How to prepare for a video interview

Anyone who's used Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime or other online video chat tools will know that they're great for keeping in touch and reducing time spent travelling to meetings. Recently, video has become a popular and efficient way to conduct job interviews, especially for roles which are further afield or overseas. This is where an employer or recruiter gets to see you and you get to see them – it’s a great way for an employer to initially gauge and test your suitability for the role. They allow employers to shorten the hiring process, saving both time and money. Employers are even using pre-recorded interviews to quickly and efficiently screen lots of candidates. Video interviews also help employers to combat skills shortages by widening their talent pool by including global candidates and remote workers. 

Whether this is your first video interview or you’re reading this in readiness for what the future may hold, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Surely it’s just the same as a face to face interview?

In our experience you’ll need to do all the usual interview prep, plus a little extra, to take into account the differences of a video interview.

Just like any interview. you need to prepare. However, there are several differences that you need to take into account, so here are tips to ensure your video interview streams along without buffering:

1. Test your equipment in advance 

When it comes to technology, prepare for all eventualities. Make sure you know who is calling who. Check that your connection, webcam and microphone are working and most importantly of all, that you can log into your account without having to reset your password. If you have multiple devices (such as a computer, tablet, smart phone, etc.), choose the one you are most comfortable with and the one with the most reliable technology. For most, a computer will be best. If necessary, invest in purchasing - or borrowing - the best technology to use for the interview. A quick dress rehearsal can eliminate some of the pre-interview nerves.

2. Set the scene 

Are your surroundings suitable for the interview to take place? Is the room well lit, so that your interviewer can see you clearly? If you have a window in the background, it might be an idea to close the curtains/blind to block any unwanted light. Also, make sure that you have everything you need with you including your CV, a pad and pen, a glass of water and your list of questions for your interviewer.

3. Select the proper location for the interview
The ideal scenario for your interview location is a secluded room in which you can shut out distractions (and noises), control the lighting, and display a generic background. Ideally, you’ll want to have some diffused lighting so as not to create shadows or glare, plus a plain wall as your backdrop. You should also have a location in which you can be seen on camera from about the waist up.

4. Schedule at least one mock interview
Under as close to identical circumstances as possible, schedule an interview with a friend, colleague, or family member. Practice your interviewing skills, as well as the functions of the technology. If you can, record the interview so you can play it back for yourself. If you can’t record it, ask your friend, colleague, or family member for as much feedback as possible — especially for how you look and sound.

5. Eliminate interruptions

Let your family/housemates know that you are having an interview and ask them not to disturb you. You may want to stick a sign on the door to remind them. Sit in a room where you can be sure of no interruptions or distractions, such as the dog or cat darting across the table, or the landline ringing. Also, remember to switch your mobile phone to silent.

6. Dress to impress

You may be at home or in other familiar surroundings but you still need to look the part. We have all heard the stories of newsreaders looking smart from the waist up but under the table they are still wearing jeans and trainers. Dressing correctly for the interview will also help you get in the right frame of mind

7. Look at the camera

It’s very tempting to watch the screen, because that’s where your interviewer's face appears. But you want to engage with them which means trying to maintain eye contact, even if the interviewer isn’t looking at you at all times

8. Try to relax

You are in a familiar setting and you haven’t had to experience the stress of travelling to a strange new office. Take your time, think about your answers carefully before replying and speak clearly. You can’t shake hands with your interviewer but everyone appreciates a warm smile when meeting people, both online and in person

9. Plan for glitches
Have a backup plan ready if something goes wrong on the day of the interview. For example: confirm with the interviewer, in advance of the interview, that you’ll switch to a phone call should technology or connection issues crop up.

10. Stay focused

Treat this interview the same as you would if you were actually in the room with your interviewer. Remember that your interviewer can see and hear you at all times, so remember to be professional.

11. Let the interviewer suggest video chat 

If you make the suggestion first, they may think you're not eager to invest the time to visit them and could question your interest in the position. Let them suggest it to you.

12. Use positive body language

Positioning your camera is going to be an important step in ensuring that your video interview goes well. Make sure you’re able to look directly into the camera as this will mean that you’re also making eye contact with your interviewer. This will help to build a personal connection with your interviewer whilst also showing that you’re a confident communicator.

13. Practice makes perfect

As with any interview, practice is essential. Ask a family member or friend to give you a Skype call. If possible, they should be armed with some practice interview questions to put you under the spotlight. As well as practicing your answers this will give you the chance to practice speaking into a camera. Speak slowly and clearly, enunciating your words to ensure that you come across in the best light

14 Choose a sensible Skype name.

Even if that means setting up a second Skype account just for interviews. You don’t want to be poorly judged before the interview even starts because your username is inappropriate.

5 Ways to Come Across Well

A video interview can feel dauntingly unfamiliar, though many of the same tools and techniques for success apply, such as ensuring you are answering the question that has been asked, and not going off on a tangent. For automated video interviews in particular, you must keep your focus as you may only have a minute or two to reply. Keep these five guidelines in mind when conducting yourself for a video interview:

  1. Remember that your interviewer has less peripheral information about you, as what they can see is limited to their screen. This makes what you present on that screen extra important. Check your posture (don't slump). Keep hand gestures to a minimum (practise answering questions beforehand into your webcam, then replay it to see how you come across and what habits you have).
  2. Be aware of your body language and facial expressions. Ensure you make lots of eye contact with the interviewer, as this can help build rapport. Try to relax and smile, even if you feel uncomfortable.
  3. Speak clearly and concisely, and remember there may be a slight lag between you and the interviewer. Make sure that you are giving them time to speak and not interrupting them.
  4. Don’t try and do anything else while you’re being interviewed (such as searching Google to find the answer to a question, for example). The interviewer will almost certainly notice and it may ruin your chances of success.
  5. Make sure that you actually answer the question being asked and try to use the STAR model (Situation, Task, Action, Results) to give structure to your responses. Remember to use “I” rather than “we” in your answers.

Day of the Video/Online Interview

1. Test All Equipment Prior to Interview Time
Do a run-through at least an hour before your interview time. And then do another run-through around 30 minutes before the interview time.

2. Dress Professionally
Remember, nothing too flashy or suggestive with clothing.

Final thoughts

When it comes to the interview itself you’ll still need to do all the usual preparation to ensure that you can illustrate that you have the right skills and experience for the role. To help you prepare check out some of the tips in our previous post

Ultimately the best way to prepare for tough interview questions is by reading as many questions and answers as possible.

We hope this was useful. Good luck!