Six ways to ace a video interview

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Written by Jason Elias, this article was first published in the Law Institute Journal, August 2020

As the pandemic continues, it’s wise to be prepared for interviewing via videoconferencing

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way the legal recruitment process operates. Video interviews have become the norm and require a different technique from conventional face to face interviews. Use these tips to ace your next video interview.

Appearance

Presenting a professional appearance is interviewing 101, but video interviews present some challenges to looking your best. For starters, you should familiarise yourself ahead of time with where exactly your webcam is going to be hitting you – knowing which parts of you will be visible will help you plan an outfit that is professional without being distracting. As tempting as it might be, resist the urge to wear pyjamas below the view of the webcam. During a video interview of my own, there was a moment when I had to get up from my kitchen table mid-interview and I was happy I’d put on appropriate pants.

Surroundings

If you’re being interviewed remotely, odds are you’re doing the interview from your home. Before your interview begins (preferably long before), stake out the perfect spot to set up your laptop or tablet for the interview, being conscious of what the recruiter will see in the background. Also be conscious of lighting. Having bright light behind you can leave you as a silhouette. Depending on the culture of the company you’re interviewing for, you might use this opportunity to demonstrate a little personality – a carefully placed memento from your university or picture of your pet can add a little colour without being distracting. Otherwise, keep things clean and safe. You should be the star of the show on video, not a messy kitchen or barking dogs.

Videoconference tools

Almost every Zoom meeting starts with “can you hear me?” Tech issues are a great way to distract from your interview. Even though you are not being recruited for an IT role, make sure you have all the tech set up properly and even dial in a few minutes early if possible to test the sound. If you are competing with others for bandwidth (have you met my kids?), arrange for them not to be online during your interview.

Interviewers

As with any job interview, your homework begins long before the video interview itself. You should thoroughly research the firm, its people, its strengths and its achievements so you’re prepared to discuss them during the interview. Additionally, the internet has made it simple to familiarise yourself with your interviewers before you meet them virtually. Partners and HR professionals are generally very active on LinkedIn and a quick Google search will shed some light on who you will be meeting.

Make a lasting impression

The previous four tips are really all about one thing: putting your best foot forward. It can be easy when interviewing virtually to forget about the personal touches that can really make you stand out. Keeping that in mind, remember non-verbal communication can make up to 80 per cent of the decision to progress your application. Make sure you are authentic and leave an impression that you are willing and able to do the job.

Ask good questions

It is a good idea to prepare a few questions to ask at the end of the interview when invited to do so. Try and avoid “me-me” questions about what you will get. Instead show you have listened to the interviewers and try to have them imagine you are joining them. For example:

  • What does a typical day in this role look like?
  • What would success look like in this job six months down the line?
  • What do you like most about working in this organisation/ team?
  • How would you describe the culture of the team?

Jason Elias is CEO of Elias Recruitment, specialist legal recruiters in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. He is a former lawyer at Baker McKenzie and has been recruiting lawyers for more than 20 years. He was recently awarded Australian Recruitment Leader of the Year.