As more and more companies are starting to use video interviewing technology to streamline their hiring process, knowing how to perform on camera is becoming an indispensable skill for most job seekers. The experience can be intimidating if you’ve never done one before, but it doesn’t have to cost you your dream job.

At CVirtual, we evaluate video interviews every day, and today we’re sharing with you what we look for in a successful screening.

  1. Know the Platform.There are a number of different video interviewing technologies available, so knowing the process for your platform becomes very important. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you begin your interview. Read your instructions fully, browse around the website where you will do the interview, and make sure you are familiar with the process. Will you be able to re-record your responses if you’re not happy with your first take? If so, how many times? Do you have to respond as soon as you get the question, or can you take a few minutes to prepare an answer? Is there a time limit for responses? All of these are critical questions, so make sure you know the answers before you get started. It shouldn’t be guesswork at go-time. If you don’t understand how the platform works, ask questions until you do.
  2. Test your Systems.Make sure everything is working smoothly from your end. Take a few videos of yourself speaking. Check that your webcam is working and not obstructed, that your audio is coming through clearly, and that nothing technical is going to come up to interrupt the process. Again, remember, this is your first introduction to an employer, so the technical aspect of your interview, which you have complete control over, should be flawless. Verify your network connection. Don’t use WiFi if you can use a local area netowork (LAN). If you will be recording from a laptop, make sure it is plugged in and charging rather than relying on battery power, even if you know you have enough charge to last through the interview. Make sure that all other programs are closed down on your computer and that your computer is up to date; the last thing you need is to be in the middle of your interview and have your computer tell you it is shutting down up install updates. The more you can have prepared in advance, the more confident you will be during your interview.

    Do not plan to record your responses using a mobile device. Your camera should be stationary, not hand-held, so the picture you create is clear and steady without any Blair Witch Project-style shaking or shots of the ceiling or floor as you move around and adjust your angle.

  3. Tweak your Environment.Your next step will be deciding where you will do your interview. Remember, your interviewer is going to see the room around you, so you want to make sure that anything they see will reflect well on you. Kill the clutter, especially anything unprofessional or embarrassing. You do not want your hiring manager to see piles of dirty laundry, rows of liquor bottles, or your My Little Pony collection.

    A plain wall is great because it gives the eye a place to rest and focuses the interviewer’s attention back on you. Bookshelves are also generally fine, as is any tasteful artwork that might already be on your walls. Avoid windows in the background as they will put you in silhouette. The key point is to be aware. Anything visible in the recording will reflect back on you, so make it good. Set the stage for the image you want to project.

    When you set up your camera, make sure that you are far enough away from the camera that the angle is wide enough to include your hands resting on the desk in front of you and that there is not a lot of additional space above your head. From the top of your head down to your hands should take up just about the entire screen. At this point, lighting is very critical. A couple of floor lamps behind your webcam (but be careful of shadows) should help you to lighten up your image. All in all, most people can spend about five minutes preparing their environment and can completely change the look of their video interview.

  4. Avoid Distractions.Now that you’ve pinpointed where you will record your interview, close the door to that room, and make sure that all children and pets are on the other side of it. If you have small children, make sure that someone other than you is responsible for watching them at this time. You wouldn’t take your kids to an in-person interview, and they shouldn’t appear in this one either. Just because you’re interviewing in your own home doesn’t make it any less professional.

    The same goes for pets. You may have the best-behaved pets in the world, but still you know that as soon as you hit ‘record’ a car alarm will go off down the street and set your dog to barking, or your cat will decide to come take a nap on your keyboard. Don’t take a chance on these sorts of distractions. It isn’t worth it.

    If you live with other adults or older children, make sure that everyone who might possibly be at home during your interview knows not to disturb you during that time. Tape a sign on the door if you have to, as a reminder. Do whatever is necessaryto ensure that you are undisturbed for the time it will take to complete your interview. Make sure to allow plenty of time.

    Also be sure to turn off your cell phone. I’ve actually seen people texting during an video interview, and it is so unprofessional. Even if you silence the phone the microphone may pick up the sound of it vibrating, or you may be distracted by it. Believe me, anyone watching your responses will know if you keep glancing down at your phone to see who is calling you.

  5. Do a Screen Test.You’ve already tested your equipment, now it’s time to test yourself. Consider doing a full dress rehearsal. Check your wardrobe choices to see how they look on camera. You might be surprised—a blue shirt might blend in too much to your blue walls and make you look like a floating head, for instance. It ought to (but often doesn’t) go without saying that you should dress for a video interview just like you would for an in-person interview. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can stay in your pajamas, at least not if you are actually interested in getting the job. Just make sure everything is clean and professional so the interviewer can focus on you, and not your fashion choices.

    Check that your camera angles are as flattering as possible. This is your chance to adjust anything that doesn’t show you at your best. You may need to raise your monitor to change the recording angle, for instance, or adjust how far from the camera you sit. Also, remember to make eye contact. You won’t be seeing your interviewer’s face, but training yourself to look directly into your webcam (this may take practice) but is one of the most critical things that can make or break a video interview. You must look at the camera. Even if the platform that you’re using gives a terrific image of you speaking, if you look at yourself rather than at the camera it’s like you’re looking at yourself rather than your employer. Eye contact is one of the most deeply felt and powerful facets of human interaction, and your interviewer will notice if it’s missing. And don’t forget to smile. Start and end every video response with a smile.

  6. Do your Homework.As with any interview, one of the most crucial keys to a successful video interview is knowing as much as possible about the company you are interviewing for before you hit ‘record’. What is the company culture like? What exactly is the position you are interviewing for? What key traits are they looking for in a successful candidate? What in your background will make you stand out as being able those needs better than anyone else? If you can’t answer those questions, then you’re not ready.

    A lot of what you need can be found in the job description. If they want someone with strong leadership skills who excels in a team environment, then be prepared to explain how that description applies to you, preferably with specific, concrete examples from a previous job.

  7. I’m sure you don’t need the following tips, but I’ve included them anyway for your enjoyment. These tips come from actual interviews submitted to employers in the last two years:
    • Don’t forget to wear clothing.
    • A martini and a cigarette might make Dean Martin look endearing, but it will not help you get this job, unless of course you’re going to work as a Dean Martin lookalike.
    • If you have the opportunity to rerecord your question, and your interview is interrupted for any reason (including a thirty-second long coughing fit), please rerecord.
    • Look presentable! If you look in the mirror and you see something resembling ZZ Top or the Unabomber, perhaps a haircut, or spending time with a very strong brush, is in order prior to beginning the interview.
    • Do not eat, drink, chew gum, or smoke during your interview.
  8. Don’t Be Afraid to Sell Yourself.Everything about a job interview (video or otherwise) is self-marketing. That’s what a job search is, after all. You have to sell yourself to a prospective employer, or you will never land the job of your dreams. Self promotion is something that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but if you want success in life you’re going to have to find a way to get over that fear now. Learn to sell yourself with honesty, confidence and grace, and you’ll be amazed where it can get you in life.