How to Sell Yourself in a Video Interview, with Kanika Tolver
In an ever-changing world of technology, many job seekers are now being asked to do video interviews. But if you’ve only done face-to-face interviews before, how do you prepare for an on-camera meeting? Find Your Dream Job guest Kanika Tolver says you need to prepare for a video interview in two ways: technology and practice. Make sure you install the technology you’ll be using to conduct the interview a day prior and that you understand how it works. And ask family and friends to practice with you. Kanika also suggests setting up a distraction-free environment and allowing your true personality to shine through.
About Our Guest:
Kanika Tolver is a professional coach, author, and speaker. She believes that a satisfying, successful career requires fulfillment, self-awareness, and determination.
Resources in This Episode:
- For more information visit kanikatolver.com
- Check out Kanika’s book Career Rehab: Rebuild Your Personal Brand and Rethink the Way You Work
Find Your Dream Job, Episode 230:
How to Sell Yourself in a Video Interview, with Kanika Tolver
Airdate: February 12, 2020
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.
Video interviews have become common for many employers. And they require different skills and preparation than an in-person meeting.
Joining us to talk about how you can sell yourself in a video interview is Kanika Tolver.
Kanika is a professional coach, author, and speaker. She believes that a satisfying, successful career requires fulfillment, self-awareness, and determination.
She joins us today from Washington, DC.
Well, Kanika, let’s jump right into it. Why do employers do video interviews at all?
I think they do interviews now because they want to weed out the weakest links. They want to be able to get to the best candidates a lot faster. Instead of bringing people in and taking that time to bring people in, it’s just so easy for, now with digital technology, for us to just get online, meet the interview panel, and the interview panel gets to get a sneak peek of who that candidate is on video.
There’s actually more opportunity for candidates here because people who might not get flown to a city or given a meeting across town have a chance to make an impression they might not otherwise have, is that right, Kanika?
I would agree. A lot of companies that are in Silicon Valley or in different states, they do video interviews and that’s usually the first or second phases, before they actually send someone out. So, I think it’s important that when you are relocating or thinking about relocating to a different state, that if you are applying for a job, that you can do the video interview prior to being flown out to that particular state to actually do a face to face interview.
Do you also see, in the clients you work with that, even when the company is in the same town that the candidate is in that video interviews happen as well?
I’ve definitely seen that within my coaching practice. I’ve seen a lot of my candidates that have done phone interviews and video interviews right in Washington, DC and the job was right in the Washington, DC area.
I want to talk about how to prepare and do video interviews well but your point intrigues me. Why do employers choose video interviews, say, over a phone interview? Is there a strategy there?
The strategy is, they really want to get to know the candidate. They really want to be able to see if a candidate can shine, if a professional can shine on camera. And if they’re able to tell the story of their career and they can do it on video and they can do it really well, I think that’s very powerful, that the professional has that ability to do that.
And you want to make the interview panel feel like you’re with them in person as you would do a traditional interview. I think that that’s just another great communication skillset that professionals should have when they’re doing video interviews.
Okay, let’s talk about the how and the skills as well, but I do wonder if there’s a listener out there who’s wondering if it’s harder to do an interview on camera than in person. What’s been your experience?
My experience is that it has been harder to maybe, sometimes, read the body language of the people that are on camera. Because a lot of times, when you do an interview face-to-face, you can read the body language of people a little bit more because you can see them. So, I think that’s the one challenge, is that you really have to prepare for the interview. Also prepare yourself on how you’re going to articulate yourself, with being able to smile, being able to be vibrant and answer the questions but also gauge the tone of the person that’s interviewing you and their body language as well, on video. It’s a little bit hard because you’ve got that small window where you can only see that person or those people that are interviewing you. So, I think that’s the challenge for a lot of people that have to get on video.
What are your best tips for how to read someone that you’re seeing on your computer screen? Any shortcuts that you can recommend?
I think it’s important to pause in between your responses, so you can allow that person who is asking you the question to fully go through their question. I think it’s also important for you to also listen to the tone of the way they ask the question, meaning the volume, the tone of how they ask it, whether they ask it in a very…I don’t want to say attitude but watch the attitude of their tone, of the way they ask the question. If they have a very upbeat personality as they’re asking the question then that gives you a sign that, “Hey, this person is really excited about this interview.”
Or, listen to how they gauge your responses. So, when you respond and they say, “Oh, that was a great point. Oh, that was a great question.” That’s giving you some vibes that the interview is actually going well. If the interview goes beyond the time frame that was allocated for it, so if it’s a 30-minute interview and you guys are talking for about 45 minutes, I think that’s a good sign that you are vibing well, your personality fit might be a good fit with that person that’s interviewing you.
Okay, in a moment I want to talk about what to do if you sense the interview isn’t going well but let’s step back. Let’s talk about preparation. How do you recommend someone prepare for a video interview?
I think environment is very important as you prepare for the interview, making sure you’re in the right environment in a quiet place. Making sure that you have all of your technology set up an hour before the interview takes place, because the technology, we all know that it can fail, right?
So, making sure that you understand what URL you’re linking to, whether you’re doing…you know, are you going to Google Hangout? Are you going to Zoom? Or any technology that the company plans to use, you want to make sure that you test that out correctly.
Your audio settings are really important. So, making sure that your input and output audio settings are set correctly. Whether you plan on using a headset, whether you plan on using headphones, whatever your computer desires to use so that you can have good quality audio is so important. Those are some of the things that I think are important.
Even in addition to preparing for the interview questions, your environment could kill the interview if you’re not in the right place.
Well, let’s talk about technology. Should people wear headsets or earbuds, or should they use their laptop microphone? What’s going to be most effective?
I think headset because my personal opinion about the microphone from the laptop is that it can be an echo, there could be other noises that are going on in the room, that your personal phone could be ringing, you could have someone walking throughout the house or throughout the kitchen, that could interfere in the noise, so I think it’s important to wear a headset.
Testing, you mentioned, when do you recommend people do this? 15 minutes before the start of the call, the day before?
I always do, me personally, I always do an hour to 30 minutes before. But if you really feel like you need to install the technology, like if they’re using a certain web meeting technology that needs to be installed on your computer, it probably would be good to do it the day before because we know installations could fail on your laptop.
So, I use Zoom a lot. I’ve done a lot of Zoom interviews. So, Zoom is already on my computer so I already know that if I see the URL in the email invite, that it’s a Zoom call, I’m good but if it’s another technology, I should install that a day before.
You mentioned environment, Kanika, what’s the best background? Do you recommend artwork, a blank wall, a window, a bookcase? What’s most effective?
The less distraction in the background would be best because I think people need to get to see you. You’re interviewing for this job, so you want to make sure that you don’t have a whole lot of crazy artwork or graffiti or anything crazy in the background that’s going to distract the people that are interviewing you from really getting to know you and seeing you, so I would say a plain background would be an amazing idea.
Any other tips about environment? I think you mentioned being in a quiet room, is it too much to tell people that…should you hang a sign on the door? I’m thinking about that BBC interview that went viral a few years ago where the fellow was doing a very serious analysis of a political situation in the Middle East and his kid kept running back and forth behind him.
Do you remember that video?
Yes, I do, yes. For me, I just forwarn my family, the people that I live with, I live with just my husband but I would say, if possible, try to schedule your interviews when you know your kids away at daycare, when they’re away at school, put the dog up in the cage down in the basement.
I think it’s important to prepare the people that you live with to let them know, “Hey, I have this amazing opportunity to interview with this company. I really, really, really need you guys to either not be home or not be in the same room while I’m conducting the interview.
What about lighting, Kanika? I know this isn’t a Hollywood movie but are there basic best practices that you suggest people follow?
I recommend good lighting. Another reason why I recommend good lighting is because people really need to get to see you through the camera, and if the lighting is very dim and dark, your light as an individual and your personality don’t really get to shine through. So, I think good lighting.
If it’s a sunny day in your city where you live, open up the blinds, natural sunlight is amazing but if you are in a place where you’re not available to natural sunlight, then I think making sure you have as many lights on in that room is very important. And making sure that your camera, another thing is your camera lens should be cleaned off and clear because sometimes, even on the camera with the laptop, you can get different residues or different fingerprints that could make your camera not clear.
Let’s talk about grooming and wardrobe. Do you have fundamental tips about clothing? I’m thinking about colors and patterns. What are your best dos and don’ts there?
I’d just say keep it very basic, keep it very much solid prints. I wouldn’t even say prints, solid colors. I would say, you don’t have to dress up from head to toe because you’re not going into the office. I think it’s still important to put on that white-collar shirt, that black blazer, that blue blazer, solid colors only and for you to look professional on the video interview.
I’m not saying that you have to go and do something very extravagant, I just think that it’s very important to be able to be business casual, or a little bit more than business casual from the neck down to your waist at least.
Finally, what are your best grooming tips for men and women for a video interview?
Make sure your hair is done. You know, men make sure your hair is combed and groomed, and I’m not saying that you have to necessarily go and get a haircut, but I think it’s important that if you are in very dire need of a haircut prior to the interview, I think that’s important.
I think for women, make sure that your hair is definitely away from your face. It’s not overshadowing your eyes and not overshadowing your cheek area, so that people can really see your face. I think that’s really important because this is like the one time that people get to get a good glimpse of who you are. So, I think that it’s important to make sure that you do groom your hair. I’m not saying put a whole bunch of makeup on for women but I definitely think it’s important to at least have great hair for the interview.
What are your suggestions about jewelry for men and women?
I’m more of a minimalist, less is more. I think, again, that it’s important to not allow your accessories and the things around you, or your environment or even the things you wear to outshine you. I think this is your opportunity to maybe keep the jewelry very simplistic.
Well, this is terrific, Kanika and in the end, this is a job interview, and I want to talk about the interview itself and how it works on camera. And besides these important tactical tips, how someone should prepare for those interview questions.
We’re going to take a break and when we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with Kanika Tolver, who will share her advice about how to sell yourself in a video interview.
Whether you have a video interview, or you’re meeting a manager in person, you can expect to get what are called behavioral interview questions.
Do you know how to answer one of these questions?
We have a new free guide that can help. It’s called 100 Behavioral Interview Questions You Need to Know.
Get your copy today. Go to macslist.org/questions.
Behavioral interviews have become common in hiring.
And just as with a video interview, you need to prepare ahead of time.
Our free guide can help. Download 100 Behavioral Interview Questions You Need to Know.
Go to macslist.org/questions.
You’ll get a four-part process for answering any behavioral questions.
You’ll learn how to talk about the results you’ve produced for past employers.
Don’t get gobsmacked in your next job interview.
Go to macslsit.org/questions. It’s free.
Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Kanika Tolver. She’s a professional coach, author, and speaker.
She joins us today from Washington, DC.
Now, Kanika, before the break we went through all these tactical steps you need to do to prepare for a video interview, and we talked about technology, the environment, wardrobe, and grooming. In the end, it is a job interview, and are there standard steps that you recommend for a video interview in terms of preparing for questions and research that might be different from an in-person interview?
Yes, I think that preparing for a video interview, it gives you a little bit more flexibility to ask questions that are a little bit out of the traditional format of a face to face interview. I think it’s always important to have questions that are specific around the role.
Really know the role so when you go on the interview, when you actually go on the video interview, one thing that you should know, one thing that everyone should know this already, but if you don’t, it’s to know your resume.
Be able to tell the story of your resume in a way that makes it align with the role that you’re interviewing with. So, make sure that you’re able to point out things that you’ve accomplished that align with the duties and responsibilities that are in the job description.
Always prepare for your questions at the end of the video interview. There is going to be an opportunity for you to ask questions, so I think that it’s really a good idea to do research on the company, but also ask more questions specific to the role. Because a lot of the things that happen on video interviews is they’re really trying to maybe sometimes find a technical fit, and I think that’s it’s good for you to figure out how to get in a question about the company itself, the role, and then to also ask a really thought-provoking question, where you’ve done some research about some brand new news that has happened with the company. Maybe they’ve gone public, maybe they’ve acquired another company, maybe they’re…think about a question that is kind of different from what everyone else might ask in the interview.
Try to bring that wild factor question as your third question.
Okay, so, your job isn’t just to respond to questions; it’s to bring curiosity to the conversation.
Are there things that you want to do differently that you might do in a video interview that you wouldn’t do in an in-person conversation?
There are a few things. As you’re answering these questions, one thing that you definitely want to maybe…bring your personality up just a notch. Because you’re not in the room with these people, you want to smile, you want to be vibrant, you want to answer the questions, you want to let your personality shine through the camera lens, so that they can get a little bit more insight of who you are.
Another great thing that you can do is that you can, as the conversation evolves, you may want to be prepared to show them some of your work. If you’re in a technical field and you have online work that you want to show them, if there’s time and if the conversation feels good enough to…it feels good, like they want to see work that you’ve done, then maybe share your screen with them and show them a website or code or an online portfolio or a document. Something that could bring that wild factor to the interview to show them that you are qualified for the role.
I’m curious, could you tell us more about how to amp your personality up? I’m a pretty soft-spoken guy. I struggle with that. What do you see work in the clients that you serve, Kanika? How do they amp themselves up when they do a video interview?
I think prior to the interview, it’s good to do practice video interviews with family and friends. That can amp you up, that can prepare you. I like to think of interviews as showtime. Prior to the showtime, you have these rehearsals, right? So you think about celebrities, they go on camera all the time; maybe do a video interview practice with a family member or a mentor or a professor, somebody who can really give you the feedback that you need, so when you get on camera, you can feel amped up, you can feel confident even if you are a soft-spoken person. So, smile, be clear in your responses.
Also, it’s okay to not be so serious. I think sometimes interviews can feel like you have to be extremely serious. I think it’s okay to turn the interview into more like a conversation that you’re having with someone. Just as much as you might feel uncomfortable, you have to gauge the person that’s interviewing you and see if there’s a level of comfort that can come in through feeling their vibes.
I think that’s very important because people get to see the softer side of you and not just the technical side that you might bring to the interview.
At the start of our conversation, before the break, we talked about how you can tell if people that you’re interviewing with are engaged and responding positively to your answers to their questions. I want to return to that situation, and what do you do, Kanika, if you think you’re not getting a good response? How do you tell, first of all, and what do you do when you start to see negative signals?
You keep pushing through. You don’t allow that to show on camera. Because the difference between video interviews and phone interviews, if that’s happening, your facial expression will easily show on camera. So, I think it’s important to, even when you’re in your mind and you say, “Oh my gosh, this interview is not going well in my mind. I feel like I’m responding well. I feel like I don’t understand the questions or the information that they’re asking me, I have never done before.” You’ve got to keep pushing through and you kind of have to save face a little bit because you don’t want the feeling of the interview not going well to overshadow on camera and then for them to kind of cancel you out as a potential candidate to go to the next round.
I think it’s important to still try the best that you can to remain confident in your ability to answer the questions and if you don’t know the answers to the questions, I think it’s okay to not go down that rabbit hole and clearly show that you have no knowledge of that question.
Keep the game face on. In terms of format, do you find that when people do video interviews, it’s typically one on one or, I think that you mentioned that sometimes there are panels? How often do you see panel interviews, and do they require different preparation or execution when you’re in the middle of one?
I’ve seen more one on one interviews with video and I’ll tell you why. Because it’s kind of hard to get everyone on camera; like if it’s 5 people, 4 people, or 3 people in the room, it’s hard to get everyone on camera.
My personal experience being in the technology industry and even some of my career coaching clients, they have had video interviews in this format. They’ve had an interview, the first round with one person, and then if they make it to the next round, they say, “Oh, the next round, you’ll be interviewing with the manager.” “The next round you’re going to be interviewing with the VP or the principal of the company.”
I’ve seen it where instead of having all of these 2 or 3 people sitting on camera at one time, I’ve seen it where it goes through multiple rounds but they’re one on one interviews.
What’s the most common mistake you see candidates make in video interviews and how do you recommend they avoid it?
I think the most common mistake people make is they allow their nervousness to overshadow the knowledge that they have. Because being on camera with a stranger is just…it can be very difficult, so I think people should do a lot of practice prior to the interview.
Another mistake I’ve seen people make is I’ve seen people, towards the end, they’re not trying to engage the person that they’re in the interview with enough by asking the right questions, they just kind of want to get off the video really quick, you know. It’s over, like the person has gotten to the end and they’re just so ready to get off video so fast that they’re not really engaged enough to say, “I’m going to take the time to develop one or two good questions to ask them.”
Even if it goes good or bad, you should still ask those questions.
I really second your advice there because I hear from employers a lot that candidates come to interviews, whether they’re in person or by phone or by video, and they don’t ask questions, and it’s such a lost opportunity, isn’t it, Kanika?
Asking questions shows your interest in the opportunity and in the company.
To me, if I was interviewing someone and they had so many amazing questions, I would be like, “Wow, they’re really interested, not just in this role, but they’re interested in the mission of our company, our products, and services, our strategic plan.”
I think that it’s important that when you ask questions to also put your business hat on. Think about, what would the CEO want you to ask them? What would the VPs want you to ask? Because it shows that you’re potentially in it for the long-term success of not just the role that you’re interviewing for but the success of the company.
How do you recommend a candidate close a video interview? If it was an in-person meeting, for example, you might shake people’s hands, leave business cards. What do you do when you’re talking to somebody by camera?
When you’re talking to someone by camera, I think it’s so important to make sure that you ask what the next steps are. Because it’s a big possibility that you may go through the next round or you may never see this person that you saw on video ever again if the interview didn’t go so well. I think it’s important to say, at the end of the interview, you’ve asked your questions and you say, “Hey, what are the next steps?”
Or, a lot of times, they will give you that information. But if you feel like you’ve left that…you don’t want to leave the video interview with no closure, like what are the next steps? And the next thing that you want to do is you want to make sure that you have their follow up contact information, because a lot of times in the face-to-face interviews, you’re given a business card. You know, somebody slides you their business card. So, you want to make sure that at the end, even the recruiter that you’re working with, you want to make sure that you have that person’s name and email address so that you can do your follow up, thank you email.
Well, it’s been a great conversation, Kanika. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?
What’s next for me? I am super excited about 2020, I have an awesome book coming out called, “Career Rehab: Rebuild Your Personal Brand and Rethink the Way You Work.”
This book is really about those that feel that they’re in a stuck place and they want to have some career renovations, they want to rehab their career so that they can go to the next level. There are a lot of awesome tips about video interviews in this book, and there are a lot of awesome tips about just how you can take the foundation of your education and experience to the next level for your career.
I’m super excited about it and you guys can check that book out on Amazon.
Well, congratulations, that’s a terrific accomplishment.
I know that people can learn more about you, your career coaching practice, and your new book, “Career Rehab ” by going to your website kanikatolver.com.
Now, Kanika, it’s been a terrific conversation with lots of great tips, but what’s the one thing that you want a listener to remember about how to sell yourself in a video interview?
I want the listeners to know that it’s also important to bring your technical expertise to the interview but also bring your authentic self to the interview. You don’t have to show everything about you but try to let your light shine so the company can make a decision to see if you’re a good culture fit. And I think if you guys can do a little bit of technical expertise interview with a dash of your great personality, and allow you light to shine through that video interview, then you can sell yourself into that role.
As you prepare for a video interview, you also need to be ready for behavioral interview questions.
Whether you talk to an employer on camera, by phone, or in person, you can expect these questions about your past professional experiences.
Don’t get blindsided. Get your copy today of 100 Behavioral Interview Questions You Need to Know.
Go to macslist.org/questions.
On our next episode, our guest will be Raine Lunke. She’s the founder of R2R Strategic Recruiting in Vancouver, Washington.
Raine and I will talk about how you can customize your resume in 10 minutes or less. Her tips will save you hours of work.
Wouldn’t you like to know more? Join us.
Until then, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.