So you have an online interview coming up and you’re freaking out right now. “I can never seem to connect with the hiring manager in a video call.” “I do SO much better in in-person interviews.”
Well, let me tell you something. Online interviews aren’t going anywhere. The sheer convenience of them grant them the right to stay.
You’ve probably already had at least one online interview to date. The truth is, they’re becoming more popular and they are a great way to ensure that no one’s time is wasted. You can take the call from wherever you are. No need to take a bus, place, cab or magic carpet to get to the office.
Generally, when you’re in the midst of the hiring process you will probably get vetted by someone at the company. This is especially true of multi-round interviews. In the first and maybe even second round, you’ll probably do an online call.
Like I said, video interviews are in it for the long haul. So you can sit an pout all you want about how you “are so much better in-person” or you can buckle up get comfy and read along. We’re giving you two pro tips so that you become more confident and comfortable doing online interviews.
We’re cutting through all of the “givens” with online interviews because it’s plain common sense that you’d want (1) to take the call in a place that has minimal background distractions, (2) to be dressed appropriately and aligned with your industry (i.e., fashion, tech, corporate job, startup scene, etc.), and (3) to have good sound quality (i.e., you’ve checked your mic ahead of time and you’re not in a boisterous place). These are basically “givens” for a video call so we don’t get into these.
What you will get out of this article are communication strategies specific to your online interview. In particular, we discuss the appropriate non-verbals and a communication tool (or hack, if you prefer) to successfully have an online interview.
Strategy 1: Eye Contact
As you know eye contact is essential to successful interpersonal communication. It’s also important in public speaking as a way of connecting with the audience.
So why wouldn’t the same be true in online video calls?
How do you make “eye contact” with the person on the other side of the screen? By looking into the camera.
Make eye contact when you are responding. You can look at the (such as at the image of the person) on the screen to avoid staring at the person. Don’t look at yourself in the small screen because it’s obvious when you do.
So you’re looking into the camera as you respond so that you maintain eye contact. And during pauses or transitions (like when they ask you a question) you can look at the image of them. In which case your gaze would be pointed slightly downward.
That is an OK place to look because most people taking video calls (albeit not as effectively) are looking at the image of the person (aka the screen) as opposed to their eyes (aka the camera). So when you are listening for the question, you can look at the person.
If the person is looking into the camera (at you) then you should mirror their nonverbal communication and do the same.
Why does making eye contact work?
Looking into the camera as you respond to the interview questions demonstrates your confidence. It shows you have a secure handle on the interview. And it makes the person feel good because it feels like you’re seeing them.
Perhaps we should more aptly call it camera contact :) for the reasons above.
To sum up strategy 1: you are making a point of looking into the hiring manager’s eyes by looking into the camera to show that you’re confident, poised, and have everything under control! Even if you don’t necessarily feel that way, maintaining eye contact will certainly give that impression.
Strategy 2: Minimized Talking Points
Interviews can be uber stressful. Online interviews can be even more stressful because the screen seems so impersonal.
How do we fix that? In addition to getting into the right headspace, you can also bring in your safety net.
What’s my safety net? you ask?
A minimized outline.
Outline is a generous term for what really is a few key talking points. More specifically, your minimized talking points (MTP).
The idea here is that you have your key words of the talking points you plan to need. Your “tell me about yourself”, possible stories that highlight relevant skills and experience and anything else of importance in the job description that aligns with your background, skills, XP points etc..
Be ruthless about what goes into your MTP. Each line should contain no more than 5 words per point. Just enough to jolt your memory.
Best case scenario you have 1 or 2 words per point. For the more visually inclined Explearners out there, feel free to choose an image that jars something in your memory about what you’ll speak about in the interview.
Anything over 5 words and you’ll find yourself falling into the reading trap. Mind you, your reading voice and speaking voice are totally different. Reading off a text is conspicuous and the interviewer will know you’re reading…which doesn’t give off the confident and prepared vibes you want to project. They can also see it in your eye movement, much like an undertrained newscaster reading off a teleprompter. Reading eyes. Avoid them.
The only thing that should make it into your MTP are points that you absolutely need to share. If you’re able to recite them in your sleep then you already know them well enough that there’s no need to include them in your MTP. However, if you are less familiar with a point but still want to make it, add that to your MTP. Also, if you want to share a pertinent detail (a numeric value, for example) then add that number to the MTP.
Your MTP acts as a security net by reducing some of the cognitive load on you. It also mitigates the effects of the stress you’ll undoubtedly have going into the call, depending how high-stakes the interview is. Either way, keep your MTP lean and treat it well. That way you allow it to serve you the best way it can.
Doing something like stuffing your MTP with loads of prose in 2 pt font would be highly inadvisable. Our MTP is a lean machine, Explearners. Let it work in your favor.
Alongside strategy 2 is to trust yourself. Trust yourself to say what you really believes reflects why you’re a good fit for the role. Take your time to speak, use thinking time so you don’t blurt out a response, and use pause. The listener will benefit from your pause as much as you will — they need time to process the information you’re sharing.
The reality is you should be comfortable enough with what you’re going to say based on the information you have from the job description, so there is no need for a script anyway.
Ok so just so you’re with me: you have your minimized outline fitting nicely into a small digital square
Here comes the fun part.
You take that minimized window and you overlay it onto the image of the person
So at this point you have the program screen maximized, a small post-it covering your image (usually in one of the corners) if you opt to do so and then you have the outline covering the hiring manager.
The reason for this is to help minimize distractions on the screen so that you have your talking points and easy access to the camera for tip #1 to happen (eye contact).
Why does this work?
Strategy 2 works because (1) you have the security of knowing that your outline is handy if you were to need it (2) you aren’t tempted to look at the image of the person; you instead look into their eyes (via web camera).
You’ll start to notice fewer distractions and a greater ability to give targeted and thoughtful answers.
So to sum up, strategy 2 gives you the peace of mind in having your key words easily accessible and also helps guide your gaze and focus to the camera instead.
Let’s quickly recap before we go.
The problem we’re solving is making the online interview a better experience with a higher success rate.
We’ve discussed 3 ways to address the feeling that you feel more comfortable and confidence in an in-person interview by looking at 2 strategies that will improve your online interview performance:
- 1 making eye contact // or shall we say camera contact?
- 2 minimize your outline, minimize distractions (overlay the outline onto the person)
These strategies will work across various platforms: Skype, WebEx, Zoom, Adobe Connect.
Tip #1 of looking into the camera (to make eye contact) might take some getting used to at first. You might think it a bit strange to be looking into the camera as opposed to be looking at the person. But it’s the difference between looking into the person’s eyes and looking at their shirt. And you want to give the impression you’re maintaining eye contact – because that’s what you’d do in an in-person interview.
As for #2 you’re probably relieved to have the outline of keywords there. Just be sure not to read off the outline – this is why we don’t have full sentences or paragraphs and just stick to 2 to 5 words sot that you can see it at a glance. Eye movement is easily detectable, and it’ll be obvious if you’re reading. You can glance at the outline during transitions – avoid looking there as you’re answering.
Our advice is to practice those in a video call with a friend. And you can include in your outline a few talking points of things you’d like to share with your friend. Practice doing #1 and #2 and then bring it to your next online interview. With practice and a positive attitude, you’ll gradually start to see the benefits!
Happy Explearning 🐝