Most people have some degree of anxiety when it comes to meeting new people and almost everybody has lots of anxiety about public speaking. An online video interview can often feel like both. It would help to know exactly what to expect so you can be overprepared. Unfortunately, an interview is a very personal exchange and is affected by too many factors to be predictable.
For the International Student applying for schools, there are some definite do’s and don’ts to be aware of for which you can easily prepare.
It’s important how you look, for sure. You can affect your appearance in many ways; a good place to start is a strong internet connection and a good camera. We have an expression in the US: “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. Your clothing should be of a style that reflects your best. That doesn’t necessarily mean a fancy dress or a suit and tie, but clothing which reflects who you are at your best. Most of the time an interviewer can’t see much more than your collar anyways. So be comfortable.
What’s most important is that you don’t look like you just rolled out of bed or ran a marathon or have been hit by a bus.
Look into the camera when the interviewer is speaking. The interviewer will likely be taking notes when you talk and looking at you when they talk. If you’re looking into the camera when the interviewer is speaking, they get the impression you’re looking at them. This seems like eye-contact. Ideally, you would look into the camera the whole time, but that’s tough to do. It will help to minimize and drag the box with their face close to your camera to improve the sight line.
Communication skills will largely determine your success in a study abroad experience. The interviewer is trying to get a good sense of how good yours are. They want to have a casual conversation with you to evaluate your speaking and listening skills, and will usually ask you to read a short article followed by some questions to test your understanding. Reading comprehension is a combination of recall, text searching, and decoding. They’re also checking on the extent of your vocabulary.
Use complete sentences. The interviewer will usually provide you with open-ended questions in conversation and expect you to respond creatively. Writing in English is crazy difficult. You’ll be given a writing prompt and about 10 minutes to create and communicate your response in writing. A short paragraph is expected. The key for you is to write in complete sentences while paying attention to the proper use of punctuation. Spelling and capitalization aren’t that important at this time. Most writing programs have auto-correct features to take care of that.
Immerse yourself in the language completely for about a half hour before the start of your interview. Interviewer styles are all over the map. They have pitch, pace, volume, diction, and accent differences for you to manage, so it’s important that you focus intensely. The best way to help your focus is to practice all your language skills to train your brain:
- Watch a short video in English
- Read aloud a couple of paragraphs from an English novel or short story
- Write your own short story; maybe about your ride home from school
- Get your mind and your senses tuned to English!
Your personality will influence the interviewer. Making a connection is a huge part of an interview. Your energy, your smile, your sense of humor all play a part in communicating your emotional maturity. Be yourself and don’t try too hard to be “likable” or impressive. When an interviewer sees the real you, they’ll be more likely to see the person who can meet challenges and keep a good attitude or mood during difficult times.