Not long ago someone wanted to interview me via Skype. I froze.
I badly needed a haircut. I had bags under my eyes after a week of no sleep because of a bad head cold. The t-shirt I was wearing had a big stain from the tea I had spilled on myself earlier.
A Skype interview? Oh, yeah, that was so never going to happen.
But if you're a job searcher, you've got to always be ready for that call asking for a video interview. That's why I think this latest column I did for Gannett/USA Today is a good lesson for all of us about being ready in this time of the webcam....
Would you buy a car without first seeing it or taking it for a test drive?
Probably not, and employers feel the same way about job candidates. They want to know that a job candidate is reliable, will fill their needs, and won't quit when the road gets bumpy.
But how do employers "test drive" candidates before making a job offer without being too time consuming or expensive?
One solution has been video interviewing. Companies like HireArt weed through job applicants and send short videos of good fits to potential employers.
As part of that test drive, employers also may request candidates take on challenges to show their aptitude for a job, HireArt's co-founder Elli Sharefsays.
An engineering company may pose a coding challenge to an applicant, or someone claiming social media expertise may be asked to come up with sample tweets, Sharef says.
"We really think video interviewing is going to take off because for the first time it's possible with the number of webcams and the increasing number of job applicants for each position," Sharef says. "Employers just find having such richer candidate information is helpful."
That's why chances are good that sometime in your professional career you will have to do a video interview.
To make a good impression, experts say you should:
• Be enthusiastic. Channeling energy when you're staring at a computer screen may be difficult, it's important you appear upbeat, Sharef says.
Think about why you're passionate or excited about the job, then pump yourself up to sit down and let that show through. Think about listening to your favorite music beforehand or reading inspirational quotes to get yourself in the right frame of mind.
• Dress professionally. Wearing your fraternity T-shirt or having messy hair hanging in your face won't make a good impression.
If you don't appear professional, an interviewer will be distracted and you'll convey the message you didn't care enough about the job.
Wear the same kind of clothes you would to an interview. Avoid busy patterns on clothes because they become distorted on screen. Don't wear jewelry such as bracelets that might make noise as you move.
• Check your background. Beer bottles, dirty laundry and your 12 cats shouldn't be visible.
Clean up the area as much as possible, and make sure your face is lit clearly. Lighting only from above can cast shadows on your face and make you look tired.
Any noisy children or pets need to be out of the area.
• Sit tall. You may not even realize how much you slump before a computer until you see yourself on video.
Make sure you're positioned so you're directly in front of the screen. Keep your eyes on the video camera "eye" so that it appears you're looking directly at the viewer.
Make sure you don't swivel in your chair, and avoid nervous gestures such as jiggling your leg, which can cause your whole body to move.
• Be a bit spontaneous. It's OK to practice what you want to say so you come across as articulate and confident in the video, but Sharef says one successful candidate notes he only used a couple of "takes" so he would come across as genuine.
"You don't want to be reading notes," she says.
• Do your homework. When crafting your video pitch, find ways to note that you understand the industry and the company.
For example, you may want to talk about the company's commitment to sustainability as a reason you would like to work there.
Finally, ask a friend to watch your video interview and get feedback, or practice before a mirror and record your pitch so you can work to eliminate indecisive words such as "maybe" or "kind of."
You need to sound confident and well spoken during an interview. Any flaw can get you deleted quickly from an interviewer's files.