It’s 2011 and I think we’ve all accepted the fact that the reality of the new millennium is significantly different from what science fiction films and novels promised us. “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” “The Jetsons” – all lies. Sure, we’ve made technological leaps that are quite stunning if you think about them (e.g., smartphones, cloud-based storage, GPS), but I haven’t defied gravity once. Believe me, I’ve tried.
However, E-mail and Internet access have made working remotely easier for many professions and significantly changed our personal and professional lives. Video conferences and Skype have made virtual meetings possible for workers located throughout the globe. Now, that technology is showing up earlier in the workplace: during the job interview. Many organizations are now using video interviews to hire candidates in lieu of old-fashioned in-person meetings.
Why use video?
You might wonder, “Have we become so lazy that we can’t even get in a car and drive to an interview anymore?” But job interviewers aren’t turning to video out of laziness. They have come to realize that video interviews offer benefits for both the company and for the job seeker, and convenience is only one of them.
Recently, CareerBuilder began offering a tool for companies to use online video interviews. One primary advantage is that the interview makes it possible for both parties (the interviewer and the interviewee) to accommodate their own schedules. The company decides what questions to ask all job seekers and puts them in the video interview package. At the applicant’s convenience, he or she can open up the video interview module, record responses and submit them. They don’t need to wait for a meeting that suits both schedules.
Another positive side effect is that every interview is the same. This means that you don’t have to worry about an interviewer who is in a bad mood or who is preoccupied with a meeting she’s having in an hour. For an organization, this also means no interviewer is asking illegal questions that could get them in trouble.
According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 6 percent of employers used video interviews in 2010, but 11 percent plan to do so in 2011. In other words, this is a trend that’s finally taking off.
The basic of video interviews
Because video interviews are beginning to pop up in job searches and they’ll continue to grow in the coming years, we wanted to give you some tips that will put you ahead of other job seekers. To get insight on how a job seeker should approach a video interview, we talked to Jennifer Flaa, the CEO of Vettanna ToGo, an organization that teaches people how to present themselves comfortably on camera for interviews, video conferences and media appearances.
“Video communicates a whole lot more than you think, and it’s all subtle,” Flaa explains. “We’ve been educated by Hollywood that certain camera angles and certain lighting conditions communicate qualities: hero, villain, anxiety, confidence, confusion, intimacy and aloofness. The majority of people believe that it’s their words that are communicating, but remember [that] a picture — in this case video frame — is worth a thousand words.”
According to Flaa, video interviewees make three common mistakes that are detrimental to their presentation:
1. Not knowing where to look
“If your eyes are darting around, the interviewer perceives that as ‘being shifty’ behavior or that you are unfocused; just as they would if you were doing that in an in person interview,” Flaa warns. “If you look at the computer screen, the interviewing manager is looking at your forehead, or up your nose, depending on the angle.”
Eye contact still matters, only now it’s between you and a lens instead of a pair of eyes.
“When you are talking, look directly into the camera lens — the little black dot on the computer,” Flaa explains. “Prop your camera up so that the camera lens is eye level, then you will look like you have good eye contact with your interviewer.”
If you’re on a live video interview and the interviewer begins talking, or you’re being asked a question through a prerecorded presentation, then you can look at the screen.
“It’s the eye contact that establishes the connection with your interviewer. It lets them really get an accurate sense of who you are and most importantly, it conveys confidence.”
2. Forgetting to clean up your space
“Video is visual, so everything in the frame communicates and the visuals are louder than your words,” she reminds. Flaa says that she has some seen some interested objects in the background of job applicants, including a table full of beer bottles, a pile of dirty laundry and a roommate enjoying a beer while watching TV. On the flip, she’s also seen the exact opposite background, which can be just as damaging.
“An executive [had] a huge, empty, white room behind him with no furniture or art on the walls. That was incongruous with the successful image he was trying to present,” she explains.”
3. Location, location, location
“If you are too close to the camera, that’s too intimate — or “Blair Witchy” — for the interviewer. If you are so far away from the camera that the interviewer can see all or most of your body (head to toe), that doesn’t work either [because that] is perceived as you being ‘closed off’, aloof or keeping people at arm’s length,” Flaa says.
The importance of practicing
Flaa suggests three simple ways to practice that improve your video performance and that anyone can do at home.
1. Find a way to relax
“Take a deep breath, sink into your seat, sit up straight then imagine talking to a good friend instead of an authority figure.”
2. Skype your friends
“Get on Skype with a friend and use a recorder,” Flaa advises. “Have your friend ask you some sample questions (e.g., “Tell me about yourself,” “What’s your greatest accomplishment?”). Then review the video.”
3. Go it alone
“You can even work by yourself with the camera so that you get used to being yourself while looking at the camera and not getting any visual feedback cues from a viewer,” she says.
Some things never change
Video interviews are new to the hiring process, and there are a few differences, but ultimately the fundamentals are the same. Bad body language and careless presentation can wreck a traditional interview just as quickly as a video interview.
According to Flaa, you need to be yourself because you still want to project an authentic representation of you, a potential employee. No one wants to hire the fake applicant who is saying all the right things but doesn’t mean a single one of them.
“Being self conscious is your number one enemy,” she explains. “It makes you nervous and it makes you act fake. Think about the questions, think about the other person, or imagine you are talking to a good friend who is nodding and agreeing with everything you say.”
If you’ve been through a video interview, let us know how it went. Do you think video interviews are going to make interviewing easier and less stressful for job seekers?