As the owner of a childcare agency, I have had the privilege of interviewing hundreds of applicants for nanny and babysitting positions. Since 2020, virtual interviewing has become common and I’m so glad for this time-saving efficiency. I have also experienced some surprising misadventures in virtual interviewing, and I hope that sharing my advice will help you:

  • Maintain a Professional Appearance. Virtual interviews often take place in the cozy atmosphere of our homes, leading some applicants to blur the line between comfort and professionalism. I have encountered applicants with hair wet from a recent shower, wearing the hood of their hoodie over their head, and even an applicant wearing their bathrobe during an early morning interview. I have seen an applicant laying down on their couch. I have met with an applicant who had just woken up and was sitting in bed. Avoid the temptation to dress too casually or lounge. For many types of work, a nice hoodie or a nice t-shirt is now a fine way to dress for a video interview. Jewelry can add professionalism to this casual outfit. Even if you still have on your sweatpants or leggings below, be sure to choose a fresh, wrinkle-free top. Make sure your hair is well-groomed. Even though you’re not meeting face-to-face, being properly dressed for the video interview demonstrates respect.

Be Aware of Your Physical Habits And Body Language. I have experienced applicants clicking their acrylic nails together, picking absent-mindedly at a chin blemish, rubbing their eyes frequently, or chronically putting their hair up and down. I attribute some of this fidgeting to video interviews at home causing us to “forget ourselves,” so to speak. Regardless of why it happens, it doesn’t reflect well on the applicant. I have also experienced applicants repeatedly itching and scratching their face and body, which for me resulted in the impression that they were not mentally well.

Steady Your Screen. A common virtual interview mistake is holding the phone during the interview. I’ve held interviews where the interviewee was moving their phone around so much I started to feel seasick. Set your device up on a stable surface to keep it still. Be sure the level of your video aligns with your face so the interviewer isn’t looking up your nose. If you’re using a laptop, don’t rest it on your legs. People have a tendency to absentmindedly shake their foot or leg during an interview.

Check Your Wifi And Video Connection in Advance. At least 15 minutes before your scheduled interview, check your Wi-Fi connection and check that your video connection is working. If possible, sit close to the router to minimize disruptions. While it’s true that internet and camera issues can happen to anyone, as the job-seeker you have the greater responsibility to demonstrate that you are prepared. I bear this in mind as the interviewer, too. It does not demonstrate mutual respect for the applicant if my camera isn’t working.

Elaborate on How You’re Doing. Most interactions start with the question, “Hi, how are you?” Avoid an awkward response such as, “I’m fine, thanks, how are you?” In a video interview, this response sounds even more bland than it does in person. Take the opportunity for a more memorable exchange. Respond with something specific about the job, such as, “I’m doing well, I’ve been really looking forward to learning more about the nanny care you need for your daughters.” This response creates a more positive impression.

Let the Interviewer Finish Their Question or Statement. I have interviewed very experienced nannies who repeatedly cut me off mid-question because they already had an answer. Although these applicants were highly experienced, in most cases we did not proceed to the next step with them. I knew that the applicant’s communication style would create an unpleasant experience for clients since no one likes being interrupted. Remember: experts listen and ask questions first, and then respond or make recommendations. In a video interview it is even more important to closely follow the interviewer’s question and allow them to finish before you respond. This is because video lacks many of the visual nonverbal queues that normally tell us when a person has finished speaking and it’s our turn to speak.

Avoid Car Interviews. I don’t automatically dismiss candidates who interview from their car, because it actually shows their commitment to being available at the interview time that was most convenient for me. We’ve hired some excellent sitters and nannies who we first met from their car. Still, I don’t recommend it because your interviewer can hear more background noise and there are often internet connectivity problems. You won’t be quite as comfortable or as focused either, which affects your demeanor and your ability to think through responses.

Maintain Your Authenticity. People often behave less naturally in video interviews due to lack of physical proximity, stifled nonverbal communication, and fewer visual queues. There can be more awkward pauses. Remember that interviews are not the time to be reserved or overly agreeable. Your goal during an interview isn’t to “win” the job or “get picked.” Your goal is to determine if the job seems suitable for you. Ask questions and be sincere. The interviewer’s job is to listen and ask questions in order to understand if this job is right for you. You must speak up during your interview, and elaborate on your qualifications using specific examples. If this isn’t your natural disposition, imagine the interviewer as a supervisor with whom you already have a great connection. Asking good questions can make up for a lack of “small talk” skills. Think about the job skills that you need to demonstrate during your interview. For example, positions with my childcare agency involve meeting new clients in their homes and it’s very challenging work: going into a private household and caring for the most treasured family members, while at the same time quickly learning the rules and expectations specific to that household. When I interview, I am looking for applicants to be observant, expressive, and confident.

Scan The Job Post Again Before Your Interview. It seriously detracts from an interview when an applicant asks me to remind them of the position they applied for and which company I represent. It has the same effect as if I were to completely disregard reading the applicant’s resume and ask them to describe their qualifications from the very beginning. Internet job search platforms enable us to rapidly submit resumes with the click of a button. It can become challenging to keep track of all those submissions, particularly if you are inundated by interview requests. Prior to an interview call, I take at least 5 to review the applicant’s resume again. I am inclined to proceed with applicants who did the same preliminary preparation. A lack of preparation signals to me that the applicant doesn’t have much interest in the job and it would be best for them pursue other opportunities, instead.

Video interviews have become a permanent business tool, and along with their convenience it’s important to understand the unique challenges they present and the possibility for mistakes. To navigate this successfully, prioritize professionalism, establish a suitable environment with a stable screen view, and authentically highlight your valuable qualities. Remember, the interview is a mutual evaluation process where you assess the company as well. Wishing you the best of luck in your video interviews!