Despite suggestions that total lockdown is likely to come to a close sometime soon, all signs are pointing to a phased return to somewhat normal life. The likelihood is that many of us will be working from home for the foreseeable future. Not only that, but there’s a good chance you may end up doing job interviews from home, too.
According to statistics collected by graduate careers website Milkround, 1.8m young graduates have applied for jobs via video. They also found that video conferencing surpassed email as the number one form of business communication during lockdown.
Gen Z, young people born from the late 1990s onwards, are disproportionately likely to be affected by lockdown, the website found, with a quarter of people in that age group having been furloughed already.
There is a whole cohort of young people whose first job interview after school, college, or university graduation will be conducted by video. According to the Institute of Student Employers, nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) have pivoted to video interviews. But while 81 per cent of Gen Z claim to be confident in securing a job via video, not all those who’ll be looking for work during or after lockdown have the advantage of being digital natives.
This week the government has attempted to address this digital imbalance, releasing a set of online courses aimed at those who’ve been furloughed, covering skills including creating online CVs, mastering video-calls, and using social media.
To support you as you wade through the official advice, I spoke to 21-year-old YouTuber, Jack Edwards. With 203,000 subscribers, and 14 million video views to his name, it’s fair to say that Edwards is comfortable in front of the camera. He’s also due to graduate this summer, so he’s been conducting plenty of interviews of his own, making him well placed to give some tips for first time video-interviewees
1. Practice makes perfect
“Even if it feels silly and ridiculous, turn on your webcam, check the lighting is right, that you're comfortable talking on your own in a room to the camera because it is a bit weird.
“I’d be turning on my webcam and making the points that I wanted to make and speaking about myself, then watching it back and seeing if I was using loads of pauses, or speaking too quickly, or using my hands to gesticulate too much, and to check if it was it really boring. You get used to seeing what you actually look like when you're presenting yourself.”
2. Pick your spot and make sure you get a quiet moment
“Find a quiet spot where you can focus, and also inform the people around you that you're going to be using that space to do an interview. My parents walk into the room all the time or the dog starts barking, but that's not very appropriate when you're doing a professional interview that means a lot to you.
“Another part of that is knowing that your phone or your other gadgets are on silent before you start recording. It's the worst thing ever when you're in the middle of your conversation and your email alert suddenly goes off. I think it's actually more jarring to you than the interviewer. If you're in the middle of a point and your email goes off, you're suddenly panicking to mute your laptop.”
3. Write yourself a cheat sheet
“One thing I find useful, in both YouTube videos and online job interviews, is to have prompts to get me back on track if I lose the thread of presenting myself. The beauty of video-conferencing and video-interviews is that you are in a box on a screen, so there's a lot that the interviewer can't see. That's something you can use to your advantage which you might not have in a face-to-face interview. If you're using the webcam in your laptop you can have it open in another tab or in a split screen so you can see both, then it looks like you're looking at your interviewer.”
4. Prepare your electronics
“Make sure your devices are charged. It's going to be a horrible one to try to explain if the whole thing suddenly drops and ends abruptly because your laptop runs out of power. It'll just panic you, you'll be worrying about appearing rude, and it'll totally throw you off.
“Another one is to make sure your internet connection is stable. There are a few websites you can use to check what your internet connection is and how strong it is, which is really helpful.”
5. Hone your listening face
“It's hard when you can't shake their hand or say a proper goodbye as you leave, so it's even more important in a video interview to build a strong connection. One thing that's really important for video interviews is to show that you're engaged and listening.
"It's all well and good being able to present yourself when you're speaking but being able to show the other person that you're listening and actively thinking about what they're saying to you is important too, just through nodding and smiling."
6. Put your camera in the right place
“You don't want it to be too far below you. I always prop mine up. I think that getting it level with your eyeline is really useful so you're not glaring up or looking down your nose at the camera.
"Treat the camera as if it's someone else's eyes. If you hold eye contact for too long in real life, it's a bit creepy, so you should look at the screen and look at the camera, the beauty of video-conferencing is that you can look more directly at someone without it feeling like you're holding their eyeline too much.
7. Think about your background but avoid distractions
“Where your windows are is really important. If you have windows right behind you then your camera will end up focusing more on what's outside your window than on your face. I think it's most flattering to have your windows either behind the camera so the light is on you or just to the side so that it makes the whole room light and airy and it's quite natural on your skin.
“Having neutral backgrounds is quite good. I always go for a plain grey background. I think the key is to make sure your background isn't too distracting. Then again, MPs seem to compete over who has the most intellectual bookshelf behind them, and if the people who are running the country recognise that they need to have a good background then it must be pretty key.
“The same goes for your clothes. I tend to avoid big logos or bright colours or anything radical because it can be distracting, so go with something relatively plain so that your interview doesn't notice what you're wearing, they're thinking about you. If the first thing that draws attention is your neon pink top, that's a bit distracting.”
8. Look at yourself
“I think it's also important to see your own camera feed on your screen so you can see what you look like constantly. I do sometimes think it's useful to be able to look at yourself when you're using hand gestures or nodding along to what they're saying to check how you look. It's not a superficial thing, it's about presenting yourself in the way that you want. It's an advantage of video-interviews, to have that mirror showing you what you look like.”