If you’re applying for a legal marketing position these days, you will more than likely be asked to participate in one or more on-demand video interviews. In our experience, the video interview format offers some unique challenges and requires special preparation. Here are some tips that we provide to help our job candidates ace their video interviews.
Sort Out Your Tech
Unlike in-person interviews, on-demand video interviews are highly dependent on technology – and tech failures can leave a poor impression with a hiring manager or lawyer. Make sure you have the right technology in place and in good working condition:
- Your connection: You need a minimum connection speed of 10 megabytes per second (mbps) to transmit and receive HD video. We suggest you use TestMyNet or other Internet speed-testing service to check that your connection meets this standard. If you normally use wireless, consider switching to a wired Ethernet connection for purposes of the interview. And if your home network is a bit sketchy, consider doing the interview at a public library or workspace.
- Your hardware: Check that your device has the necessary audio and video capabilities to give acceptable quality. If you’re a Windows laptop user, you might want to consider upgrading the basic built-in webcam that came with your computer. Use a separate headset if possible — generally headsets (combination of earphone and microphone) provide better noise-cancelling features than the built-in mic on your computer. Finally, don’t rely on battery power – plug in your device before the interview starts.
- Your software: Most likely, the firm you’re applying to will specify the videoconferencing platform to be used for the interview. Familiarize yourself with that software well in advance. Many platforms require you to download a plugin for the software to work – make sure that is installed and tested before the interview starts.
- Your backup plan: Sometimes, despite your best preparation, technology fails. Have a backup plan in place – provide your recruiter with a phone number where they can reach you in the event of a tech breakdown.
Pick Your Spot
One big advantage of video interviews is that the choice of location is in your hands. That said, pick a location where you feel comfortable and in control.
- Avoid background noise: Pick a quiet spot — stay away from public locations like coffeeshops, where you can’t control the noise around you.
- Minimize visual clutter: Your face should be the main focus onscreen. If possible, position yourself so that there’s a blank wall behind you.
- Ensure you are well lit. In daylight, a location near a window will often be best. If necessary, move a wall or floor lamp to ensure that your face is well illuminated.
Dress for the Occasion
Generally, you should dress for a video interview in exactly the same way you would for an in-person interview. Check with your recruiter to see whether business or casual attire is most appropriate for the firm you’re applying to. Our advice is to err on the side of formality. Certain clothing choices can be distracting onscreen – avoid bright contrasting colours, clothes and accessories with plaid or striped patterns. Choose a plain shirt or blouse.
It’s About the Eyes
We all know the importance of eye contact to build trust and rapport in any conversation. In an in-person situation it’s relatively easy to gauge the right amount of eye contact with your interviewers, but it’s a lot trickier on video.
The natural inclination is to speak to the interviewer’s onscreen image, but that can create a distracting effect onscreen because you won’t be looking into the webcam. By contrast, if you look at the webcam directly all the time, you will appear to be staring intensely at the interviewer – which can be just as distracting.
To achieve natural, conversational eye contact, position the videoconference window containing the interviewer’s image as close to your webcam as possible and focus your attention on the interviewer. For example, if your webcam is at the top center of your computer screen, reduce the size of the interviewer’s window and place it at the top of the screen just under the webcam.
Practice Makes Perfect
If anything, you are more exposed on video than in an in-person interview — the effects of hesitations and unclear answers are magnified, and will be repeated if the interview is recorded. That’s why rehearsal is even more important in a video situation. Fortunately, working with video gives you the ability to check your performance in advance. We strongly recommend using your phone or computer to record yourself answering typical interview questions – multiple times. Doing will help you evaluate the content of your answers as well as how you are coming across.
Many people find this process unnerving. Very often you may see verbal tics and distracting movements (like hair-twirling or finger-tapping) that are getting in the way of your message. Even if you feel self conscious when you view your recording, our advice is to push through the discomfort and keep rehearsing – it will pay off in the end.
If at all possible, don’t look at notes during a video interview – doing to causes you to break onscreen eye contact with the interviewer. If you absolutely need to check something, tell the interviewer that you will be looking away for a few seconds to refer to notes.
Last Minute Prep
At least 10 minutes before you begin your video interview, be sure to review this checklist to minimize the chances of anything going wrong:
- Ensure you won’t be interrupted by children, pets or noises from outside.
- Test your internet connection to make sure it’s working properly.
- Log in to the meeting early to check that all functionality is working.
- Check your onscreen sound and image to ensure your interviewers can see and hear you.
- Close any, in-progress downloads open browser tabs, and other extraneous windows on your computer – you don’t want anything to slow down your computer’s performance.
- Have your resume and the job description close at hand.
Finally – Wrap it Up
Remember to end your video interview on a positive, professional note. Don’t let your guard down — the camera is on until you, or the interviewer, stops the videoconference. You need to be self-possessed and “on” until the meeting has ended.
Forethought and preparation can help ensure that your interviewers focus on what’s most important – the content of your answers and your great qualities as a candidate. At Calibrate Legal, we work closely with all our job candidates to help them make the best possible impression in a job interview – whether in-person or virtual. We look forward to working with you.