Online Versus In-Person Service Academy Interview

It is likely that for many Service Academy applicants, the candidate interview will be conducted via videoconferencing technology such as Zoom or Skype rather than in person this year. This presents opportunities for those candidates who are prepared for their video interview and are able to leverage the one major advantage that videoconferencing has over an in-person interview. 

In this blog post, we’ll look at seven key tips a candidate should concentrate on as they prepare for their video interview. For more in-person tips, read our articles on West Point Admissions Interview Questions and Air Force Academy Liaison Officer Interview Questions.

Tip #1: Leverage the fact that the interviewer is not present with you to have your talking points in front of you

What we teach our clients is to have a memorized a set of talking points–anticipating the usual interview questions the candidate will face. Here are examples of these questions:

Talking Point 1: Why do you want to be an officer (in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines…)?
Talking Point 2: What officer specialties are you interested in (in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines)?
Talking Point 3: What do you know about the Service Academy you are applying for?
Talking Point 4: Give me an example of a time you have led others successfully to accomplish a task or a mission?
Talking Point 5: Tell me about a time that was difficult for you? How did you persevere and what did you learn?
Talking Point 6: Tell me about a time where you had an ethical challenge? How did you deal with it?
Talking Point 7: What questions do you have of me the interviewer?

The idea here is to have these talking points on 3×5 cards around the computer webcam so you can refer to them during the interview. This is the number one way you can leverage the advantage of a video interview vs. an in-person interview. See the picture below to get an idea of this setup.

photo of notecards showing how to succeed during video Service Academy interview tips during COVID-19

How to set up talking points for your online Service Academy interview

Tip #2: Master the Technology Before Your Service Academy Interview

You should always practice your tech and set up ahead of time with others. Check the following when you do your practice set up:

  • Practice with the specific videoconferencing program you will use for the interview (i.e. Zoom, Skype, Go To Meeting)Check that your webcam is working
  • Check that your audio is working. Avoid earbuds or headphones if possible as it looks unnatural.
  • If possible, plug the internet directly into your computer via LAN cable rather than using WIFI. 
  • Close unnecessary programs on your computer to save memory.

Tip #3: Looking directly into the videocam (unless you are looking at your talking points!)

It sounds counterintuitive, but it is most important that the interviewer see you clearly, not the other way around. This means you need to look at and talk to the video camera rather than the image of the interviewer on your computer.

Tip #4: Eliminate all Distractions during your Service Academy Interview

There is nothing more annoying to interviewers than being interrupted in the middle of the interview by another person or animal or a sound. Make sure you:

  • Let your family members and friends know not to disturb you.
  • Banish all pets from your conferencing area
  • Set all phones or devices to silent
  • Ensure all audible alerts on your computer are set to silent

Tip #5: Find a neutral background and check your lighting

A professional background is absolutely crucial to master. A bedroom with a sloppy bed, a home office full of clutter, people walking in the back of your camera are all signs that you are unprofessional, but it also distracts the interviewer.  Do not use a virtual background as it tends to distort your image and can take up a lot of bandwidth.   

As far as lighting, adjust lights in the room.  If dark or dim, bring in an extra lamp to brighten the space.

Tip #6: Dress for Success

Just like you would for an in-person interview, make sure you dress for success but follow these additional rules:

  • Avoid bright colors or patterns and opt for softer colors instead
  • If you wear glasses, adjust the lighting to reduce glare
  • Wear professional pants or skirt in case you need to stand up for any reason

Tip #7: Master Interview Body Language

See Tip #3- stare directly into the videocam!

Convey optimism in your body language. Sit in your chair with your back straight and your shoulders open. Use hand gestures when appropriate and keep your movements close to your body. Avoid fidgeting or letting your gaze drift too far from the webcam.

Bottom line – Prepare for your Video Interview

Candidates who normally do well on an in-person interview may do poorly on a video interview if they do not prepare adequately. Given that many applicants have never interviewed via video, practicing these techniques and being prepared can make a big difference. If you follow the advice presented here, you can be that much closer to a Service Academy appointment. We wish you the best of luck on your video interviews this year!