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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

How to Do a Video Meeting or Skype Interview Without Feeling Totally Awkward

If you’re like me, you cringe at the sound of your voice on your outgoing message. So, the thought of filming yourself (for any reason) isn’t one you relish. But hey, we live in a time when YouTube is the number two search engine in the world. Video content is climbing onto a powerful throne. Top companies are picking up the trend and harnessing the power of video to screen, interview, and connect with top talent.

Short of hopping into a time machine, there is no avoiding the video-centric communication as a modern job hunter, so kill the camera-shy nerves and nail four of the most common video-related career scenarios.

1. You’re Making a Video Resume

Videos resumes are not for the faint of heart—but done right, they can give you a leg-up over your competitors. Projecting your personality onscreen through your voice and gestures isn’t as easy as it looks. If you have the budget, a video resume service is the way to go! If not, an actor friend, or that pal who loves public speaking is the person to turn to for coaching as you begin crafting it.

No matter how you go about it, here are a few pointers to keep you looking good:

  • When you speak, picture someone in front of you (you’ll sound more natural).
  • Keep it short and sweet: Your talk should be relevant for your audience.
  • Work from a loose script that keeps you on track without sounding rehearsed.

Whatever you do, don’t read your resume out loud. A video resume should enhance—and be way more interesting than—your traditional resume. Did I mention be yourself? Be yourself. No one is going to hire the gameshow host version of you.

Check out a few awesome examples here, here, and here.

2. You’re Working With a Digital Interviewing System

Not to be mistaken for a Skype or video chat interview (don’t worry, we’ll get to that), a digital interview system will walk you through a video Q&A before you meet with an actual hiring manager. Think of it as a pre-interview. These systems allow you to view questions and submit your filmed responses. They take away some of the pressure of a video resume, because you have the inside scoop on what your prospective employer wants to know. Still a bit nerve-racking, right?

Keep your cool with these tips:

  • If there’s a test question, don’t skip it! It will show you if your computer cooperates with the system.
  • Be aware that questions are often timed, and submitting cut-off answers is a faux pas.
  • Smile, look at your camera, and answer the questions directly and succinctly.
  • Bite your tongue before you say something like, “I hope that answers your question.”

Above all, avoid being an “obsessive auctioneer.” What do I mean? Many systems will allow you to practice your answers several times, and the temptation is to re-record your answers and talk fast to include a mega-dose of details about yourself. Rule of thumb: The third time’s a charm (any more, and you could sound too rehearsed). That, and answer each question with highlights—not your life story! Leave something for the face-to-face interview.

3. You’re Doing a Video Interview

I told you we’d get here! Whether it’s via Skype, Google Hangouts, or whatever the hip new video communication app is, a video interview presents all the typical challenges of making a great first impression—plus a few more.

Ace your video, Jetsons style:

  • Test the app! It’s like driving the route to your interview the day before so you have a feel for traffic.
  • Use a headset or ear buds to avoid an annoying echo for everyone involved.
  • Defy your natural instincts; look at your camera and not the person on screen.
  • Keep your notes on a piece of paper; clicking through screens as you chat is difficult.

Sometimes, it’s not what you say, but where you say it. “Dress to impress” applies to your setting as much as it does to what you wear to a video interview. Check your lighting and camera angle. Make sure that pile of used Starbucks cups is out of frame and shoot for a simple background without too much clutter. (Hint: White washes you out!) That, and maybe hide your One Direction posters—or don’t, depending on the job you’re up for!

Regardless of your setting, the point is this: Having every duck in a row will boost your confidence when you’re speaking on camera.

4. You’re Participating in a Video Conference Call

I’ve always been a big fan of The Office, so when I think of a conference call, I hear Michael Scott’s voice saying “Everybody in the conference room, NOW!” Let’s face it: Video conferences calls aren’t much better than the real thing, but they’re an essential part of business.

Don’t make them worse. Avoid these rookie faux pas:

  • Sit still, don’t fidget. Fixing your hair on camera? Total fail.
  • It’s usually best to mute yourself when you’re not speaking
  • Avoid open-ended questions. Ask, “Phyllis, what do you think of the new tagline?” instead of “Are there any questions?”

Remember, even when you aren’t speaking, your camera is still on. If your eyes are moving around the screen, or you appear to be typing, it’s clear you’re not fully engaged in what’s going on. Multitasking during video conference calls is tempting—but it’s also the equivalent of texting while sitting at a meeting table.

Moral of the story: Video amplifies the glitches, hiccups, and minor bumps that might go unnoticed in the real world. However, it can also help you connect with top companies and cutting edge opportunities that traditional communication won’t. The best way to shake your camera phobia and rock video is to prepare, keep it breezy, and—who knew?—be yourself.

Photo of woman with camera courtesy of Shutterstock.