These days, as part of the application process for a job, an interview might be offered in video format rather than in-person. This is the case with the first interview anyway – often the second interview will be done face-to-face and onsite. If your new potential place of work doesn’t have a permanent office and therefore you’ll be working remotely (which is becoming increasingly the case), your interviews will very likely be carried out online. In most cases, this will be done on video-conferencing software like Zoom or Teams.
There are reasons why interviewing over video is much preferred, which you can read more about at the end of this article. But for now, we’ll go through a few of our top tips on how to ace a video interview and how to make the most out of this format and use it to your advantage.
10 tips on how to ace a video interview
1. Check the format of the video interview
First things first, take a moment to check the details to make sure you understand what format the interview is taking.
Live: In most cases, if you’re asked to attend a video interview, it will be a live, face-to-face conversation over Zoom or Teams. Organisations choose this format to recreate the traditional interview experience but without needing the candidate to travel to their office, meaning they can recruit from anywhere in the UK or even globally. The main benefit of this format is that you can have a two-way conversation which will hopefully help you build a rapport and positive relationship with the person interviewing you. You can show a bit more of your personality.
Pre-recorded: On the other hand, a pre-recorded video interview isn’t conversational, so it can often be a bit more formal. These interviews usually work by being played a pre-recorded set of questions and you respond by recording your answers. Often there will be a time limit. It can be harder with a recorded interview to get your personality across, but the benefit of this type of interview is that you can practice your answers and do a few takes before you submit.
2. Always dress like you’re attending the interview in person
It may seem over the top to be wearing a suit and tie at your home desk, but you should dress as formally as you would if you were meeting in person. It’s always better to overdress than underdress in these situations as you want to show the organisation you’re interviewing with that you’re taking this process seriously and that you’re keen to make a good impression.
Candidates have been known in the past to be caught out wearing comfy pyjama bottoms or tracksuit bottoms on the bottom half – so be sure to dress to impress head to toe. You may need to jump up from the desk to deal with something in the room so make sure you’re in appropriate attire from top to bottom.
3. Consider your surroundings
We understand that not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated working space at home. Set yourself up somewhere with a blank background – no posters or distracting artwork in the background for example. Consider the lighting in that room too. You want them to be able to see your face clearly. Equally, you don’t want to be blinded by sunlight if you’re facing a window. Think about closing your windows if you happen to live on a noisy street to avoid distractions too.
4. Have a test run
Probably the most important tip on our list. Set your laptop or computer up where you’ll be interviewing and turn your camera on to test the lighting and the angle of the camera on your face. Check the connection is running smoothly in that room and that you’re familiar with the software they have invited you to use. Also, check the sound quality. It is a good idea to have a quick video call with a friend from that setup to make sure your sound, camera and connection quality are all ok from the other side.
5. Arrive early
Just as you would do for an in-person interview, be punctual so as not to keep anyone waiting. Log in to the meeting 3-5 minutes before it’s due to start. If they dial in and find they’re waiting for you to join (even if it’s just 1 minute past), it doesn’t give the impression you are particularly organised or have good time management skills.
6. Prepare your housemates or family members
If you know that someone else is likely to be in the house, make sure they know you have an interview happening so that they won’t burst into the room or make a lot of background noise. Most interviewers will understand that these things will happen, but noise in the background can be a distraction when you’re trying to communicate something in an interview setting, which can be difficult enough at the best of times.
If your household receives a lot of deliveries and the doorbell goes off a lot, you might want to put a note on the door asking them not to ring it. That’s if you’re worried about this distracting you.
It’s important to note though, that if interruptions do happen, try not to let it affect you. Yes, this can be easier said than done – but these can be a great way to break any nervous tension you may be feeling. A conversation about your cat popping up on the screen for example can be a great way to break the ice and lift the tension. How you deal with challenges like these will also help demonstrate your resilience.
7. Use more body language
One of the drawbacks of the video interview is that the person asking you questions can only really see your face. In an in-person interview, you’re able to use your hands more. The way you’re sitting and the way you move can help express your understanding of something, your passion, your enthusiasm as well as your personality. So, think of how else you can display these. Do you need to try to be more expressive with your face? Should you nod more? Can you try to use your hands more gesturally than you normally would to get your positive energy across?
As well as this, consider signalling when you’re finished answering a question, especially if it’s a long one. This will be helpful for the interviewer as over video, the limited body language can make it difficult to tell. You want to avoid speaking over each other too, so establishing early on in the interview a way of starting and finishing your answers can be a useful way to help the conversation run a little more smoothly. To signal visually, you could try a gentle nod. Or, as part of your answer, when you’re coming to an end, use phrases like ‘So, to conclude my answer…’, ‘And finally…’, or even more explicitly with something like ‘So I feel like that’s a good example of a time…’ It can be a little uncomfortable if it takes a moment for the interviewer to figure out if you’ve finished speaking as they won’t want to interrupt you – so this can be another way of keeping the conversation going smoothly.
At the same time, try to avoid a table-tennis-like conversation, alternating with a question, answer, question, answer. Video interviews can be a little harder to keep conversations going easily and naturally. So, try to sprinkle some questions in throughout your own answers and the general conversation whenever they’re appropriate, rather than waiting for the end. Ideally, your interviewer will see you as someone they could talk to every day, not just someone they read a list of questions to. Feel free to comment on their responses too, if you have more to say.
8. Embrace the quiet moments
If you do need a quiet moment to gather your thoughts, formulate an answer, take a note of something or find something to share with them, verbally let them know. The clarification of this helps to remove any awkwardness of the silence. Doing this will also demonstrate that you’re aware of their experience as well as reassure them that there aren’t any issues with sound or the connection.
9. Acknowledge that it’s a video interview
It’s OK to acknowledge the differences between this interview format and the traditional format. If there’s something that you feel this video format doesn’t necessarily help you with articulating, you can bring that up as long as it’s done politely. Acknowledging that things are different can help put everyone at ease and also helps keep it personal and real. Also, don’t be afraid to say if something feels off – if you can’t hear or see your interviewer well for example. This will help demonstrate that you’re willing to speak up and be straightforward about issues.
10. Always follow up
Just like with an interview in-person, but maybe even more so for a video interview, it’s a good idea to follow it up with a note to say thank you. You can also use this opportunity to confirm any details that were mentioned during the interview that you needed to check on, like dates of upcoming holidays etc.
The benefits of a video interview
You might be concerned about dealing with technology when you want to be focussing on what you’re going to say, or you might feel a little self-conscious about being on screen. We understand these feelings, but there are reasons why interviewing over video is often much preferred.
The practical benefit of interviewing through video is the time and money it will save you. You won’t have to take too much time out of your day to take yourself to their office while leaving plenty of time for train delays etc. This way, you can be in the comfort of your own home and be prepared right up until the moment you have to join the call. And, you don’t have to spend any money on travel.
It’s also easier to subtly refer to notes. Any interviewer will understand and appreciate that you might want to refer to notes when thinking of examples for competency-based questions. In an in-person interview setting, fumbling through your notes can sometimes be a little awkward. In a video interview, you can have your notes right next to you or even on-screen in an open window. This way, you barely even have to break eye contact with the interviewer to remind yourself of what it is you should be saying.
A note about notes: It can throw you if you’re trying to read notes quickly. Try to keep any notes to prompts rather than sentences. This way, you can glance at them, look back at the interviewer and take a moment to be reminded of the example you can use to help demonstrate a certain trait or attribute. This is a much more natural way of conversating and the person on the other side of the screen will appreciate it, even if it takes an extra moment.