Don’t Let This Mistake Sink Your Next Video Job Interview

December 17, 2020

In the new normal, video interviews have become immensely popular. But too many candidates are making simple but subtle mistakes – and losing out on opportunities. Here’s Argentus’ guide to nailing your next video interview.

On the Argentus blog, we love to offer job searching tips, job interview guides, and other resources for job candidates. We consider it part of our mission to help inform the candidates in our network – if our candidates perform better in job interviews, that helps our business, for example. But it’s also an attempt to clarify the hard-won advice that we’ve learned in our 20 years of business as recruiters.

And when it comes to advice about job interviews, there’s a whole lot of it. Job interviews, on their face, are a seemingly simple social interaction: you meet with a prospective employer, highlight your skills, as well as your ability to fit into a company’s culture – and to help improve it. But job interviews are as variable as people are, with so many nuances, and so many opportunities to succeed – or to fall flat. And with the proliferation of different types of interviews – phone interviews, panel interviews, CEO interviews – there are always new considerations. New subtleties in the specific ways you should approach an interview, or in how to use the specific format to your advantage.

And no format has been as popular, or as difficult, in the post COVID-19 world as the video interview.

Video interviews existed before the pandemic, of course. In March, we wrote about how companies needed to adapt to the need for social distancing by embracing them as a temporary alternative to in-person interviews. Since then, they’ve become an interview mainstay – and, we suspect, a popular interview format long after the pandemic is (thankfully) concluded.

So how do you ace the video interview?

A Google search will reveal tons of tips, most of which cover the nuts-and-bolts essentials, while avoiding to mention the biggest issues that cause red flags for employers.

It’s helpful to learn about how to test your tech setup, check your lighting, and dress appropriately. But we think it’s even more helpful to talk about the specific goal of a video interview, and how too many candidates fall short of this goal – in part, by failing to account for the format’s limitations. So here’s the goal:

Make a connection.

This is obvious to anyone who’s ever done an interview: make a human connection with the interviewer. You’re more than the sum of your qualifications and experiences, just as a job description can never convey all the avenues to success in a job. Your goal in a video interview is to cross the digital distance presented through the screen and engage the interviewer, offering a picture of your skills and cultural fit just as well as an in-person interview.

Which is easier said than done, given video’s limitations.

Video interview platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams and others do a good job of approximating a real-world interview, but there are some obvious drawbacks: You’re not in the room, so it’s harder to gauge body language. On average, there’s about a one second delay between the person speaking and the other person hearing. The technology still can’t accommodate more than one person speaking at a time. Anyone who’s been on a group Zoom call during this time has encountered these issues.

What this means is that it’s much easier to interrupt your interviewer than in-person. These interruptions can sink an interview faster than a lead balloon.

We’ve heard from a lot of hiring managers in our network that they’re seeing a lot of candidates repeatedly interrupt the interviewer – much more than in in-person interviews. Some of this can be attributed to video’s inherent glitches, but sometimes it’s more than that. Which leads us to our next tip:

Preparation is key, but don’t let your pre-prepared points steamroll the interview.

You’re there to showcase your understanding of the role and organization, and highlight key impacts that you can make. Preparation is more than half the battle towards being able to do this. We always advise candidates to prep key accomplishments to highlight, stories of successful projects in past roles, and points to show your understanding of where the company is, and where it’s going.

But a job interview is an organic process. The “art” is in knowing how to hit your key points within the flow of an interview. Does the interviewer look like they’re about to ask another question? Now is not the time to launch into a lengthy story about a past continuous improvement project. No one likes an info-dump, particularly when they’re about to speak – or even worse, were in the middle of speaking.

This timing and flow is even harder to gauge in a video interview, when body language is being filtered through pixels on a time delay. Because of that digital distance, it’s easier for a candidate to fall into a one-sided schpiel or interrupt – and it comes across worse when they do. That’s the pitfall of a video interview you need to avoid by being extra cautious of letting the other person speak.

But if you do, you have a leg up on the other candidates who are still video interviewing like it’s 2015.


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