Smile – you're on camera.
Many employers throughout the country are turning to webcam interviews to help speed up and streamline the interview process. Many choose free services like Google Hangouts and Skype to contact potential hires, while others contract with professional video interviewing services like Async Interview and HireVue to vet candidates. Whatever video service the hiring company uses, the fact remains: In the increasingly digital workplace, a webcam interview – and your ability to sell yourself well on camera – may make or break your job search.
"For the hiring manager, this is a screening interview. It's no different than if you were to do a phone interview or an in-person interview," says Alison Doyle, a job-search expert for About.com. "This interview is going to get you – or not – to the next stage of the hiring process."
With that in mind, here are some simple guidelines to help make sure your next video interview goes off without a hitch:
1. Take a practice run. Before you sign in for the interview, take a few dry runs. Try using a webcam service to talk with friends or family to get familiar with the process, or conduct a mock interview and get feedback from a trusted source, Doyle says. See what tips they have to offer on your appearance, demeanor or webcam setup.
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Be sure to double-check your computer and webcam before you begin. If you're using a laptop, check to see that it is plugged in or that your battery will last throughout the interview. "Make sure that everything works, so that you're not scrambling at the last minute," Doyle says.
2. Dress for success. Dress as you would for any other interview – in attire that is appropriate for the position, clean and professional. "Yes, it's video. Yes, you might be doing it from the corner of your kitchen table or wherever, but what the employer sees on camera [should] look professional," Doyle says.
Be wary of busy patterns or bright white clothing, as they may come off as distracting on camera. Don't draw too much attention from your face. As a rule of thumb, check how your outfit appears on a video stream before wearing it for the interview.
And be sure to dress from head to toe, says Christopher Young, CEO of Async Interview, a video interview provider. "Because it's a video interview, some people seem to think you can dress waist-up. You'd be surprised," he says. "You shift around in the seat, and that would be probably the worst impression to give an employer."
3. Set the scene. A webcam interview conducted from home gives you the unique opportunity to control your surroundings. Take advantage of that freedom by setting up the perfect interview space: Find a quiet room where your background is clean and unobtrusive, Doyle says. "Be very careful what's behind you. It's fine if it's a bookcase or a white wall with a picture, but you don't want all the mess and clutter that you might have in your house showing," she says.
Try to find a quiet space where you can be free from distractions (like a ringing phone, roommate, kids or a playful pet), and adjust the lighting to suit your needs. Make sure your face is clear and well-lit and that the major light sources in the room are not directly behind you, as this can darken your features or reduce you to a silhouette, Young says.
4. Adjust your framing. To avoid uncomfortable close-ups, try to frame yourself so the camera picks up your face and shoulders, Doyle says.
As with any professional interview, eye contact and posture are key. When answering questions during your interview, look directly into the webcam to give the impression of eye contact. Sit up straight, and try not to fidget too much, as this may cause you to move in and out of the frame.
If you need to have notes with you, try typing them and placing them on-screen and out of view of the camera. Relying on handheld notes may pull your focus away from the interviewer or make noise that may be picked up by the camera.