Video Interview Success – A Short But Awesome Guide
Last Updated on 8th October 2020 by Freddie Chirgwin-Bell
Editors Note: This article first appeared on 4th February 2019 and you can find it here. We have updated this article with more tips and information to help you prepare for any situation.
We live in a digital age of video. There is video everywhere; on our computers, on our televisions, on our phones, on our social media accounts. It’s now in our interviews too.
Video interviews are quickly replacing both the normal face to face interview as well as the telephone interview.
This is because flexible and remote working is on the rise. It’s also because, like telephone interviews, they are easier to arrange and set up than face to face interviews.
So how do you conquer this brave new world of video interviews?
Know the interview!
There are two types of video interviews; pre-recorded and the video chat.
The video chat is the closest you will get to a face to face interview and what we have written and talked about before will certainly help (with a little added extra below).
However, the pre-recorded interview is a different kind of beast.
This type of interview is what feels the most alien to most as effectively you are talking to yourself in front of a camera answering questions.
However, because they are becoming increasingly common place in today’s job market so don’t be surprised if you get asked to submit a video interview (or even a Video CV!)
We’ve spent a long time talking about the importance of preparation when it comes to interviews (see here, here and here). Video interviews are no different, but there are differences to consider.
In today’s digital world, there is almost an expectation of being able to do a video interview. All you need is a computer, a webcam, a microphone and you’re on your way.
But to really make a great impression you are going to need to do a bit more preparation than just that.
If you don’t have this kind of equipment at home, we highly recommend you ask to borrow a friends. If that isn’t the case then we would say use a library or the job centre.
We say this because where you set up your equipment is just as important as the equipment itself. More on that later.
So make sure you have a computer, a webcam, and a headset ready. You will also need a good stable internet connection.
The better quality you can have of all of these, the better your interview will look and sound.
Location is Vital
We mentioned earlier that where you set up your computer is just as important as the equipment itself.
You obviously want to be in a quiet place with a neutral background if possible. Remember this is a video interview so they are going to be looking right at you.
As such you are going to want to frame yourself perfectly in the centre and make sure your set up removes as many distractions as possible. The most common practice is angling your setup so that the camera faces a blank wall and you are in the centre of the frame.
This also means you can’t fidget too much during the interview less you fall out of shot.
This location needs to remain undisturbed for the duration of your video, so make sure people know that you are about to take a video call and not disturb you.
Practice Makes Perfect
With video calls we highly, highly recommend doing practice runs using the equipment and software that you will be using for the interview.
Oftentimes you will be conducting these interviews using software such as Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom.
These are all free to use and log in to (make sure your usernames is sensible not – ManCity4Life) and do some practice runs with friends. That way they can tell you how you sound, what to change or update, or even if your answers sound good.
It also should go without saying that because the interviewer can see you, dress in appropriate interview clothing (i.e. smart). Yes you may be at home and you’re used to lounging in comfy clothes but being in smart clothes will put your mind in ‘work’ or ‘interview’ mode. So suit up!
One word of warning, be careful of bright white shirts/tops. Check your lighting and camera settings so that the reflection off of this doesn’t distract from your face or wash you out.
If you have a pre-recorded interview coming up, you will usually be sent a list of questions in advance that you should answer.
So how to answer them?
Prepping your answers
The question that is most commonly asked, and most people trip up on, is “Tell me about yourself”.
Want to know how to answer “Tell me about yourself” in an interview?
A good formula was described by Kirsty Bonner as:
WHAT I am + WHO I am = WHY I am applying for this role.
Adding together the What with the Who should be used to explain Why you are a good candidate for the role.
This then becomes your elevator pitch for your interview, allowing for a succinct answer that gets to the heart of why you are the perfect fit for the role.
But for most of your answers, you can always use a framework like CARL or (our favourite) STAR.
CARL = context, action, result, learning.
STAR = situation, task, action, result.
“Translate” these acronyms as follows, in the interview:
C = S + T = “When I worked at/in….(company/ sector/dept)…, I had to…, I was asked to….” (task/challenge/problem).
A = “I did this….. this…. and this….” (actions).
R = “The outcome of this….” OR….”What this led to/caused was….” (result/outcome).
L = “What I learned from this experience is…” OR “My takeaway from what happened is…” (lessons learned).
Once you have the answers to all of the main interview questions planned out, you can rest easy knowing that you are prepared to tackle this interview with confidence.
Bullet Points, Not a Script
Writing down notes, having a copy of your CV and the job description to hand is great and even having some blank paper for extra notes looks good. But don’t rely on them and treat them as a script of answers.
Keep them as quick references points you can double check with a glance. If you stare at a piece of paper or the desk the whole interview, it gives off a very bad impression. So, by all means, have them just out of camera shot, but during the interview DO NOT STARE!
Time for your close up
With pre-recorded interviews, you are just talking into the camera when you are ready. So take your time, be confident and when you are happy with your finished video, click submit.
For the video call, make sure you’re in position and ready before you hit that accept call button!
It’s a job interview, you’re going to be nervous, that’s OK. What you need to remind yourself about is your body language. You need to treat this interview as if you were actually in the same room together.
Your answers may be spot on, but if your body language is poor then you are going to be rejected. This is the ultimate answer.
Sit up straight and don’t fidget.
That’s the great secret to maintaining great body language throughout the interview.
Nervous tics that you may have should have been picked up on with your practice runs with your friends, but, keep reminding yourself to sit up straight and to fidget as little as possible.
Video exaggerates movement so something that is fine in person can be distracting on video.
I am known to my friends and family for “speaking with my hands” i.e. I move them a lot when I talk. However, this endearing quality doesn’t look good on video, so I make a concentrated effort to keep them as still as possible.
So whatever your nervous tic is; twirling your hair, touching your face, bouncing your leg or tapping your fingers – suppress the urge.
Also when you’re nervous, your speech is likely to end up with fillers i.e “uh-huh”, “umm”, “ah” or “like”.
With a few practice runs with your friend on a video interview you can hear back and see when you are umm-ing and ah-ing, so make an effort to reduce these.
Listen, Breathe, Talk
We’ve talked about this technique before (here and here) but it’s very important to take a pause between the interviewer’s question and answering. Why? Video calls are notorious for having delay issues, so make sure the interviewer has finished the question and then respond.
Also waiting until the interviewer has finished the question looks good as you are paying attention and truly understand the question before replying. It’s ok to take a moment to think through your answer before you respond. This ensures you are being thoughtful and considerate, two excellent qualities to an employer.
Worst Case Scenario
With all the planning in the world, things can and do go wrong from time to time. You may have informed you roommates/friends/family to leave you in peace and quiet, you may have turned your phone to silent, but people enter rooms and phone calls happen.
So here are some common issues that you can overcome should they happen.
If your video or audio stops working
Before the interview, ask the interviewer for a phone number to call just in case.
If the video or audio then cuts out you are prepared just in case. Remember that is a worst case scenario and you are prepared for these eventualities.
It also shows forethought and planning which is always a plus.
If noise interrupts the conversation
If noises (sirens, construction, etc.) interrupt you, apologise and ask for a few moments until the noise has subsided.
Mute the microphone if the noise is severe and then apologise to the interviewer. These interruptions can’t be helped.
If someone enters the room unexpectedly
If family members, housemates or pets enter the room while you’re interviewing, apologize to the interviewer, ask for a few moments, mute your microphone and turn off your camera, and then step away to deal with the interruption.
Make sure that the room is clear and quiet again before switching the camera and microphone back on. You don’t want to end up like this guy.
Remember that your final impression matters just as your first. Ending your interview the right way is going to increase your chances of being offered the role. Make sure you know what questions to ask at the end of the interview.
Then, thank them for their time and reinforce your interest in the role.
Then follow up the call in the next couple of days (within a week at the most) with an email or note saying thank you. And don’t be shy to ask for feedback.
There we have it!
Video interviews are increasing in popularity as the bridge between telephone interviews and face to face interviews. There are subtle details that make these different, but remember that being yourself and giving calm, clear, well thought out answers will always be the best advice.
We wish you the best of luck!
You can find all of our Interview Series here: