How to Prepare for a Video-Conference Interview

Advice on everything from lighting to time of day for job seekers setting up an interview via Webcam.

The phone interview is still more common, but some companies prefer the video-conference interview as a way to size up the candidate visually before going to the expense of setting up an in-person interview, said Frank Risalvato, founder of the recruiting firm IRES Inc. For certain jobs where the candidate might be required to meet with customers, clients or members of the public, HR can use the Webcam to gauge the candidate’s presentation skills, he said. “I have got companies that specifically request that if a candidate does not have a Webcam on their laptop to go out and buy one, and they will happily reimburse you the $19,” he said.

For a successful Webcam interview, here’s how to present your self in the best possible light.

“A dry run with a friend is critical for you to have an idea of what to do and where to look as well as any potential hiccups,” said Kelly Dingee, a sourcing researcher and executive trainer for AIRS, an executive search firm. “Do the dry run at the same time that you have the Skype interview scheduled. So if you have it scheduled at 7 o’clock on Monday night, then I would do it 7 o’clock Sunday night.” Make sure there is sufficient light and that there will be no unexpected interferences at that time. Risalvato advises candidates check that everything is working shortly before the interview. He gives his clients the option to connect with him via Yahoo or Windows Live about 45 minutes to an hour before the interview to rehearse.

Be conscious of your space
Try to make sure your space is de-cluttered. “You need to chase all dogs or cats or whomever may be in your environment out. Also, I would check out what is behind me because I don’t want anything to divert attention. Too many pictures of my kids, artwork, junk or something random that really isn’t appropriate should be moved,” Dingee said. Risalvato concurred: “I had a case last week where the person was in an Internet café but there was a wastepaper basket with plastic sticking out in the back right-hand corner, which was very distracting.”

Take note of angles and lighting
Make sure that you have angled your Webcam correctly so that the interviewer isn’t staring at your chest instead of your face. Stay centered in the frame of the camera. “You do need to have enough lighting to be able to have eye contact,” Risalvato said. “I generally coach the person to put my window right below his or her Web camera so that their eye is naturally going to look at me. It can be a difficult for someone who’s not familiar with working with this kind of media to train one’s eye to look directly into the Webcam.”