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How to ace a video interview

Book open Reading time: 5 mins

What is a video interview?

Most video interviews follow the same format as a regular interview but are held over Zoom, Skype or a similar application. These are known as live video interviews. More rarely, you might be asked to upload a video of yourself answering interview questions. You can think of that as the equivalent of doing a paper exam.

Video interviews camera

Right now, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about – if it’s just an ordinary interview done over Skype, surely you should answer the questions to the best of your ability like you normally would. And it’s true, you should. But, as with any other interview, there’s a lot more to it than just answering the questions.

We all know that appearance and demeanour are vital to success. In video interviews, this goes even further. As well as dressing and acting the part, you need to present yourself well on the computer screen. It’s the role of a film technician – finding the perfect picture, sound and angles to show yourself off to the best effect.

Why do companies choose to do video interviews?

2019 saw a real upsurge in the use of video to replace written applications for the big recruiters. Soon the days of hammering out 500 words on your teamwork experience will be but a distant memory. 

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has seen companies opting for video as opposed to face-to-face interviews to adhere to social distancing rules. It is likely that video interviews will continue to be a more convenient way to host interviews, even as workplaces return to normal. 

Big graduate recruiters may want you to deliver a resume to your webcam, answer a set of questions, or go through a complete interview by video. It might sound daunting but think of it as a great leap past the faceless lottery of the CV and straight to an interview with the people you’ll be working for. Body language accounts for 70% of communication so now you have the most powerful communication tool at your disposal to persuade someone to employ you.

How do you make a lasting impression from a video interview?

1. Keep it short:

Just as your CV should only be a page long, your video should also be short and to the point. While you can employ such mind tricks as recording it whilst needing a comfort break (as a certain MP used to do, it would make him more forthright and assertive!) or standing up (as Queen Victoria preferred, pontificating is dramatically reduced when MPs are forced to stand), you must remember the point of the video. 

The ability to collate information and communicate it efficiently is an essential graduate skill and will be one of the things a graduate employer will be looking for.

4 common mistakes made at video interviews and how to overcome them.

2. Practice 'to camera'

Even Sir David Attenborough needed some practice before he perfected his presenting style. Common mistakes include speaking too fast or too quietly and not looking at the camera. We naturally speed up our articulation when nervous which can pose the risk of the interview reviewers not understanding you. Copy the style of YouTubers - if they have millions of views you know they're doing something right.

The handy advantage of the video interview over their face-to-face counterpart is that you can have notes off-camera to help you. Put up a large board behind the camera with SPEAK SLOWLY written on it as well as examples of times you’ve led a team, communicated effectively, performed a marketing task or whatever else the company might ask of you. Remember not to start at your notes the whole time, though, as an interviewer will quickly catch on to what you're doing.

Watch this video for expert advice on video interviews.

3. Eliminate all technical hitches

“Sorry, I just can’t get the webcam working!” – words an interviewer least wants to hear. Test your equipment in advance to avoid the kind of embarrassment that could throw you off balance. If possible, do a trial run with the exact application you’ll use in the interview; if it’s a Skype interview, set up a Skype call with a friend. This is less easy to do if the call comes via the company’s web conferencing software – you’ll just have to make sure your camera and mic work in other applications and keep your fingers crossed.

A decent internet connection is also vital. Organise a backup location at a friend’s place in case your broadband has a bad day.

Take Bright Network's video interview practice test.

4. Look confident

You never really know how you come across on-screen until you record yourself talking and watch the results. Yes, it can be painful, (“please tell me I don’t sound like that!”), but it gives you a chance to practise and correct any unfortunate habits.

If there are questions you know to expect, practice them specifically. Deliver your answer directly to the camera, watch the result, and adjust as necessary for next time.

Dress for a video interview just as you would for a regular interview. You can wear tracksuit bottoms under the desk if you like, but everything visible should be office-appropriate.

5. Make eye contact

To achieve perfect eye contact via video, you'll need to look directly into your webcam. In a live video interview, you'll have to look at your interviewer’s face on the screen so you can respond to them properly. For the best of both worlds, resize the window and move it as close to your webcam as possible.

For pre-recorded interview questions, you can look directly into the camera – but experiment first to see how well this comes across, so you don’t end up giving a creepy stare. If you just can’t help opening your eyes wide and looking wooden, set up a picture of a person just behind the webcam and talk to that instead.

What employers look for in video interviews.

Final thoughts on video interviews

If it’s a resume type video, mention your name clearly at the beginning and the end. You’re trying to make the reviewer remember you and making them learn your name is a great way to stand out.

You can use props sensibly, for example, hold up cards with your university, degree and grades to reinforce what you’re saying.

If you can edit your video, look at any videos the company’s marketing departments have used and mimic their style.

While this sounds like a lot of work, remember that you’re learning a very valuable skill. Videoconferencing will only increase in popularity as your career goes on. Ten years from now, you might make a critical presentation to your CEO via webcam – and you’ll be very glad you know how to set up the lighting. 

Finally, look happy and let your personality shine through. Use that body language we mentioned earlier to reinforce your message. The very act of smiling during the introduction will relax you, show you have a personality and demonstrate you have confidence. Then you can sit upright and look professional during the serious end of the video in the same way a newsreader will happily welcome you to the Ten O’clock News, only to look business-like two seconds later when announcing the latest FTSE figures.

Learn more about video interviews with Bright Network Academy

Find out more about tackling virtual interviews via Bright Network Academy and why not have a go at recording a mock interview to get you prepared for the real thing?