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Lights, Camera, Action!
How to make your video-interview debut a hit
By Judy Rosemarin
Shhh. Quiet on the set.
The camera is focused and ready. Everyone's in his place. Two seconds until you're on. Fear grips your nerves. Will you come across as credible or as a creep? Butterflies in your stomach would be a relief from your pounding heart and pouring perspiration.

If you haven't interviewed on camera, get ready because the novelty soon may be commonplace.

More companies and recruiters are using this technology in the hiring process. Between 40,000 and 50,000 video-conferencing rooms were built in 1999, according to Elliot Gold, a video-conferencing analyst and president of Telespan Publishing Corp., a marketing research company in Altadena, Calif. Eighty-five percent of Fortune 500 companies have video-conferencing capabilities, he says.

From a business point of view, video interviews are cost effective and efficient. Employers save the expense of travel and accommodation and you save your own personal wear and tear.

Interviewing on camera is similar to a traditional face-to-face interview. Some rules are the same: let the interviewer lead, listen carefully so you can connect your value to their needs, ask pertinent questions, keep your answers succinct and to the point and show enthusiasm for the job.

But there are some differences with video-interviews. For one, says Alan Geller, executive search firm in New York, "With the presence of a camera, a video interview can make you feel as if you're walking around without clothes…Once a camera is in the room, it's another pair of eyes and increased pressure to try and look good, yet feel comfortable."

Even if you're used to participating in videoconferences, you'll find video interviews different because it's your next job that's up for grabs. The heat's turned up.

It may feel strange to sit alone, in an empty room with a camera and monitor, instead of across the desk from an actual person. Your interviewer is miles away and will be talking with you in front of the same kind of camera and watching a similar monitor.

Use the following tips to help make your video interviews a success.

Prepare and Relax
Most people seize up in front of cameras, says Joyce Newman, president of Newman Group, a media-training firm in New York. "In order to avoid that and ease yourself into it, try to make friends with the camera," she says. Giving the camera an affectionate name might help lighten the pressure. She also recommends practicing at home. Take out the camcorder that you previously used only for holidays and do some role playing before you get in front of the recruiter's camera.

Before any interview, you should prepare for the questions that you'll be asked. Reexamine who you are and what your value is to the employer. Be sure to have some examples of your accomplishments that can demonstrate what you offer.

Prior to the interview, ask how much time is scheduled and your recruiter or contact at the employer for advice on how to make the best impression.

Consider Production Values

Arrive early to check out the setting and just get used to the new medium. Work with the technician and try out different angles.

A senior manufacturing executive in San Diego arrived 30 minutes early when he interviewed via video with a firm in Pittsburgh. By looking at the monitor, he could tell the camera setup would show him at the end of a long conference table. Worried that he'd look too detached, he rearranged the camera and seat. "The impression I wanted to make was that of being more approachable and accessible," he says.

Because he had the chance to arrange a setting in which he could feel relaxed, he could focus on the conversation, not on his appearance. You can't do that if you arrive five minutes before show time.

If your video interview is at home, select a room with an appropriate atmosphere. Examine the room from the camera's point of view. If there's anything inappropriate or unprofessional within the camera's range, hide it.

The purpose of any interview is to get another interview. You'll need to make the recruiter feel assured that you're the right choice and that he or she is safe in recommending you to the next level. Most interviewers are concerned about making the right decision. You need to help them.

Personal Appearance

While some may worry about not being telegenic and the camera adding a few pounds, the most important factor influencing your appearance is whether you feel alert and comfortable.

Don't wear that new interview suit you just bought if you haven't worn it before. If you're not used to it, it might surprise you when you least expect it, says Ms. Newman. "If you've never sat down in it before, better not use it," she warns. Wear clothes that move with your body.

During the interview, glance at the monitor occasionally to check your posture. If you're slouching, sit up. If you're leaning to one side, straighten up. Entertainers use monitors all the time for feedback. But you may be distracted because the monitor will reverse your image, so be careful not to focus too much on yourself. Focus on the camera and the interviewer.

You'll also need to add more oomph to your presentation. Cameras and television monitors have a way of sapping what would be considered normal enthusiasm in a traditional setting. Be sure to smile and use gestures, but not excessively. Gestures should underscore important information.

The Time Factor

Time management is critical in video interviews. Most are planned for about an hour. The company is buying the airtime, so when the allotted time is up, it's up. Be sure to fit in both your concerns and the interviewer's and leave enough time at the end for an unhurried, friendly close.

Traditional interviews may begin with chitchat, but you may not have that luxury when the camera is rolling. You'll need to follow your interviewer's lead.

Another time-related consideration is the time delay. It's like talking to someone overseas. A couple of seconds elapse between the time the interviewer speaks and the time you hear him. When the interviewer finishes speaking, stay quiet and listen to make sure he's really done. To be certain, count two seconds before you reply.

"Because of the time delay, it's difficult to be spontaneous," says Mr. Geller. "You can't talk over the other person. Sounds seem to go only one way at a time so be patient and listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth, so use them accordingly."

For most people, silence creates an inexplicable urge to talk. Don't. Running over someone else's words before they have finished implies that you think that what you have to say is more important then listening.

The upside to waiting and listening is that you can jot down notes to help you respond more effectively. Since most camera shots are from the middle of the chest up, the interviewer won't see them.


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