You know what they say about first impressions: You never get a second chance to make one.
If you’re looking for a new job, first impressions count big. And they’re often no longer happening in person, but over video. In fact, odds are pretty good that your next interview will be via webcam.
If you’re new to video, here are tips to make sure your tech-enabled interview allows you to shine.
1. Get the gear
Most modern laptops come with a built-in webcam. It’ll get you on camera, but the base models often produce grainy pictures and weak sound. Money Talks News founder and longtime television professional Stacy Johnson uses an external HD webcam that produces a much higher video quality.
Once you decide which one is right for you, head to bargain sites to compare prices:
2. Check your speed
If you want good video, you’ll need a good internet connection. If yours is spotty, you might freeze or disconnect in the middle of your interview. And if it’s too slow, your picture quality will suffer.
The popular video conferencing software Skype recommends both upload and download speeds of 1.5 Mbps for HD video chats. You can test your current speeds at a site like Speedtest. If your speed isn’t up to snuff, consider finding a location with a better connection.
3. Find the right lighting
Have you ever had your picture taken only to wonder why you looked so washed out? The lighting was probably to blame. Lighting can mean the difference between looking fresh and perky, or lifeless and faded.
Many professionally filmed interviews are shot using the three-point lighting technique, which plays up your main light source and accentuates the film subject. Try different lights in your house until you find a look you like: A lamp you can dim will give you plenty of options.
4. Check the background
No matter where you set your webcam, your potential boss will be able to see at least part of the room. Position your webcam and look at the screen. Remove anything that doesn’t look professional and add things that do.
For example, if you’ve won any awards, hang them on the wall behind you. Subtly showing off never hurts.
The first video conference I did was with a group of potential clients I really wanted to impress. But because I had never been on a webcam before, I made mistakes, such as talking over other people and making sudden movements that made the camera lose focus.
Result? My attempt at displaying my awesome skills turned into a 10-minute, one-woman comedy act.
Don’t go in blind. A few days before your interview, use a video chatting service like Skype and hold mock interviews with a buddy. You’ll get a feel for where and how to sit, when to talk and where to look.
6. Dress for success
Dress like you would for any interview — professionally, from head to toe. Plan your outfit in advance and give yourself plenty of time before the interview to fix your hair, put on makeup, shave or do any other necessary prep.
Some outfits that look great in public might not on camera. TV people know that wearing narrow stripes can cause a flicker effect, called strobing. A white shirt can make you look washed out. Best bet? Do a video chat with a friend and try some options.
7. Prep early
Set the stage an hour or so before your interview starts. Clean off your desk, turn on the lights, and make sure your laptop and webcam are working properly.
And if you’re using devices that require batteries, like a laptop, don’t forget to keep them plugged in during your interview. It may sound obvious, but I once forgot to charge my laptop, and it died in the middle of a conference call. Another embarrassing moment.
8. Control the noise level
Stacy likes to tell a story about doing a national radio interview from his home. All was going well until his dog spotted another dog in the front yard and started freaking out. Result? The dog got a lot of national media exposure, and Stacy is still waiting for a call-back.
Before your interview starts, turn off the radio and the TV, prop the kids in front of a book or a video game to keep them occupied, and put any pets as far away as possible. Webcams pick up any noise in the room (or even nearby rooms) and you don’t want to spend part of your interview apologizing because of ambient sound.
9. Look at the camera
Once your interview starts, remember to look at the camera and not straight ahead at the screen. While it’s more natural to watch your interviewer onscreen, he’ll only see the top of your head if you don’t focus on the camera lens.
10. Be yourself
Finally, don’t forget to be yourself. Everyone is nervous during an interview, but you have the best chance of being hired if you let your personality shine
What are your experiences with video interviews? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Kari Huus contributed to this post.
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