Tips for Video Interviews

So you’ve had the call and they want to perform a video interview; you might think this will alleviate some of the stress normally associated with traditional face to face interviews, and depending on which type is requested, you could be right.

There are two types of video interview; the earliest being two-way live interviews over webcam which are becoming less common place now, and the second type being taped interviews whereby the candidate can pre-record their answers to employers questions. These are more common and preferred by both candidates and employers alike as they allow the employer to review your answers at their leisure, whilst allowing you to pre-record your answers until you are happy with the right ‘takes’ before choosing to upload them to the employers inbox (typically you will need to answer 10 questions sent by the employer before uploading them).

What to expect during your video interview:

Below are some tips for using video interview technology to your advantage, and some questions you might get asked…

When setting up:

Send all relevant information: It would be prudent of you to send your interviewer a copy of your CV beforehand if they don’t have it already, this can avoid any fumbling around when the time comes to get started.

Environment and clothing: Make sure the background is simple and clean (not white as this can give off glare); the interviewer doesn’t want to see any of your posters, books etc. as this will only serve as a distraction. Make sure that only your head and shoulders are in the shot and not the desk. In regards to clothing the same rule about white applies; avoid it! Just as with the background this will give off a glare. Make sure your clothing is smart (dress just as well as you would in a face to face) and make sure your shirt is plain and not patterned as this can also be distracting on camera. Lastly if you are wearing a suit, wear a full suit and not just the top half; if for any reason you need to stand up and grab something from the other side of the room you do not want to be seen wearing pyjama bottoms!

Camera position and eye contact: This should be setup looking slightly down on you as this forces you to look up and by default helps you to keep your back straight. You should also be looking directly into the camera and not the interviewer; this is true of both two-way live interviews and one-way pre-recorded interviews. Looking into the camera lens means that you’ll be looking at the interviewer in the eyes rather than at their mouth!

Face and accessories: This may seem obvious but make sure you are clean; wash your face and make sure it’s not shiny. If you’re sweating you’ll just end up looking nervous and this is not good as your face will produce camera glare in the same way as a white shirt will. One option would be to use a little anti-shine make up; you want just enough to get rid of the glare, too much will just look bad. If you wear glasses ask your optician to install anti-glare coating on them so your interviewer can clearly see your eyes. The interviewer will need to make eye contact with you and glasses without anti-glare technology could mean the difference between getting a call back or not.

Technical prep work and upgrades: Double-check all of your equipment and connections; make sure you have plenty of battery life if using a laptop. Check the sound quality is clear and audible and clean the camera lens as the slightest smudge can ruin your presentation! If at all possible, invest in a HD camera and separate microphone for your video interviews; these are wise investments as the improved quality can really help to elevate your presentations above the competition.

Have your notes handy: It is also worth having your CV and any notes you would use in a face to face interview handy in case you need to quickly glance at them during the session (although you should not be looking away from camera for more than a second).

Keep out: Turn off your phone, shut your door and let any family or friends know that you are interviewing so they should avoid any impromptu interruptions as this will make you look unprofessional and can be potentially devastating to your interview.

During the interview:

Tone: The way in which communication is conveyed in a video interview is quite surprising, with 55% coming from the face, 38% from tone of voice, and amazingly only 7% from the actual content coming out of your mouth! If this isn’t enough to tell you that how you say something is just as, if not more important than what you say then nothing will. As with any interview you need to speak with clarity and confidence. Regardless of which type of video interview you have, there is nothing stopping you from practicing your answers beforehand and playing them back to check your tone and demeanour.

Body language: As the interview will likely take place in an environment in which you feel comfortable you may be tempted to relax more and forget your body language; do not under any circumstances do this! Just as with any face to face interview you must follow the same rules:

Make sure you DO:

  • Keep your feet flat on the floor (this will help keep your back straight and upright)
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Lean forward slightly when speaking
  • Listen to what the interviewer is saying

Make sure you DO NOT:

  • Look away from the camera (for more than a second)
  • Lean back or slouch
  • Fold your arms
  • Wave your hands around as this can be distracting on camera
  • Yawn (try to get a good night’s sleep beforehand to avoid this)

Your body language can determine 80% of the final decision on whether to hire you or not, so take the above points to heart and be aware of how you are perceived through your physical actions.

Slow down and don’t interrupt: Always allow your interviewer to finish a statement or question before answering. You could end up missing important information and having to have it repeated to you again and again which can be frustrating for the interviewer. The other thing to consider is a potential transmission delay when speaking over an Internet connection, which could mean both you and your interviewer end up talking over each other. Avoid this with a nod to your interviewer to confirm that you’ve heard and understood the question, and then wait 2-3 seconds before answering.

Tech savvy: Use your technology to your advantage, don’t tap your fingers or your pen as the microphone will pick up all sounds and these can be distracting for the interviewer. If you really want to you can also use the picture in picture functions on your PC (if available) to see how you appear on camera.

Interview questions you should prepare for (these and similar questions could pop up during both one-way and two-way interviews):

Tell me about yourself: You should spend a couple of minutes talking about your education, work history and recent career experience. Something like a short story that describes your values and work ethic, and why these are important for the position.

Why do you want to work here: This question can catch you out if you haven’t researched the company for which you are interviewing. You should tell them what you know about their company, how you can add value to their team and how you would help them with the challenges they face. You can also share some of your success stories and similar achievements from your previous employment, and you should always use specifics to explain your qualifications and if possible backup your claims with proof such as the last quarter’s sales figures, testimonials from happy clients etc.

Why is there a gap in your employment history: It’s not always easy to walk straight into another job after losing one, but you need to show that your time off has been well spent; you could list volunteer work you have done, projects relating to your chosen vocation etc. Anything that shows your interviewer that you have spent your free time productively will show them that you are a serious candidate to consider.

What makes you the best person for this job: You need to show that you are the most qualified candidate for this position so you should have already prepared for this question by reviewing the job description and qualifications required very carefully. As with any face to face, you’ll need to have identified the key skills and knowledge that are required for the job, and then matched them up to relevant examples from your past experience.

What are your weaknesses: No one likes this question because you need to highlight your shortcomings, which goes against what your natural instincts are telling you to do in an interview situation. A weakness doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re bad at something, for example you could pick a skill that you have improved upon during your previous job, but that you still wish to enhance going forward; this shows that you are keen and capable of improvement. Another example could be that you spend a longer time than usual double-checking your work before it goes out (not necessarily a negative), but that you are working on improving this.

Describe a time when you had to cope under pressure: Your interviewer will want to know how well you cope under pressure and with any unexpected issues that arise in the workplace. Have a story ready that describes how you had to cope with an unexpected problem; it could be that you had to complete work to a tighter than usual deadline, or multitask extensively when you’re not used to it. Make sure you highlight what you learnt from the experience of overcoming the obstacle, and how it has improved your abilities in regards to dealing with such issues in the future. Employers like to know that you can deal with unexpected problems at any given time whilst remaining positive.

Why did you leave you previous employer: Be honest and do not bad mouth any previous employers; use this question as an opportunity to describe why this position is better suited for you and turn a potentially negative question into a positive answer.

Have you ever had a disagreement with an employer: You need to answer this question honestly and diplomatically. If you’ve always got on well with your former boss then say so, if you did have a disagreement be honest, but diplomatic when answering. Your interviewer will be thinking about what it would be like to work alongside you, so you should not bad mouth previous employers or colleagues. If you bad mouth a previous employer, you’re interviewer will instinctively feel you’ll likely do the same to them in the future.

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After the interview:

Disconnect: Once the interview has finished and everyone has said their goodbyes, make sure you close the connection. This is a common mistake that people make by leaving the line open and unwittingly having the interviewer watch their post interviewer celebrations/reactions.

Thank your interviewer: Send a thank you note to them after the interview expressing again your interest in the company and the position.

Keep checking in: As with any other type of interview, you’ll want to keep abreast of any developments so you should follow up once every few days whilst reminding them who you are, and why you’re the best person for the job.