Carsi Hughes Ph.D.
Last fall, while discussing interviewing strategies with my pre-medical students, one young man asked for specific advice about videoconferencing interviews. A topic I know a great deal about (my spouse has spent his entire career in the field), I assured this gentle student that the medical school community had not adopted this procedure and probably wouldn’t any time soon.
Less than a year later, with the surge of teleconferencing systems, software, and web tools, several medical schools have indeed begun to use videoconferencing in lieu of face to face interviews. Surely there are more schools, universities, hospitals and clinics utilizing this technology, not to mention the likelihood of smaller entities simply using applications on their smartphones. With this in mind, here are some specific tips for interviewing via videoconferencing.
1. Just relax; you aren’t on TV.
Videoconferencing has become portable and mainstream. Those of us whose formative years involved watching “The Jetsons” may still feel blown away by current technological advances; however, for those who are only slightly younger, this is no big deal.
2. Prepare your space.
Make sure whatever is seen on camera is not distracting. Try not to be directly near windows, doors, other people, clutter, or attention-seeking art. Anything that is in your space will be seen by others. The more neutral the better.
3. Prepare your lighting.
Direct light can cast shadows which are both unflattering and distracting. Being lit only from behind is just as bad – no one will see your face. The best light is indirect, from shaded sources, or reflected from pale walls.
4. Make sure you know how to work whatever system you have.
Specifically, know how to adjust your camera and the microphone volume without becoming overwhelmed. There’s nothing worse than speaking in an interview, having your interviewer repeat over and over that she cannot hear you, and your not knowing that you inadvertently hit the ‘mute’ button. You should insist on testing whatever software you are going to use for the interview if you have never used it before. Do not make your first use the interview itself!
5. Wear things that won’t be distracting.
No white, no bright colors, no patterns. Your best bet is something pastel or neutral. Similarly, be careful with jewelry. Very shiny pieces may reflect light and anything noisy (like a wrist of bangle bracelets) can overpower the microphone.
6. Practice making eye contact.
This is often very easy to do face to face; however, in videoconferencing, your “eye contact” is the camera lens. Looking into the camera is more important than looking into the picture of the eyes of your interviewer. If you adjust your camera properly, you should be able to have a more natural eye contact with your interviewer, so make sure the camera is positioned near where the face of the interviewer will be – generally right on top of your monitor.
7. Speak up.
Video is wonderful, but if they cannot hear you, the interview will not go well. They can adjust volume at their end if you are too loud.
8. Be self-aware.
Videoconferencing these days is in high definition. That means that everything can seen by the other person. They can adjust their camera to look at you and your space from any angle. If you are fidgety or distracted, they will see it.
With these few things in mind, you all can have a very successful videoconferencing interview which has the potential to be convenient, inexpensive, and equally as valuable as a face to face interview.