How to Ace a Video Interview
Impressing Potential Employers Remotely
Video interviews are becoming a routine part of recruitment, but they can be daunting, especially if you've never experienced one before.
So, how do you get comfortable with this new situation? And how do you give a good impression to a potential employer when you're not even in the same room?
In this article, we outline the different types of video interviews that you might encounter, and we discuss how you can "show your best side" when you're interviewed on camera.
If you're conducting a video interview, rather than being interviewed, read our article, When and How to Hold Video Interviews.
How Do Video Interviews Work?
Video interviews can take various forms. The most widely used formats are:
- One-on-one "chat": this is the most common type of video interview, and it's often conducted via a familar app like Skype or FaceTime. It's much like a telephone interview, but with video. Your interviewer asks questions, and you answer them. Simple!
- Pre-recorded session: you record and submit your responses to predetermined questions, instead of having a "live" interview. Some organizations use a specific software application, such as InterviewStream or Spark Hire, to do this. Others may just ask you to use the video app on your phone.
- Artificial intelligence interview: as with pre-recorded video interviews, you don't actually speak to anyone in an AI interview. But here, your responses and facial expressions are analyzed by an algorithm, and a report is generated for the hiring manager. This may sound like science fiction, but research shows that it is already a widely used recruitment method.
- Panel interview: a video conference in which you are interviewed by a panel of people, instead of just one or two.
How to Prepare for a Video Interview
No matter which form your video interview takes, it's important to do all of the same preparation that you'd do for a regular face-to-face interview.
That means researching the company, reading the job description thoroughly, preparing responses to likely questions, and thinking about your own questions for the interviewer.
However, there are also specific things that you can do to prepare for a video interview, to maximize your chances of success:
Check Your Tech
Technical troubles can be a serious distraction in video interviews, so plan ahead to ensure that you minimize the risk of any technical hiccups.
If you've been asked to use a specific app for the interview, install and test it well ahead of time, and familiarize yourself with its settings and functions. And make sure that you have access to a reliable data connection!
If possible, ask a friend to give you a practice interview using the same software, and to give you feedback on your answers, your tone, and your appearance. Read our article, Role-Playing, for more tips and techniques on doing this.
A trial run will also help you to decide how to position yourself and your equipment so that your interviewer can see you clearly. Check that your head and shoulders appear squarely on the screen.
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 may want to change it to your own name, or to something more professional!
Choose an Appropriate Setting
Ideally, your interview will take place in a quiet place, free from interruptions.
Find a private room with a door that you can close, and try to plan for any distractions that could crop up. If you're at home or in a public place, move away from possible sources of noise, and make people aware of your need for quiet.
Select a clean, tidy backdrop and ensure that you have enough light to produce a clear, sharp image. To prevent screen glare, turn your monitor away from the window, and avoid lights that shine directly onto the screen or webcam.
What to Wear
It's tempting to dress in casual, comfortable clothing if you're being interviewed remotely. However, it's best to choose the appropriate business attire when you're on camera, even if most of it won't be seen on screen.
Looking professional sends the right signals to your interviewer. It can make you feel more confident, too. And choosing a suitable outfit in advance means there's one less thing to worry about on the day!
If you're being interviewed for a role that crosses cultural or national boundaries, see our article on dressing to avoid cross-cultural faux pas.
Video Interview Tips and Techniques
Now that you're fully prepared, you can start to think about how you will conduct yourself during the interview itself. Consider the following points:
You wouldn't arrive at the last minute for a face-to-face interview, and the same applies to video 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.
You can also use this time to make sure that you have everything you need to hand: your résumé, the job description, a notepad and pen, a glass of water, and so on.
Make Eye Contact
Eye contact is an important way to build trust and rapport, but 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 monitor at eye level. And, if your own image is displayed alongside the image of the interviewer, resist the urge to stare at yourself. 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.
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.
So, to show that you are interested in what the interviewer is saying, nod periodically, smile, and "lean in" (but not too far!) toward your webcam. Sit up straight, with your feet on the floor, and avoid slouching, frowning, or awkward gestures like crossing your arms. You can learn more about this in our article, Body Language.
Even after careful preparation, video interviews can sometimes suffer from awkward silences or overlapping speech – if, say, there is a slight delay or breakup in the data connection.
You can minimize these problems by speaking clearly, by keeping your responses short and to the point, and by pausing briefly when the other person stops speaking, to ensure that they don't have more to add.
Another useful technique is to round off your answers by paraphrasing the questions. For example, let's say that you're asked, "Why do you want to join our company?" Concluding with, "And that is why I'd like to be a part of the company," shows that you understood the question, and signals to the interviewer that you've completed your answer.
One advantage of a video interview is that you can (subtly) use notes to jog your memory about the points that you want to make. You could even display reminders on your computer, 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: you don't want to be heard shuffling them in the background.
Email and social media can be a huge distraction during a video interview. To avoid any temptation to check your notifications, close down any unnecessary windows on your computer and silence your phone and other devices – or even leave them in another room.
Don't forget, employers will expect the same standards of conduct in a video interview that they would if you were meeting them in person!
Video interviews are increasingly popular with recruiters, so it's wise to become familiar with the different formats that they can take, and with how each type works.
Make sure that you do all the same preparation that you'd do for a standard interview. But, in addition, be sure to:
- Check your technology and internet connection.
- Rehearse 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!