How To Ace a Video Interview: Advice from an Emmy Award Winning Producer

I’ve been hearing from clients that more and more of their job interviews are being done via video call.  This is especially true with COVID-19 concerns as companies continue to keep business operations moving with a remote workforce.  (For tips on how to work productively from home, click here.)  To support your job search, I’m excited to feature a guest post from Emmy Award winning Producer, Calia Brencsons Van Dyk.

10 Key Questions to Ask Yourself to Ace Your Next Video Interview

Whether you are an actor taping an audition, an executive giving an on-camera interview from home or a job seeker interviewing for a new job, the rules to video interviews are all the same. My number one rule is that you need to feel comfortable and at ease – a rather difficult task when you are looking at yourself on camera, so put the odds on your side by asking yourself these key questions.

  1. Who are you speaking to?  Do your homework about the company before you get on the call, not while you are talking to the interviewer.  Do your research as well and be prepared to ask engaging and educated questions.  Have you been given your interviewer’s name?  If so, look him/her up on LinkedIn.  This will also help you keep the flow if there is a lull in the conversation.
  2. Can the interviewer see you?  Whether you are using a computer, an android or an ipod is irrelevant.  Put your webcam at an angle where you are sitting comfortably and looking eye-to-eye with your interviewer – just as if they were in the room with you.  As a person who spends a great deal of time on video conference calls – there is nothing I dislike more than people showing me their nostrils and/or shouting into the screen.  It’s also a drag for you to stare at your double chins and any other thing that will make you self-conscious when you are being interviewed.  So why do so many people forget to move their camera up to eye level? You do not need an expensive tri-pod or any fancy tools to elevate your camera.  I often stack books and boxes that I have in my office underneath my computer to get it to the right level.
  3. How do you look?  Remember you are presenting yourself as an authority and you want the interviewer to hire you.  You will be more comfortable interviewing for a job if you look the part. Someone once said “dress for the job you want – not the job you’ve got.”  In the film The Intern, Robert DeNiro wears a suit every day to work.  When his co-workers ask him why – he says it’s a mark of respect.  Also when you are interviewing you want to present yourself in your best light.  Think of this is an “on-camera” audition and no one ever goes on television without a touch up from a hair and make-up artist.  You don’t need to hire one for your interview – but trust me if you don’t like how you look on camera – you will fidget and fiddle with your hair and makeup while on the camera – and THAT is distracting to the interviewer.  So please, fix your hair and makeup BEFORE you get on the call.  I recommend that both men and women invest in a nice mat powder and brush and look at themselves on camera to see if they are shiny – if you are, get out of the hot light, adjust the dimmers in your office and apply powder to your shiny face.
  4. Does your connection work?  If you have never been interviewed by video, test your connectivity with a friend BEFORE you test it with a prospective employer.   Make sure that your friend can see and hear you. Ask him/her for their feedback.
  5. Is your space making a good first impression?  I’m not saying that you need to book a space for your interview or that you need to be in an expensive space – but you are giving your prospective employer a first impression and people will notice whether your workspace is messy or tidy.  You don’t want your dirty laundry on the floor behind you or a stack of papers that haven’t been picked up for weeks – this might prove distracting and off putting to your prospective employer.  If you live in a small studio – put up a sheet or a curtain to to cover up your private space or invest in a white backdrop.
  6. How do you sound?  There is nothing worse in television than bad sound.  You can have bad cameras and bad lighting but an audience will never put up with bad sound.  Again, this does not need to be a huge investment but instead of shouting at a phone or computer laptop – use a headset with a good microphone – this will allow you to have a quiet and engaged conversation with the person interviewing you.
  7. What are you sitting on?  Sit on a comfortable chair – preferably with a table top in front of you. Since you are hoping that the conversation will last – make sure that you are sitting in a comfortable space in such a way that you will give your interviewer your undivided attention without jiggling about and looking like you are waiting for your next nap.
  8. Do you have something to takes notes with?  If you are using your computer as your camera – your key strokes will be heard as you speak to the person interviewing you and IT IS A DISTRACTION.  Have a pen and paper next to you so that you are not taking your eyes off of the screen while you are talking.
  9. Where is your water bottle?  If you have ever been in a studio, you will notice that news announcers will often take a swig of water before the cameras start to roll – why not learn from the best?  Have a bottle of water next to you and be sure to drink something before you get on camera – this will moisten your vocal folds and smooth your voice out when you speak.  No one will mind if you are sipping water for an interview and it might remind them to hydrate too!
  10. Did you remember to follow up?  Thank You cards matter!  I cannot stress this enough.  After your phone call, the thank you card is your last opportunity to make and impression with your interviewer.  Take the time to personalize the note and refer to specific parts of the conversation that you had – this is where your pen and paper come in handy because it will refresh your memory on ideas that you had during the call.  You took the time to make a good impression on-camera, please make the same effort off camera.  On a nationally syndicated television show that I worked on for many years, our host thanked each and every one of our guests with a personalized thank you card – and we taped over 370 shows a year.  Again, why not learn from the best?

Remember you are inviting your prospective employer into your space which means you have the unique opportunity of being interviewed in a place where you are comfortable and at ease. Get rid of as many obstacles as you can and set yourself up for success. One last thing, prospective employers want to like you, they want you to succeed – all you need to do is show them that you can do it! Good luck on your journey.

Calia Brencsons Van Dyk is a producer and trainer with over twenty years of experience on and off-camera.  She is currently the owner of Calia-tivity Productions and teaches production workshops in the UK and the US while continuing to produce food and lifestyle programing.  She has worked with many of the greats of food television, award winning hosts, talented writers, performers, singers and numerous other notables of stage, film, television and politics.

She spent twelve years at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia where she was a part of the seven-time Emmy-award winning Martha Stewart Show where she rose from Production Coordinator to Acting Executive-in-Charge of Production.  Prior to joining Martha Stewart’s team, Calia worked on-and off-Broadway at Richard Frankel Productions where she assisted playwright, Trish Vradenburg on her play Surviving Grace and was a part of the Broadway Hall of Fame.

Calia is a former member of the American Management Association and has a certificate in International Human Resource Management from SHRM. As a member of UK Equity, SAG-AFTRA, NATAS and the Producers Guild of America, she serves on mentoring committees and is a judge for film and television awards.  She is also a State Department Alumni and former Coast Guard Auxiliarist and is extremely proud of her ongoing support of Veterans in Global Leadership where she conducts Personal Branding Workshop.

Contact Calia here.

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