinct and not indulge in long monologues. This point is even more critical for video interviews. It’s so easy for your counterpart to get distracted with whatever is on their desk, and the last thing you want is to lose connection due to waffling or talking too much. If you have a tendency to long-windedness, then please practise brevity. (Note to self).

And then ‘bring it’. Whether you’re the interviewer or candidate, you’re going to need to bring just a little bit extra to convey your passion, enthusiasm and energy levels. Which we all know, due to the ‘Zoom fatigue’ that we feel at the end of each day.

But don’t overdo it. The reminder by the Eloqui partners, and one which needs equal attention is not to blast the person on the other side of the screen with hyper or frenetic energy. It’s off-putting and exhausting, and will not leave a favorable impression.

  1. Ask for feedback

This last little nugget was profound. I realised that I have not ever asked any of my team mates or colleagues for feedback on any of the above. What’s my lighting like, how do I come across, what’s distracting, how could I connect better, etc etc…

So, on your very next virtual meeting, make a point of asking for feedback – it could vastly improve and impact your performance and the outcomes of every future meeting!

Author Info: Debbie Goodman

Debbie is Group CEO of Jack Hammer, a global group of executive search, talent advisory and leadership coaching companies. For more than 20 years she has partnered with some of the world’s most progressive companies, NPOs and VC-backed disruptors, in the USA and Africa, to help them find great leaders who drive growth and impact.

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