Video interview communication - eye contact and paper?

Case Interview
New answer on Jan 14, 2022
10 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jan 12, 2022

Hi all, would like to hear your advice on video interviews. Firstly, I find it very hard to maintain eye contact during case interviews, especially when I'm focusing on solving the case. Are there any tips regarding how to deliver a suitable eye contact?

Secondly, have anyone tried using a paper to communicate structures and ideas with the interviewer? Is it recommended to use written notes / structures on paper to communicate with interviewers?

Thanks!

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Francesco
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 13, 2022
#1 Coach for Sessions (3.800+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (www.case.tools/results) | Ex BCG | 8Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

1) Are there any tips regarding how to deliver a suitable eye contact?

Honestly this is not that critical in a video interview. It is far more important that you communicate correctly. You can find some tips below for video interviews in general and communication:

  1. Prepare the place for the call. A quiet environment is a must-have. Also, be sure that you have an appropriate background.
  2. Test audio and webcam. Check in advance that they work properly.
  3. Prepare on the wall in front of you all the material you need (eg structures). So you won't have to look for it during the interview/ won't make it clear you are reading it
  4. Smile during the call. It is an excellent way to show energy.
  5. Use numbers when communicating your structure. Important as well in a face-to-face interview but even more in a video one. This will make it easier for the interviewer to follow you since they probably cannot see your notes. As an example: “In order to help our client, I would like to focus on three main areas. First, I would like to focus on [FIRST TOPIC], secondly on [SECOND TOPIC], finally on [THIRD TOPIC]. Let me start with the first one."
  6. Prepare your own questions. Relevant questions at the end are a great way to show your interest in the company and get additional points. This is particularly important in a phone/video interview, as the interviewer will naturally connect less with you. In the first reply at the link below you can find some tips on the ideal questions to ask at the end of your call: https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/open-house-at-bcg-311.
  7. Bonus: record yourself using Zoom before the interview, simulating the call. You may notice a few things to correct.

2) Secondly, have anyone tried using a paper to communicate structures and ideas with the interviewer? Is it recommended to use written notes / structures on paper to communicate with interviewers?

If you want to share your notes for the initial structure, you have two options:

  1. Show the notes to the interviewer directly (you cannot use blurred background if you do so). I saw some comments saying you should not do so because they won’t be able to read. However:
    1. If you test your webcam in advance recording yourself, you should easily be able to check if that’s the case
    2. Even if they won’t be able to read, they will see the general structure that you will present and follow you better if you lead them through it
  2. Take a picture, send your own notes to your own computer and ask the interviewer if you can send them. In this way you will avoid the issue of having to show them while presenting

It’s not compulsory to do any of the two, but could help the interviewer to follow better your structure. If you want to share the notes, you should practice it in advance – if you do so for the first time during the interview that won’t likely work very well.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

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Stephan
Expert
replied on Jan 13, 2022
Former BCG CON and political advisor here to help you crack the case (MBB, Europe & MidEast, non-business backgrounds)

Hi Anonymous,

 

eye contact is definitely an important aspect in terms of building a rapport with your interviewer, showing that you are attentive, etc. However,I would say it is not a dealbreaker unless you are super awkward. 
 

To your first question, one mistake I see people make is looking at themselves on their screen, or looking at the interviewer - but not at the camera! Please keep this in mind. You can either position the window showing you the camera images below your webcam, so you can look at them, or just decide to focus on the webcam when you are speaking or listening. It may feel odd and you might miss some facial clues, but the impression will be better than fixing your gaze on the screen (vs the webcam).

 

Agree with the points others have made - angle and lighting are key as well - you may also want to consider a professional background picture in case your actual background is not ideal.

 

Good luck

Stephan

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Rafaella
Expert
replied on Jan 12, 2022
Ex McKinsey | Tech Entrepreneur | Coached 50+ candidates | 1st session for free

Hello! 

That is a great question, speacially nowadays that in various countries the interviews are happening using video conferencing tools.

Regarding the video and eye contact question is important to always try to look at the camera lens and not to the person image on you computer, in that way it will seem like you are looking into the person eyes. Also, if you have a webcam available it is usually better than using your own computer camera (they don't have a good resolution).

My suggestion is to face the interview as a conversation with a work colleague, don't take it too formal or too lightly. When providing answers picture that you are solving the case together and explain your thoughts in a structured way without being too serious or putting yourself down. 

About your notes, it is not needed to show any of that to your interviewer and in fact it can get in the way of your toughts or you can loose some time trying to make pretty and organized notes to share with the interviewer. What is important about your notes is that they are clear to you and they help you structure your thought, so your spoken communication is clear, concise and structured. 

Hope this was helpful, I am also available for a session if you need further tips. 

Good luck!

 

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Moritz
CoachingPlus Expert
replied on Jan 13, 2022
McKinsey | 100+ coachings & interviews @ McKinsey | ESADE MBA | Top rated for experienced hires & career transitioners

Interviews have become more challenging ever since they have been done remotely. This is due to the two reasons you mentioned (see below). Good news is that interviewers are more forgiving because they are aware!

  • Eye contact: Generally, you should be making eye contact as you would in a normal interview. However, during the case in particular, you will have to take down notes and also refer to them as you progress. Hence, it's totally OK to take your eyes down from time to time. If you need more than a couple of seconds e.g. 1 min of uninterrupted thinking & note taking for developing a framework, ask the interviewer up front.
  • Note taking: It is absolutely essential to use paper to organize your approach to a case. In an in-person interview, you would be able to use a well organized piece of paper to communicate your approach verbally & visually to the interviewer. You do not have that possibility in a remote interview and it's all verbal. Please do not hold the paper in the camera because it just doesn't work. Instead, be as organized and top down as possible in your communication and overcommunicate if needed.

Best of luck and please let me know if there's anything else you'd like to know. Happy to help!

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Udayan
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 14, 2022
Top rated MBB coach with many offers /Ex McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience/Real cases

Hi,

The reality is that video interviews are a sub par experience for everyone. There is limited interpersonal awareness and it is very hard to pick up on important non verbal cues etc.

To make the video interview process better, focus on the basics.

  1. Ensure you have the right equipment - often I find candidates have very poor headphones or use their laptop mics which are of poor quality and it affects the entire vibe of the interview. Buy a good webcam and light ring if your current setup isn't great. It goes a long way towards establishing rapport
  2. To maintain ‘eye contact’ look towards your camera (or in the direction of it) AND make sure you are communicating non verbally as well. For example, nod if you agree with a statement, smile if something is light hearted etc. All of these help build trust and show that you are listening to the interviewer
  3. Repeat things often to ensure you are both on the same page. Many times, it is hard to understand each other in a video call due to all the distractions. Make sure you consistently repeat important information and are on the same page with your interviewer
  4. Always communicate what you are going to do clearly. For example, be clear you need a few mins to structure, say you would like the interviewer to repeat some information etc. DO NOT ASSUME they will pick up on things like is common in an in person interview.

All the best with your interviews,

Udayan

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Lucie
CoachingPlus Expert
replied on Jan 12, 2022
10+years of recruiting & top BCG trainer & BCG Project leader & experienced hire

Hi there, 

I did an online interview as a candidate as well and I just did my notes like attending in person (at the beginning of the case), asked for a minute to structure the case, write down the answers, etc. and then start the interview using my notes. 

Wishing you all the best and good luck,

Lucie

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Hagen
Expert
replied on Jan 13, 2022
Bain & Company Project Leader | 250+ interviews conducted | 5+ years of coaching and mentoring

Hi there,

First of all, congratulations on being so thorough in your preparation for the (presumedly) upcoming video interviews!

This is indeed an interesting question which is probably relevant for quite a lot of users, so I am happy to provide my perspective on it:

  • Generally speaking, it is absolutely fine to focus on your analysis when solving the case which you would equally do in an in-person interview. I would solely advise you to look at the camera (litlerally the little black dot on top of the screen) whenever you are in a discussion with the interviewer. Alternatively, I would advise you to position the screen with the interviewer's video in the top middle of the screen since it occasionally seems odd if people always look to the right (e.g. in Zoom) since there are the little screens.
  • Secondly, and contradictory to what other coaches said, I would highly advise you not to try and present your structure by holding a sheet of paper into the camera for the simple reason: Unless you have an absolutely decent camera, nobody will see what is written there, and questions about this might be highly distractive. I would still advise you to always use a sheet of paper for laying out your initial structure or your ideas in a brainstorming yet it solely matters what you present verbally either way.

In case you want a more detailed discussion on to what extent video interviews differ from in-person interviews, please feel free to contact me directly.

I hope this helps,

Hagen

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Adi
CoachingPlus Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 12, 2022
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

Its very difficult to demonstrate eye contact in a video setup. So please dont create this pressure on yourself. As long as you raise your head every now and then, look into the camera and acknowledge the interview, this is fine. I am sure most interviewers are not really expecting you to make eye contact via camera! In an in-person setting this is different. As long as you are not keeping your head down throughout the interview, you should be okay.

Use clean A4 sheets of paper and a thick bold black/blue pens. Write neatly, make good notes. If these are presentable, show them on camera, otherwise dont. There is no strict expectation for you to show your workings on camera. But if you do, am sure it will land well, provided its neatly written and easy to understand.

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Ian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 13, 2022
BCG | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

First, in terms of eye contact, all you need to do it look towards your camera! I personally put the other person's image/video at the top middle of my screen. That way, when I look at them, I'm also looking towards the camera. You don't have to stare at them the whole time, but can rather look down and up according to where you are in your articulation.

In terms of paper, yes, please please use paper. I use it even when brainstorming (i.e. to write down a few key words to keep me grounded).

In terms of a full case, you need to be very organized. There is a good way and a bad way to organize your (multiple) papers. Feel free to reach out for my casing template sheet + video walkthrough!

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Pedro
CoachingPlus Expert
replied on Jan 14, 2022
# 1 Rated Bain Coach | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger | FIT | Former Head Recruiter | Principal

Just make sure that you look into the camera once in a while. Being a video interview, it is normal to have much less eye contact (also because people's faces are not where the camera is). It only becomes awkward when there's never any eye contact. So just be mindful to make it happen here and there.

Regarding using paper… you use paper to take notes and record your structures. But you need to be able to communicate them verbally. You shouldn't need to show your people for the other person to follow you. In this regard, is it like a phone interview.

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Francesco gave the best answer

Francesco

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