How to prepare for a video job interview

What’s proper attire for a Skype interview?

It’s a serious question these days as more job interviews are conducted via video chat applications such as Skype, Google Hangouts or FaceTime. Such interviews allow a company to narrow the field without paying for candidates’ travel to in-person interviews.

Paul McDonald, senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half, said video interviews are more serious than an online chat with friends and that job candidates should pay attention to numerous variables, including background noise and the physical backdrop.

“It’s the same as a phone interview: Make sure you’re in a quiet place,” McDonald said. “Make sure you’re not in the coffee shop with people walking behind you and talking. Go someplace where there’s a high-speed connection that you’ve tested.” And choose business attire over the tuxedo T-shirt.

“Make sure you’d dress like you would for an interview,” he said. “Make sure you’re well-groomed. Make sure you’re looking into the camera.”

McDonald said he learned plenty after his first video meeting: “I thought I was looking at the camera, and I was looking at the screen. Afterward, a colleague said, ‘It looked like you weren’t maintaining eye contact.’ ”

It is really important that you put your best foot forward, McDonald said. “Have a mock Skype interview with a friend or colleague, someone who can critique you,” he said. “Some people even take screenshots from the other side so the interviewee can see what they look like.”

McDonald said consideration should be given to colours, both in background and attire. A white shirt or white wall can wash some people out on camera.

Jenny Quinnette, CPA, CGMA, said that video interviews tell her more about a job candidate’s “professional poise” than a phone interview would.

“You get a better understanding of their mannerisms and how they carry themselves in a professional environment,” said Quinnette, who has interviewed candidates in her role as director of investment finance at 40|86 Advisors.

She said companies should get comfortable with video as a way to screen candidates and to be seen as tech-savvy.

“The expense savings is a bonus, but I also think it’s a method of technology, particularly if you’re recruiting younger candidates, that they’re familiar with,” she said. “As it comes to how you best connect with your candidates, these platforms are the wave of that generation.”

Quinnette echoed some of McDonald’s advice to job-seekers about attire and background and added four tips:

  • Don’t slouch or fidget. Body language can show an interviewer plenty about a candidate, including lack of interest. Keep that pen you like to click out of reach.
  • If using Skype, have a professional username. An inappropriate Skype name can sabotage even the strongest résumé.
  • Test, test, test. In addition to testing how you look and sound in advance with a friend, Quinnette said it’s a good idea to make sure you’re coming through loud and clear on the company’s end for the interview. Quinnette recommends asking the recruiter to help you connect five minutes early to test sound and video quality before being introduced to the hiring manager.
  • Be ready for Plan B. All the testing in the world won’t mean the technology works when it’s time to answer questions. Quinnette says to have the interviewer’s contact information handy in case it’s necessary to switch to a phone interview.

Whether the interview is through a computer or across a conference-room table, the best advice remains the same: Rehearse your answers and points of emphasis. Confident, engaged responses to tough questions show your intellect, enthusiasm for the job and preparation skills.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

Six Ways to Build Employee Engagement”: Amica Mutual Insurance CEO Robert DiMuccio, CPA, explained how his company develops an engaged workforce.

Female Job Candidates Prepare More for Interviews Than Male Job-Seekers, UK Survey Shows”: Interviews leave job-seekers in the UK at a loss for words. About two-thirds of job-seekers said their biggest fear before an interview was not knowing the answer to interview questions. Even with preparation, job-seekers still worried, according to a survey.

Neil Amato ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.