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In videoconference job interview, heighten your efforts to impress

Tanya Rutledg, Houston Chronicle
Published 9:30 pm, Thursday, November 7, 2013
  • David Armendariz, managing partner of executive recruiting firm Lucas Group in Houston, quoted in 2013 Top Workplaces. Photo: Handout / Michael Carr Photography

    David Armendariz, managing partner of executive recruiting firm Lucas Group in Houston, quoted in 2013 Top Workplaces.

    Photo: Handout

 

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As videoconferencing plays an increasing role in the interview process, job candidates must use the technology to their advantage, says David Armendariz, managing partner of executive recruiting firm Lucas Group in Houston.

No detail is too small when it comes to making an impression on an interviewer, even over a computer screen, he says.

Whether the videoconference is the first or last step in the interview process, Armendariz says, it must be treated exactly the same as a face-to-face meeting. It can often be more important, and a bit more challenging, when it comes to conveying an impression.

"As soon as a videoconference interview starts, the first thing that hiring manager sees is ingrained in their head for the rest of the interview process," he says. "This type of interview can make or break the hiring process."

Armendariz, who provides internal training to Lucas Group recruiters and candidates about how to come across well in a videoconferencing interview, recently shared the following tips:

1Practice makes perfect. The most important aspect of preparing for a videoconferencing interview is to practice with a friend before the actual interview, Armendariz said. That entails logging onto the technology (common programs are Skype or FaceTime) to make sure the process is seamless and can be completed in time for the start of the meeting. He suggests going through a practice conversation with the friend, asking for tips on what's working and what isn't. Common feedback might include talking too softly or too loudly or a suggestion to take longer pauses than in a typical phone conversation, since it can sometimes take the voice longer to travel over this technology.

1Look at the camera, not the computer screen. It is extremely important to know where the camera is on the computer or hardware that is being used to conduct the interview. Armendariz suggests flagging the camera with a small post-it note off to the side. The interviewee should remember to always look at the paper, which will ensure that the person is making eye contact with the interviewer instead of looking off to the side. Just as in a traditional interview, eye contact is key. But in this case, making eye contact means looking away from the person's image on-screen and looking directly at the camera instead.

1Dress for success. Dressing for a videoconferencing interview is just as important as dressing for a traditional interview, and often more challenging because the candidate needs to consider how the outfit works against the background and how it comes across over the screen. For example, Armendariz said candidates should avoid stripes and bold colors and stick with navy, black or gray. Attire should include a suit and tie for men and a blazer and skirt or pants for women. Video interviews are just as formal as in-person meetings and should not be used as an excuse to dress casually.

"Certain fabrics don't translate well over video, and the camera can catch them the wrong way," Armendariz said. "Keep it plain and simple."

1Back it up. The interviewee should carefully consider the background that will be seen by the interviewer, taking care to remove plants (which can create awkward shapes if they stick up behind the person's head) and other personal objects that can be distracting. Armendariz warns against conducting the interview in a restaurant or library and suggests avoiding a plain white wall as background. Make sure the background is well-lit and comes across clear in the practice interview. Again, simple is best.

1Sit up straight. Elements such as keeping good posture, relaxing the shoulders, nodding the head regularly and using the hands to elaborate points all indicate that the candidate is engaged in the interview. Nonverbal cues take on heightened importance in a videoconference interview because the interviewer is typically trying to form an impression and then make a connection based on the idea that the candidate is relating to what they are asking or saying.

"In this case, small things go a long way," Armendariz said.

The recruiting expert urged job seekers being interviewed via videoconference to try to relax and focus on the interview, not the technology that is being used.

"It can help to think of it as Public Speaking 101," he said. "It's about connecting with your audience."