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Avoiding Tragedy in Video Interviews

Last year BBC Dad took the internet by storm. We all felt immediate empathy for Professor Robert Kelly who was being interviewed in his home office when his preschool daughter came bebopping into the room, followed by a baby in a walker. The chagrined father makes apologies. He tries to go bravely on, but his train of thought has clearly been derailed. The children’s mother then dashes into the room and frantically grabs the children, before crawling back in to close the door behind her.

Dr. Kelly’s blunder got him millions of views, countless memes, and follow-up interviews, but most of us aren’t so lucky when we misstep. Whether it’s a video job-interview or an interview with the BBC, what steps can you take to make sure it’s distraction-free?

1. Test your technology. Trouble with technology is the number-one frustration with video interviews. The connection is poor. The camera isn’t working. The call keeps dropping. Test your technology well in advance of the call so you have time to purchase new equipment if needed. Make and receive a test call from a friend to ensure everything is working properly.

2. Prepare your environment. What is in view of the camera? What sounds might interfere? Does your AC cycle on, creating a buzz? Have the camera situated so you can sit comfortably and be viewed from the shoulders up. Avoid having the camera angled up or down, but rather have it face you head-on. Arrive to your interview location early so you can get settled in, relax with a cup of coffee, and review your notes before the interview.

3. Respond graciously. Even when you’ve taken all precautions, mishaps will happen. One of our associates was speaking with the governor from her home office, where she was alone in the house, when a neighbor child entered her home and began a sustained banging on the piano. Things will go wrong in interviews and in work. Allowing your interviewers to see you graciously respond adds to your credibility. Perhaps BBC Dad could have turned to address his daughter or taken her on his lap and continued talking rather than try to blindly push her away. Don’t allow yourself to be unnerved, but move on as seamlessly as you can.

While video interviews can be conducted from the comfort of your own home, they deserve all the seriousness and preparation of a regular interview. Have you ever bungled a video or phone interview? Tell us your harrowing and hilarious stories on Twitter.