How to Ace a Video Interview
Impressing Potential Employers Remotely
If you're in the market for a new job, or applying for a new role within your organization, then chances are you'll be invited to take part in a video interview.
These have become a routine part of the recruitment process in many organizations, so it’s important to know how to handle them.
And as remote working and working from home continue to grow, employers have access to a wider field of applicants – so you’ll need to stand out from the crowd!
In this article, we outline the different types of video interviews that you might face, and we explain how careful preparation will help you to make a great first impression and to do all the right things on camera!
Preparation is key to acing your video interview!
If you're conducting a video interview, rather than being interviewed, read our article, When and How to Hold Video Interviews.
Different Types of Video Interviews
Video interviews can take various forms. The most widely used formats are:
- One-on-one conversation. This is the most common type of video interview. It's often conducted via a video app such a Slack, FaceTime, Messenger Rooms, or Google Meet. Your core telephone skills are important here, along with the techniques and tips outlined in this article.
- Panel interview. This is when you're interviewed by several people at once. They may be sitting together or participating via video links from different locations. Popular apps for panel interviews include Zoom and Microsoft Teams, as well as specialized recruitment software such as MyInterview and HireVue.
- Pre-recorded session. You may be asked to record and submit your responses to predetermined questions. This is often the first round in a longer interview process. Some organizations use interviewing apps that limit your thinking time, or control the number of "retakes" you can do. Other organizations just send you the questions, and let you choose how to record and submit your responses.
- Artificial intelligence interview. As with pre-recorded video interviews, this is often just the first part of the process, and you don't actually speak to anyone in person. But here, your recorded answers are analyzed using A.I., and the results are reported to the organization. This may sound like science fiction, but research shows that it is already a widely used recruitment technique.
How to Prepare For a Video Interview
No matter which form your video interview takes, it's important to do just as much preparation as you would for an in-person interview. Our article on Interview Skills explains everything that you need to do in advance.
Also, a key part of your preparation will be planning and rehearsing your answers. To help, we’ve produced a guide to Handling Interview Questions – including model answers to 50 of the most-asked questions.
But here are four specific things that you can do to prepare for a video interview:
Check Your Tech
If you've been asked to use a specific app for the interview, install and test it ahead of time, and familiarize yourself with its settings and functions.
Do everything you can to make sure your data connection is reliable. Simple things can help, such as closing unused apps, tabs or windows, and switching off other devices while the interview is taking place. It's also worth considering using a wired (rather than WiFi) internet connection.
Experiment with your camera and microphone settings, so that you look and sound as good as possible. Are you happy with your computer's built-in microphone and speakers, or would you feel more confident wearing a headset? A headset is likely to make your voice clearer and isolate background noise, allowing your interviewer to better hear what you're saying.
Many interviewers will tell you what to do in the event of technical problems. If they don't, be sure to ask before the interview begins. That way, you'll know who will try to reconnect if the link is lost, for example, or how to get in touch if the internet connection fails completely.
If possible, ask a friend to give you a practice interview, using as much of the same technology as possible. Our article on Role-Playing has tips and techniques for doing this.
Get feedback on any technical points, so that you can make any necessary adjustments to your setup. But also find out how you come across on screen, so that you can adapt aspects of your performance, such as your posture, body language and tone of voice.
Set the Scene
Ideally, your interview will take place in a quiet place, free from interruptions. (This applies to pre-recorded sessions as well as to live, two-way conversations.)
Find a private room with a door that you can close. Move away from possible sources of noise and make other people aware of your need for quiet.
Your interviewers will likely form an impression of you from everything that they can see, so choose your background with care! This doesn't mean loading it with "evidence" of your interests, such as books, trophies, or photographs. But it is an opportunity to reveal something about your life outside work, and to give positive signals about the sort of person you are.
Above all, make sure that the view behind you is clean, tidy, and appropriate for the position you're hoping to secure. For example, if you have to resort to a bathroom or other distracting or embarrassing space, consider hanging a curtain or plain sheet behind you! You can use the "Camera" app on your computer to see in advance how your background will appear to others.
If you're unsure whether or not your background is suitable, use the "blur" option available on most video platforms. Refrain from adding a fake background, unless requested, as this could come across as unserious or inappropriate.
Dress to Impress
It's tempting to dress in casual, comfortable clothing if you're being interviewed remotely. However, first impressions count, and it's best to choose suitable business attire when you're on camera, even if most of it won't be seen on screen. Remember, you may have a reason to stand up – so your whole outfit needs to be appropriate!
If possible, research the company in advance to find out how people there tend to dress. Ideally, dress slightly more formally than that for your interview.
Avoid bright colors and busy patterns as they can be distracting on screen. And prepare your outfit in advance, so that there's one less thing to worry about on the day!
Check your profile picture and username, too, to make sure that they give the right impression. If your Skype username is "ILoveTeddyBears," for example, you'll likely want to change it to your own name, or to something more professional!
Video Interview Tips
Now that you're fully prepared, you can start to think about how you will conduct yourself during the video interview itself. Here are six steps to success:
1. Be Punctual
If you're doing a pre-recorded interview, make sure that you know the “window” in which you can record and return your responses.
With live interviews, log in 15-20 minutes before your appointment, to double-check your settings and to ensure that the software and data connection are running smoothly, and that your background is looking good.
You can also use this time to make sure that you have everything you need to hand. That should include your résumé, the job description, a glass of water, and a notepad and pen.
2. Make Eye Contact
Eye contact is an important way to build trust and rapport. However, when you look at someone else on a computer screen, your image on their screen can appear to be looking downward. To avoid this, position your camera at eye level. Move the window to the top of the screen, as close to the webcam as possible, and look either into the lens or close to it.
And, if your own image is displayed alongside the image of the interviewer, resist the urge to stare at yourself. Some video apps allow you to hide your own image, if you find it distracting – but make sure it's still visible to your interviewers.
3. Pay Attention to Your Body Language
Positive body language is vital in any interview, and your nonverbal signals can be even more apparent when you're on camera.
Adopt a posture that's confident and calm, and which shows that you're interested and enthusiastic. For many people, this means keeping your back straight and your shoulders open, with both feet on the floor.
Avoid slouching, frowning, or making awkward gestures like crossing your arms. Instead, let your hands rest in front of you or in your lap so that you only use them to gesture when necessary.
You'll find more detailed tips and techniques in our article, Body Language.
4. Speak Clearly
Even after careful preparation, video interviews can sometimes suffer from awkward silences or overlapping speech.
You can minimize these problems by speaking clearly, by keeping your responses short and to the point, and by waiting briefly when the other person stops speaking, in case they have more to add.
One useful technique is to round off your answers by paraphrasing the questions. For example, if you were asked, "Why do you want to join our company?" you could conclude with, "And that's why I'd like to be a part of the company." This shows that you understood the question, and signals to the interviewer that you've completed your answer.
5. Use Notes
One advantage of a video interview is that you can (subtly) use notes to jog your memory. You could even display reminders on your screen, as long as you don't find them too distracting.
But take care not to read your notes word for word, as this will be obvious to your interviewers. And keep any papers to a minimum, so that you're not heard shuffling them in the background!
6. Stay Focused
Email and social media can be a huge distraction during a video interview. So, silence all notifications, and switch off any devices that you don't need.
But if, despite your best efforts, a disruption does occur, deal with it efficiently and confidently.
If it's a distracting noise, such as a passing siren, apologize and ask for a brief pause until it's gone. You could also explain that you're muting your microphone for a moment.
If someone comes into the room unexpectedly, again apologize, and ask for a moment to deal with the situation. It might be a good idea to switch off your camera and microphone until you have the room to yourself again.
Whatever happens, don't allow it to knock you off your stride. Dealt with effectively, disruptions like these let you demonstrate your calmness, confidence, and ability to solve problems under pressure – attractive qualities in any interviewee!
Video interviews are increasingly popular with recruiters, so it's wise to become familiar with the different formats that they can take.
Do all the preparation that you'd do for an in-person interview. But, in addition, be sure to:
- Check your equipment and internet connection.
- Role-play your responses.
- Choose a suitable setting.
- Dress appropriately.
- Begin on time.
- Watch your language – both verbal and nonverbal.
- Maintain eye contact.
- Use notes, if you need them.
- Stay focused, and deal with any distractions quickly and confidently.
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