Video interviews: Six suggestions for success

As part of my series attempting to help with applications, this post addresses one of the most disconcerting and odd parts of the process – if you are lucky/unlucky enough to come across the phenomenon that are video interviews. A very different beast to that of in-person interviews. These online, automated exercises have become more common-place in recruitment processes and can be the pre-cursor to moving forward to an assessment centre. Although they can feel very forced and unnatural, hopefully this post will break down the process for you and provide some handy hints to coming across well in a video interview.

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  1. Be aware of the deadline – video interview invitations are normally ‘live’ for about a week. You are sent a link which takes you through to an online system. Immediately note down the date of the deadline and plan your time accordingly to ensure you submit well within the time-frame. You won’t do a good job if you leave it last-minute and are rushed.
  1. Set the scene – the clue is in the name: video. Yes, you can be seen, and need to be seen. Find a quiet, well-lit spot with an uncluttered (and preferably blank) background – it’s never a good look to do a video interview in front of an unmade and messy bed. Dress appropriately – at least from the waist up – I did once complete one in a shirt and jacket but with pyjama bottoms on, which made for some laughs when I made the (carefully guaged) admission during the face-to-face interview of the assessment centre!
  1. Ensure your technology won’t let you down – check your internet is working properly, your webcam is of a good quality, and that your laptop is fully charged and plugged in. You don’t want to be caught out or distracted during answers by a flashing battery sign. The portal you use will normally take you through a microphone and video test to ensure these are working, but it’s useful (and responsible) to check for yourself too.
  1. Pre-interview prep – you might think you can’t really do any prep as you will have no idea what kind of questions may come up. However, like with in-person interviews you can expect there may be competency-based questions (describe a time when you failed and what you learned from it…how do you deal with stress…tell us about a time where you helped deliver a project that was time-sensitive, etc.), questions about your interests, questions about your career aspirations, questions about current affairs/current legal developments/the most interesting business news story of the week and questions about the company and/or position you are applying for. There is no harm in having a crib sheet in front of you – just make sure not to read off it or look down at it while actually answering. The one thing you can be sure of is that, due to the generic nature of automated interviews, you aren’t going to get a personalised question based on your application. Some people run-through practice sessions – and if you have time try and time and film yourself a couple of times. This isn’t something I ever did but it may have been useful to get used to the concept. It is a strange experience, and it’s hard to appear natural and care-free while sitting bolt upright and braced for anything in front of an inanimate object!
  1. Be aware that there will be a timer and a countdown clock – this can make you feel much more stressed and nervous. What happens is that you usually get around 30 to 60 seconds to read and think about a question that pops up on-screen and then 30 to 60 seconds to answer (these timings depend on the firm). Videoing doesn’t start until the countdown for the question reaches zero. If you have finished your answer before time has run out don’t be afraid to hit the stop button. I think that is much better than sitting there for another 5 to 10 seconds with a panicked look or rictus grin on your face. It shows that you are confident in your answer and have taken control (even if you don’t feel that). Some portals allow you to pause between questions to catch your breath, but even if you don’t get the opportunity to take a breather the whole process normally only lasts between 15-20 minutes. The format is very odd and no-one (I repeat NO-ONE) finds it natural.
  1. Body language – make sure your face is engaged, open and friendly. When the countdown timer gets to 2 or 1 make sure you look open, engaged and happy to be there. Tone down large hand movements as these can be distracting for the reviewer – especially on a small screen. Maintain good eye contact with the camera. Try and always speak into the lens, rather than looking above or under the camera. Have a glass of water by you in case you need to wet your whistle if the nerves get to you!

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These are the six main points I think will help you prepare for, and deliver, a good video interview. Ultimately, it is about coming across as fluent, natural, personable and competent as you can be. You are going to feel nervous, and you are definitely not going to feel you have nailed every question. You will always think you could have done better, and answered something more confidently and intelligently – but if you end a video interview thinking you’ve smashed it chances are you haven’t! All you can do is breathe and try and answer as yourself – the rest will come.

(Don’t be shy…click ‘Leave a comment’, share this post if you like it; email, tweet and generally pester me if you want to hear more/share your stories/say hi)

7 thoughts on “Video interviews: Six suggestions for success

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