If you are worried about performing well in your video interview here is some good news – most people don’t prepare and just ‘wing it.’ So, if you follow this tried and tested advice, you are going to naturally outperform your competition.
Most aspects of a successful job search pivot on three central things – research, preparation and effort. Video interviews are no exception.
Once you understand why they are being used, what the recruiter wants, and how to ensure everything runs smoothly, you will be far more confident on the day.
In this post I will go through the key areas to master so that you will perform your best in your interview.
Why video interviews are so popular
There’s a lot to like about video interviews from the employer’s perspective.
Not only do they provide the solution for remote hiring, but they also improve both the quality and speed of hiring.
- Saving valuable time by avoiding scheduling headaches with one-way video interviews.
- Enabling after-hours interviewing
- Streamlining the screening process by enabling employers and recruiters to connect with candidates face-to-face – without the huge costs of having to fly them in
- Providing far more information on candidates than phone interviews ever can through facial expressions, body language and personality traits
- Allowing greater team collaboration with department heads and HR managers through the sharing of video recordings to rate candidates, resulting in positive hiring outcomes
There’s also a lot to like about them as a jobseeker.
- By eliminating scheduling conflicts and allowing the company to complete more interviews faster, video interviews significantly cut down on the time from the initial application to a hiring decision
- Due to providing more interview slots compared to face to face meetings, there’s actually more chance for you to get an interview
- As hiring managers typically participate in just the final round interviews with candidates, video interviews give you the chance to get in front of and impress them earlier in the process because your video interview is shared with them.
- A video interview can also quickly establish whether or not a company or a position is the right fit for you without you needing to travel to their site.
However, despite video interviews have many merits, many people still feel uncomfortable at the thought of them. This is usually due to not knowing what to expect so let’s take a look at this now.
What to expect with a video interview
Most video interviews will be remote meaning that you will need to find a good location with the right technical set up which we will go through later.
Other times you might be invited to a potential employer’s office. Typically, this will be when you are being interviewed by someone who is based in another location. With this option you need to ask the person who brought you to the room to help you set up the interview and make sure your connection is fully working before they leave. Make sure to also ask them how you can find them later on if your audio or video connection stops working at any point.
Beyond location, there are two types of interview format that you can expect – live or pre-recorded.
Live video interviews
As the name suggests, live video interviews are conducted between you and a recruiter in real-time, just like a regular interview over some type of communication software such as Skype, Google Meet or Zoom.
The first thing you should do is ask the recruiter or HR manager which app or software will be used in order to prepare properly. The interviewer will then either send you a link to a platform or ask for your user-id / screen name for apps such as Skype.
If you are already a Skype user, take care with your ID. You may want to set up a new account for interviews if your current ID veers to humour rather than professionalism.Some companies may use an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) that has the capacity to conduct live interviews such as Sparkhire, HireVue or VidCruiter
Pre-recorded/Asynchronous Video Questions
This method involves a set of pre-recorded interview questions or a set of questions that appear on a screen. You will be sent instructions on how to login and there is usually a time limit to answer each question. However, if you make a mistake, you will also have a couple of chances to change your answer prior to submitting it.
With the lack of human involvement, this method can feel strange so try to imagine that you are having a live conversation when you answer so that you will perform better.
How to prepare for your video interview
When you know when, where and how your interview is being conducted, it’s time for some thorough prep work. The main thing to keep in mind is that, aside from some technical and physical aspects, your prep will be exactly the same as a non-video interview.
Choice of device
Although phone and tablet cameras are excellent, they can be temperamental with certain apps which you definitely don’t want on interview day.
The other issue is relying on WiFi as this can be unstable which means it could potentially disrupt the flow of the interview or even end it completely.
That is why I always recommend to opt for a desktop or laptop and, unless you’re just a couple of feet away from the router or you are having at least 25Mbps speed, choose to be physically connected to the router by a network cable.
Keep in mind that if you will be using video conferencing software, a connection speed in the region of 10Mbps range or higher is recommended.
Not sure about your connection speed? Just type internet speed test in your browser to find out now.
Next you need to decide whether you will use an internal or external webcam. Laptops tend to have adequate webcams whereas desktops often don’t.
If you find you need to purchase a webcam, check out the Logitech range on Amazon.
Aim to set up the lens of your webcam to be level with your eyeline (or even slightly above it). You can achieve this quickly and simply by just using a stack of books or even an old box . Put your laptop on top, make some adjustments, and you are done.
The major reason why people hate video interviews is because they don’t like how they look on camera. And the major reason why people don’t look great on camera is lighting.
There are of course many expensive options out there in the marketplace but if, like most people, you don’t have the time or budget, always ensure you are facing a light source such as a window which will be more flattering. If a light source isn’t available, opt for 2 lights either side of your device that point towards your face.
Here’s a great video from Wistia that will show you what difference lighting makes.
Here’s a dilemma. If you use a headset your voice will be clear and strong. However, it will be distracting for the interviewer who would rather see you natural without one. If you don’t, your voice will not be as strong and ambient noise may creep in.
The trick here is to make sure your sound quality is good enough. It doesn’t have to be perfect. After all you are not shooting a blockbuster but taking part in an interview.
However, if for whatever reason you feel the sound quality really is subpar, then take a look at a lavalier mic.
Ensure that your background is tidy and uncluttered.
Try not to have colourful art that will distract the eye and under no circumstances choose your bed as your location.
Yes, I have actually interviewed people that have done this!
You may not think about this as you feel it will not be seen but make sure that it is comfortable so that you won’t be tempted to fidget and also the right height for your webcam as previously mentioned.
Further, ensure that it doesn’t squeak or creek as that will be very irritating for your interviewer.
As above but also make sure that it is big enough to hold all your research materials – see below
Now we are in the realm of traditional interview prep.
Visit the company’s website and LinkedIn profile pages. Take note of the obvious things such as its size, structure, products and services but also try to ascertain their overall culture, plans for growth or expansion.
Then do a wider research for any news articles you can find. If there is sometime before your interview, set up a Google alert with the company name.
That way the latest news will be delivered directly to you and you can impress your interviewer with your up to date knowledge of the company.
When you have the name of the person interviewing you, go straight to LinkedIn. It is most likely going to be a recruiter, but you can find this out when you research their background.
This will help you to know that your questions will probably be more of a screening level rather than in depth. If not, and it is your potential boss, you know the opposite is true.
Check out their background and see if you share anything in common or anything that will give you an insight into who they are and where they have come from themselves.
This can make you feel more comfortable and help you build rapport during the interview.
Prepare your responses
Whichever location or method is used, the interview questions you will face will be just like any other interview so you need to put in the same preparation as you would for a face to face meeting.
Use these articles to formulate your responses ahead of time
This is absolutely crucial.
Enlist a friend or relative to connect with you using all the above in place to make sure everything works and nothing needs tweaking or adjusting.
You don’t want to find out there is a problem when it is too late to do something about it.
Now you have your prep mastered, let’s take a look at what you should be doing during the video interview.
What to do during a video interview
Dress for success
People often ask me what they should wear for a video interview and my answer is always the same.
Exactly the same as you would do if it was face to face. It is still a professional meeting and dressing the part helps put you in the right frame of mind.
With that said though, you should definitely avoid wearing white because it tends to wash you out on camera and can cause glare.
Instead opt for darker, block colours that will set the right tone.
Turn your phone off
Seems obvious but it is so easy to forget to do this.
Turn your apps off
Even if your internet connection is strong, running loads of apps in your browser or having loads of tabs open can seriously affect the quality of your video connection.
Take care to clear your desktop and double check that you don’t have any automated updates scheduled that could close your computer in the middle of your interview.
Remove all possible distractions
You know the old showbiz saying “never work with children and animals”? Well the same is true for interviews.
We’ve all seen the hilarious videos of people being embarrassed by pets, children and half naked spouses running around in the background when they are on a Zoom video or on TV, but recruiters will not find it quite so funny.
Don’t leave anything to chance and get the support you need from your family or housemates, so this doesn’t happen to you.
Have a bottle of water handy
Nerves can play havoc with our voice.
Have water near you so you can take a sip if needed to avoid constantly clearing your throat.
Arrange your notes and research
Have a printed copy of your resume in case they ask the classic question “walk me through your resume.”
You should also have your prepared responses for both common and behavioural interview questions plus your list of questions that you will ask them at the end of the interview.
Don't recite them word for word by reading them out as that will appear false but instead have them available as a memory jogger should you need them.
Don’t forget a copy of the job description too and any pertinent information you found out about the company.
Feel free to use post it notes as prompts that only you will see - see below.
Talk to the camera
While we are on the subject of post it notes, put one next to the camera saying ‘look here’.
Most people mistakenly look at the screen and not the camera which is a huge mistake.
Just as in a traditional face to face interview, you want to build rapport and connect with your interviewer on a professional and meaningful level.
If you can master this, it will really raise you above your competition.
Try to practice this before your interview in the run through so you are comfortable doing this.
Be mindful of body language
Try to keep eye contact throughout the interview and remember to smile. Don’t go crazy with either though as that will be a little intense.
Just act as you would do if you were sat opposite each other in an interview room.
Take care not to slouch either in your chair. It is tempting to do this when you are sat at home but resist the urge as it will give the wrong impression to an interviewer.
Even the most confident people can suffer from nerves in an interview.
This is especially true when we really want a particular opportunity or really need a job right now.
Try your best to keep your speed of speech steady. When we are nervous, we tend to speed up so, if you feel that happening, take a breath and slow down a bit.
Don’t go too slow either though because you will not seem enthusiastic.
Be ready for something to go wrong
However much you prepare and plan, something could happen that you have no control over.
Such things include freak storms, neighbours having a huge argument, or noisy builders on a nearby housing site.
Recruiters will be irritated if it is something you could have controlled, such as your own kids or pets, but they will be sympathetic to circumstances truly beyond your control.
Don’t give up if something happens and assume it is all over.
Just apologise, briefly put it in context and move on regardless.
In fact, it could work to your advantage because they way you handle the issue will say a lot about you as a professional.
Keep this in mind
If you feel uncomfortable about video interviews, know that it is very common. Try not to obsess about how you look or sound but instead work through all the prep and tips above.
Keep smiling, hold your head up high, and I think you might just surprise yourself on the day.