What is a video interview?
Most video interviews follow the same format as a regular interview but are held over 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.
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 best effect.
Why do companies choose to do video interviews?
2019 saw a real upsurge in the use of video to replace applications for the big recruiters, soon the days of hammering out 500 words on your team working experiences will be but a distant memory.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, face to face interviews have not been able to take place due to social distancing. Instead, companies are opting for video interviews. It is likely that video interviews will continue to be a more convenient way to host interviews, even as workplaces return to normal.
Instead, the 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, without even uttering a sound.
So, here’s a fantastic opportunity to get ahead of the curve and master the art of pitching to video.
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, so your video should 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 the graduate employer will be looking for.
2. Practise “to camera”:
Even Sir David Attenborough needed some practice before he perfected his presenting style. The pitfalls are generally speaking too fast, too quiet and not looking at the camera. We naturally speed up our articulation when nervous which will risk the 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 video applications over a face to face interviews is you can have notes off-camera to help you. Put up a large board with SPEAK SLOWLY and examples of times you’ve led a team, communicated effectively, performed a marketing task or whatever else the company might ask of you. Though don’t be a numpty and stare doggedly at the notes as they’ll know what you’re doing.
3. Eliminate all technical hitches
“Sorry, I just can’t get the webcam working!” – the 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.
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 reveals any unfortunate habits.
If there are questions you know to expect, practise 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 need to look directly into your webcam. In practice, in a live video interview you 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.
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.
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.
Finally, look happy. 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, show 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.
And finally… Be yourself, you will do great!