[06.23.10]
55 great comments!

10 Ways To Survive A Web Cam Interview

interview preparation, new jobs, 10 tips, human interest, mock interviews, web cam, job interview, job search, web cameras, computing, business, cam, success, recruitment, interviewing, jobs, interview, interviews, employment Have you ever been asked to perform in front of a camera?  How about a web cam?

And how about when you are looking for a new job?

I got a question from an old friend I worked with back in the late 80′s that prompted those above . . .

Hi Tim,

Searched the site but could not find any guideline / direction on Web
Cam interviews ( Mine upcoming is with the HR Manager)…If it is a
topic you have discussed in the past…can you advise where it might
be posted…if not…possible a discussion point down the road.

Thanks…Mark

I haven’t written about this in the past, but I think web cam interviews are going to become a lot more common.  Especially as the technology gets better and hiring companies get more comfortable using it.  In fact, now you can upgrade to a new iPhone 4 and do a video conference with another iPhone 4 user.  Very cool.

So what should you do to survive and succeed in a web cam interview?

1.  Get comfortable with the technology – If you don’t own a web camera, go buy one.  At least a week before your interview.  And then do web cam calls with everyone you know.  Buy two and send one to your parents.  Your comfort level will contribute to your confidence level.  On interview day, don’t be surprised if an issue or two comes up (can’t hear, can’t see, a few second delay).  These can happen and usually get worked out in the first few minutes.  A lot of companies will offer you a test call to make sure it all works.

2.  Set up a mock interview – It is one thing to talk to your Mom about the kid’s weekend soccer games.  It’s another to talk to an HR person you don’t know who lives on the opposite coast about your biggest challenge.  So set up a mock interview with a friend or former boss so that you can get used to giving your pitch while staring at your web cam.

3.  Clear the room – Simply said, make sure you know what the camera sees.  Ask the person doing your mock interview to tell you what they see.  Set up your computer in a clean, well lit room without your beer bottle or antique doll collection on the back wall.  Bookshelves and fireplaces tend to be pretty good.  Can be your home office if you have one.  Also, make sure your roommate, spouse and/or 6 kids are cleared out (30 minutes before and after your scheduled call).  A fight over the new PlayStation won’t sound good in the background.

4.  Determine a proper distance – To avoid the fishbowl effect during the interview, make sure you ask your friends/mock interviewer how you look.  For me, I’d like to see you from the waist up.  A little tighter is OK, but much more and you are “all face”.  Some programs will allow you to see how you look from the start allowing you to adjust on the fly.

5.  Know the strength of your voice – So, I’ll just say it.  You don’t need to yell.  With most programs, your computer’s speakers will work just fine.  If you are one of those loud talkers on a normal conference call, don’t be that person during your web cam interview.  Start in your normal voice and ask nicely, “how do I sound?” and you can adjust from there.

6.  Be professional, not stiff – Part of your task in a prelim interview is to provide detail on your qualifications for the job.  But you also have an opportunity to establish a rapport with the interviewer.  Some who interview are all business, but there are many styles of interviewers.  So your ability to judge their style early on the web cam will help you to succeed as the interview progresses.

7.  Dress to impress, not to kill – You will each make your own decision on this one.  It may depend on your own beliefs.  Or the industry or culture you’re in.  But I’m going to suggest that you interview business casual via web cam.  Still professional but comfortable enough that you don’t look over-dressed in your own house.  I’ll be curious to get your reaction this suggestion.  Feels right to me.  And it is what I’ve done in the past.

8.  Prepare like it’s interview day – Make sure you treat this web cam interview like you would an in-person interview.  You can use my Smart Interview Preparation (SIP) Tool if you like.  It walks you through a structured process to help get to know the industry, company and people.  The more you know the better, right?

9.  Smile – You hear me say this a lot.  To me, it is one of the key networking habits you need to have and something that people like to see during interviews.  It says you are confident and comfortable.  And excited to be talking to this company.  Too much and you are going to look silly so don’t over-do it.  Part of the “don’t be stiff” advice above.

10.  Relax - A web cam interview is often the first in what will be a string of interview opportunities with a company.  If you don’t succeed, you haven’t invested a lot.  Nor have they.  And you may find that this first interview unlocks the key to your next role.  Or it may uncover a dud.  Try to enjoy the process of learning about a new company and of sharing your accomplishments with others.

How about you?  What’s your advice to fellow job seekers looking to succeed via web cam?

What did I miss?

Photo Credit : the guy pictured and re-pictured above (not me!)

Tim Tyrell-Smith is the creator of Tim’s Strategy. As a blogger, Tim has been a regular contributor to U.S. News and World Report, interviewed twice on NPR and is the author of two career books (“30 Ideas” and “HeadStrong”). Become a fan at http://facebook.com/TimsStrategy and follow on Twitter (@TimsStrategy). He lives with his wife and three kids in Mission Viejo, California.

Tim Tyrell-Smith – who has written posts on Tim's Strategy®.



Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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  • http://Inlandnet.org Philippe Gadeyne

    Good pointers Tim, as recruiters and employers become more tech savvy, these interviews will become more common, they will also lead to more use of video in resumes. In addition, more companies are using video conferencing and that will become a way for employers to gauge candidates level of comfort and presence when using that technology.

  • http://Inlandnet.org Philippe Gadeyne

    Good pointers Tim, as recruiters and employers become more tech savvy, these interviews will become more common, they will also lead to more use of video in resumes. In addition, more companies are using video conferencing and that will become a way for employers to gauge candidates level of comfort and presence when using that technology.

  • http://PhyllisMufson.coachesconsole.com Phyllis Mufson

    Another tip: If your webcam attaches atop your computer you need to practice making eye contact with the webcam, rather than to the image of the other person on your computer. When you look at the computer screen the interviewer will see you continually looking down. @PhyllisMufson

    • http://www.timsstrategy.com Tim Tyrell-Smith

      @Phyllis and Lee – thanks for adding those extra tips. Much appreciated!

      @Philippe – agree that video will become a more universal tool in the job search. We may just need a few bold people to try some new ideas! Hmmm…

  • http://PhyllisMufson.coachesconsole.com Phyllis Mufson

    Another tip: If your webcam attaches atop your computer you need to practice making eye contact with the webcam, rather than to the image of the other person on your computer. When you look at the computer screen the interviewer will see you continually looking down. @PhyllisMufson

    • http://www.timsstrategy.com Tim Tyrell-Smith

      @Phyllis and Lee – thanks for adding those extra tips. Much appreciated!

      @Philippe – agree that video will become a more universal tool in the job search. We may just need a few bold people to try some new ideas! Hmmm…

  • Lee

    Some web cam/video conferencing interviews are conducted at a remote site. If this is the case, go to the facility the day before the interview to check things out. Use the same tips, but you may find lighting or a glass door to be issues that need to be addressed.

    Also, on clothing, have your practice interview check your wardrobe. Some ties and colors will ‘flare’ and become very distracting. I usually wear what I’d wear to an in-person interview with the same company, AND no pj’s, sweats, etc. on the bottom. You never know when you need to stand up to reach something…..saw that!

  • Lee

    Some web cam/video conferencing interviews are conducted at a remote site. If this is the case, go to the facility the day before the interview to check things out. Use the same tips, but you may find lighting or a glass door to be issues that need to be addressed.

    Also, on clothing, have your practice interview check your wardrobe. Some ties and colors will ‘flare’ and become very distracting. I usually wear what I’d wear to an in-person interview with the same company, AND no pj’s, sweats, etc. on the bottom. You never know when you need to stand up to reach something…..saw that!

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/richardcblackburn Richard Blackburn

    Tim – since you asked about #7, the dress code…
    I have had 2 Skype interviews (BTW, if you’ve never set up Skype with your new webcam, make sure you do so well beforehand – there are some settings for volume, etc., which take a few minutes to sort out).
    The first one was with a recruiter – he and I had talked for about an hour the day before, but he was on the E.Coast and the role was close to me in Southern California. I got shaved, dressed up (shirt and tie, smart pants, but not a suit) and mentally prepared, as Tim suggests. In <2 minutes, the interview was over – the purpose of the Skype interview was solely to make sure my body language, eye contact, dress code, etc., were all OK before we scheduled a face-to-face interview with his client. As it happened the recruiter and I carried on chatting for a few minutes, but the purpose of the Skype call was very clear. Also note – the recruiter was in jeans and t-shirt…
    The second one was with a hiring manager – but we never got to see one another because Skype wouldn't work – the whole interview was conducted by phone instead. So be prepared for that too. If the video won't work, don't waste precious time trying to make it work – suggest instead that you use the phone, and "perhaps I can work with your IT folks so we can get the connection working OK and then reschedule the Skype call". Unless you're applying for a hardware geek role, making the webcam work will not be a critical success factor in your prospective new role! Taking that path shows that you respect the interviewer's time and you'll get it working on your time, not his/hers.

    • http://www.timsstrategy.com Tim Tyrell-Smith

      Excellent advice Richard. I’m sure a lot of people will read through your stories and relax a bit knowing that technology snafus happen to everyone. And, as you suggest, aren’t the end of the world!

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/richardcblackburn Richard Blackburn

    Tim – since you asked about #7, the dress code…
    I have had 2 Skype interviews (BTW, if you’ve never set up Skype with your new webcam, make sure you do so well beforehand – there are some settings for volume, etc., which take a few minutes to sort out).
    The first one was with a recruiter – he and I had talked for about an hour the day before, but he was on the E.Coast and the role was close to me in Southern California. I got shaved, dressed up (shirt and tie, smart pants, but not a suit) and mentally prepared, as Tim suggests. In <2 minutes, the interview was over – the purpose of the Skype interview was solely to make sure my body language, eye contact, dress code, etc., were all OK before we scheduled a face-to-face interview with his client. As it happened the recruiter and I carried on chatting for a few minutes, but the purpose of the Skype call was very clear. Also note – the recruiter was in jeans and t-shirt…
    The second one was with a hiring manager – but we never got to see one another because Skype wouldn't work – the whole interview was conducted by phone instead. So be prepared for that too. If the video won't work, don't waste precious time trying to make it work – suggest instead that you use the phone, and "perhaps I can work with your IT folks so we can get the connection working OK and then reschedule the Skype call". Unless you're applying for a hardware geek role, making the webcam work will not be a critical success factor in your prospective new role! Taking that path shows that you respect the interviewer's time and you'll get it working on your time, not his/hers.

    • http://www.timsstrategy.com Tim Tyrell-Smith

      Excellent advice Richard. I’m sure a lot of people will read through your stories and relax a bit knowing that technology snafus happen to everyone. And, as you suggest, aren’t the end of the world!

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  • http://TalentRooster.com David DeCapua

    Hi Tim: Great comments and posts by your readers. People will go to a movie, but they won’t read a book – sad state, but it is what it is… Same is true of resumes which is why so many firms trying to capture that emerging market. My firm has found that candidates with a PROFESSIONAL video resume will increase their chances for hire for 50%! More interesting is that our clients are quickly being converted to “video only – don’t bother with paper…”. Interesting times lie ahead.

    • http://www.timsstrategy.com Tim Tyrell-Smith

      Hey David – Thanks a lot for stopping by. Best of luck to you with Talent Rooster. Agree that it will be interesting to see how technology continues to impact the job search process. I still see a lot of job seekers nervous with some of the new tools. But hopefully more sites like yours will help people excel.

  • http://TalentRooster.com David DeCapua

    Hi Tim: Great comments and posts by your readers. People will go to a movie, but they won’t read a book – sad state, but it is what it is… Same is true of resumes which is why so many firms trying to capture that emerging market. My firm has found that candidates with a PROFESSIONAL video resume will increase their chances for hire for 50%! More interesting is that our clients are quickly being converted to “video only – don’t bother with paper…”. Interesting times lie ahead.

    • http://www.timsstrategy.com Tim Tyrell-Smith

      Hey David – Thanks a lot for stopping by. Best of luck to you with Talent Rooster. Agree that it will be interesting to see how technology continues to impact the job search process. I still see a lot of job seekers nervous with some of the new tools. But hopefully more sites like yours will help people excel.

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  • http://www.job-hunt.org Susan P Joyce

    Great advice, everyone! I’d add something I’ve learned the hard way because it is very difficult for me to focus on the camera rather than the computer screen.

    Locate the camera very, VERY close to the SIDE of your computer screen, at natural eye level for you. Then, when you look at the computer screen, you won’t be looking obviously away from the camera. You’ll be looking to the side, slightly (hopefully).

    And, to echo Phyllis’s suggestion, focus your attention on the camera. Put a face around it if you must, but really “see” the person/people behind that camera’s eye.

    I, too, have found Skype to be challenging for video, particularly if you have a low speed Internet connection. When it works, it’s great, but DO several test runs before the “real” thing, if you can.

    • http://www.timsstrategy.com Tim Tyrell-Smith

      Susan – thanks for adding your experience to this one. I like your idea of getting the camera at a natural eye level. Hope all is going well at Job-Hunt.org!

  • http://www.job-hunt.org Susan P Joyce

    Great advice, everyone! I’d add something I’ve learned the hard way because it is very difficult for me to focus on the camera rather than the computer screen.

    Locate the camera very, VERY close to the SIDE of your computer screen, at natural eye level for you. Then, when you look at the computer screen, you won’t be looking obviously away from the camera. You’ll be looking to the side, slightly (hopefully).

    And, to echo Phyllis’s suggestion, focus your attention on the camera. Put a face around it if you must, but really “see” the person/people behind that camera’s eye.

    I, too, have found Skype to be challenging for video, particularly if you have a low speed Internet connection. When it works, it’s great, but DO several test runs before the “real” thing, if you can.

    • http://www.timsstrategy.com Tim Tyrell-Smith

      Susan – thanks for adding your experience to this one. I like your idea of getting the camera at a natural eye level. Hope all is going well at Job-Hunt.org!

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  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/bestfit Tom Carlos

    Hello everyone. I liked this post and people´s comments provide good advice too. I just want to share my experience about the first time I was webcam interviewed, It was a 25-min mock interview by the way, with LHH. I was a little bit nervous but I was able to manage it. The HR manager asked tough questions and I answered most of them but had issues with 3 or 4. After the interview, the HR mgr gave me some good feedback and provided me with a DVD on which the interview was recorded. I was surprised how much I learned about myself after watching me over and over at home on the tv; the way I speak, the face and body language, etcetera. So, Bottom line here is, we should record our mock interviews and learn about us in order to improve and fix things we are not confortable with.

    • http://www.timsstrategy.com Tim Tyrell-Smith

      Hey Tom – It’s great that they let you keep that copy of your interview. What a great learning tool.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/bestfit Tom Carlos

    Hello everyone. I liked this post and people´s comments provide good advice too. I just want to share my experience about the first time I was webcam interviewed, It was a 25-min mock interview by the way, with LHH. I was a little bit nervous but I was able to manage it. The HR manager asked tough questions and I answered most of them but had issues with 3 or 4. After the interview, the HR mgr gave me some good feedback and provided me with a DVD on which the interview was recorded. I was surprised how much I learned about myself after watching me over and over at home on the tv; the way I speak, the face and body language, etcetera. So, Bottom line here is, we should record our mock interviews and learn about us in order to improve and fix things we are not confortable with.

    • http://www.timsstrategy.com Tim Tyrell-Smith

      Hey Tom – It’s great that they let you keep that copy of your interview. What a great learning tool.

  • http://lars-hilse.de Lars Hilse

    I’m so glad I have not had a web cam interview yet and people always invite me to meet personally.

    I think I wouldn’t be able to survive it ;-)

    • http://www.timsstrategy.com Tim Tyrell-Smith

      Hey Lars – I’ll bet you could. Just takes a bit of practice!

  • http://lars-hilse.de Lars Hilse

    I’m so glad I have not had a web cam interview yet and people always invite me to meet personally.

    I think I wouldn’t be able to survive it ;-)

    • http://www.timsstrategy.com Tim Tyrell-Smith

      Hey Lars – I’ll bet you could. Just takes a bit of practice!

  • http://lars-hilse.de/ Lars Hilse

    Not really. About 5 minutes into the meeting I’d probably light up the first cigarette; just out of habit ;-)

  • http://lars-hilse.de/ Lars Hilse

    Not really. About 5 minutes into the meeting I’d probably light up the first cigarette; just out of habit ;-)

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