Welcome to the definitive guide to excel in a video job interview.  The article is comprehensive and consists of actionable tips and strategies for candidates who will need to participate in an interview via video conference.

As a prospective job search candidate, your typical first interview is a phone screen.  Once you overcome the first stage gate, which is the phone overview, you will now proceed to the next part of the interview.

In the past, such interviews were always in person at the company’s offices. Today, a combination of advances in video conferencing, the desire to keep the expectations low, and avoid any costs (of flying a candidate assuming he/she is out of town), a lot of companies are resorting to video job interviews as an integral part of the hiring process.

Unless you are a master of producing snippets on YouTube or other video content endeavors, most of us dread the prospect of a video job interview.  The possibility of sitting in front of a camera, and the idea that the other party can see you throughout the meeting is a bit unnerving.  If you don’t plan, prepare, and practice, the dynamics of the live video may undermine your actual performance.

The Definitive Guide to Video Job Interviews:

  • Understand the Purpose, Type, and Process

  • Plan and Prepare in advance

  • Practice and Practice before the interview

  • Participate in the Video Job Interview

  • Post Video Job Interview Follow Up

Let’s dive right into the various facets of preparation and participation in a video job interview.

Understand the Purpose, Type, and Process of the Video Job Interview:

Once you get a call or an email suggesting a video interview, it is critical to know what exactly is the purpose, format, and conduct of the video interview.

For example, does the video interview involve a live interviewer on the other side? Or is it a video recording of your responses to a set of questions posted on the screen.  Each variety is very distinct in how it works and what the expectations are from the candidate and the interview.

Job interviews using live video conference is very similar to the situations where you meet the interviewer in person in an office.   Of course, it may involve one or more interviewers, and you will be on video answering questions as you would typically do in a live interview set up.  Find out from the recruiter as to how long the meeting will last, who are the interviewers (there could be more than one), and the type of discussion (structured, semi-structured, free-flowing.)

Recorded video interviews are different in purpose and execution. In a recorded video interview, a candidate will go through an introductory tutorial, and then there will be a set of questions, sequentially posted on the screen, and allow the candidate to answer in two or three minutes before the next question pops up on the screen.   The common purpose of this interview is to screen many candidates without the time and effort of bringing them over to an office and also allow several decision makers in the hiring process to view the video recording offline, at their convenience.  The purpose of this type of interview is to allow for a broader cross-section of candidates to participate in the process and to filter out the candidates before bringing someone in for a live discussion.

Irrespective of the format, the primary requirement is for you to know the exact process and procedures so that you can plan and prepare for the video interview.

Plan and Prepare in advance for the Video Interview:

The planning and preparation for a job interview over the video are in many ways similar to the phone interviews and in-person interviews. But of course, there are significant differences also in certain facets – particularly the technical requirements and the conduct of the video interview.

General Tips for preparing for a Job Interview:

Generally speaking, several of the research, preparation, and planning steps remain the same.  You cannot miss the forest for the trees by focusing too much on the “video” aspect of the job interview.

Research the Company.

The level and the position you are applying will determine the depth and breadth of research you will have to do for a given company.  For example, at entry level, your primary interest may be threefold: a) Stability of the company b) Learning opportunities and c) Compensation.

While these three factors continue to remain important at every level, at senior positions such as director, VP, and SVP, you may want to dig deeper into various aspects – company finances, attrition rate, internal promotions, company culture, work-life balance, and related elements.

There are several sources of information to research a company.

  • Employer website. In addition to the profile and the management team, the career site will indicate who they are recruiting, how many positions are open et al.
  • Review sites such as Glassdoor.com.
  • Analyze the rankings by various Publications such as Fortune.com and Inc.com. These days many publishers publish multiple lists and rankings of companies.  Look for core attributes that are important to your personal situation.  For example, a mom returning to the workforce may look at a list like com may be helpful. If you are interested in the highest compensation, you may want to pursue a list like what USA Today publishes.
  • Corporate information databases like D&B (Dun and Bradstreet) and for small businesses, a site com will provide you with essential information and profiles.
  • Don’t forget free financial websites like Google Finance and Yahoo Finance. The financial sites feature not only profile data but also financial statements, stock market performance, analysts opinions, and the like.  This can be valuable in evaluating the financial stability, growth potential, and other related factors.
  • You may also look up for friends – either first or second connection – who work for your prospective employer and seek their opinion. An advantage with networking is you will not only gather some nuggets of wisdom but also may develop some allies and champions who can put in a good word for you during the interview process.
  • While their focus is the performance of the stock, investment research analysts’ reports may be another good source of information and analysis of a given company.

Browse Employee Reviews.

video job interviewsCompanies such as Glassdoor.com and Indeed.com, offer reviews by current and former employees as well as the ability to look up salary information.

You should keep a few things in mind.

Sometimes, disgruntled employees are the most vocal group, and hence, the reviews may have an inherent negative bias.  So, a large number of reviews will generally even out this phenomena and provide a balance.  Secondly, in addition to the rating, focusing on the qualitative attributes – culture, management stability, benefits, paid leave et al. – will help you gauge what the persona of the company is and whether you will fit into the culture.

Read and understand the Job Description.

If you are actively seeking new employment, it is likely that you are applying for several positions, and hence, it is critical to go back and review the job posting. The job description will help you learn what the company is looking for and also give you the right talking points.  Paraphrasing the bullet points in the job posting while answering the questions will be a great selling point for your candidacy.

For example, if one of the bullet points mentions, “The candidate must be able to pay attention to detail and be able to spot anomalies and red flags.”  Using that type of language and appropriate points will set you apart.

Or if a job posting were to say, “The candidate must be able to collaborate in a multicultural environment,” you may include your experience of growing up for part of your life overseas and being a part of a multicultural blended family may score you points.

Practice the common interview questions.

Sometimes candidates forget the simple things like reviewing common interview questions and answers as a part of their preparation.  Please don’t make that mistake.

Review a set of questions, some general interview questions, and some that may relate to the specific function and industry/sector you are in and practice two types of response – a quick elevator pitch and a longer answer with context and nuance.

For example, if you are a medical doctor by training but are in the business development field, a fundamental question will relate to your choice or professions. Do you have a crisp answer?  Or if you dropped out of school pursuing the dream to become the next Rockstar band, can you explain the rationale in a way that makes sense and doesn’t jeopardize your current pursuit?

Have some questions to ask the interviewer.

Many candidates put on a blank stare when the interviewers ask, “What questions do you have for me?” or “What can I answer for you?”.  Instead of mumbling and fumbling at this question, it is essential to have a few questions ready that you can ask in a job interview.

Specific Preparation for a Job Interview over Video Conference:

Now, let’s delve into preparing for the job interview that is over a video conference or as a video recording.

Pick the Place where you’d do the Job Interview:

You must pick a quiet location, has adequate lighting, and access to a broadband connection. Ideally, it should be a room in your home. If your living situation does not permit that, consider booking a place in your local library.  Or ask a friend or relative if you could use their home for the duration of the call.

If the place of your choice does not have a broadband internet connect, verify that your phone has signal and also the hotspot provide enough bandwidth.

Video Job InterviewsIf you are using a friend or relative’s home, ensure you have the WIFI access and the password.

Never do a video interview in a coffee shop or a public setting. Not only will you face distractions, but the interviewers also will not appreciate the ambiance or potential interruptions.

Ensure the lighting is adequate and ensure you check the room/venue at the time of the day of your video job interview.  Too dark a room will make you gloomy and invisible, and too much light will cause glare and result in ghostly appearances.

Check the room temperature.

Are you comfortable with the temperature settings?  Is it too cold or too hot? What if you wear a suit or a jacket?  Are there temperature controls, and do you have access to them?

Ensure the background is neutral. Avoid environments that feature pin-up models in swimsuits or a sports figure. If you have art, ensure it is in line with the contemporary mores of the society and culture you live in.

Set up and Test the Equipment:

Most modern computers have a webcam and a microphone.  However, if you have never used the webcam and the microphone on your computer, please check ahead of time to ensure the components and software exist and that they work.

Sometimes, instead of using the speaker on your laptop or tablet, you may prefer to use a headset or a microphone.  It depends on what is the quality of the speaker and microphone and the equipment within your access.  Sometimes, you may choose to use a phone for voice and the webcam for the video portion.

Try to login and ensure the video conference software works on your computer/browser. Some video conference software requires specific settings and also need an applet.  If necessary, update your browser components and download the applet ahead of time.  Don’t do it at the time of the interview as you may have to keep your interviewers waiting as the things download, and heavens forbid if it were to require a restart.

Evaluate the level of the web camera and place it such that the camera is above your chest and shows your entire face.

Similarly, test the bandwidth of the internet connection. You may use a tool like SpeedTest.net.

Try and Pick an Attire that works.

What you wear will depend on the specific dress code of the company and what is generally acceptable. If the company policy is formal wear, you must follow the guidelines. Irrespective of particular dress code, try to wear something that is at par or one level above the dress code of the company.

Avoid flashy colors and designs. Stick with solids or simple and neutral patterns that work well on a video connection.  What you don’t want is the interviewer to focus on you are wearing rather than who you are as a person and a job seeker.

Practice and Practice for the Video Job Interview:

You can test the video portion of the interview as well as the general questions by engaging in mock interviews with a friend or family member.

Once you have a list of common questions, request your spouse/significant other, a friend, or a trusted colleague to do practice interviews with you. Since you are doing a job interview via a video conference, it may make sense to do the practice interview over a video conferencing platform as well.

Please record the mock interview so that you can review various aspects. When you are examining the recorded mock interview video, look for the following:

Are your eyes darting? Are you visibly fidgeting incessantly?  Are you smiling or have a pleasant demeanor or looking like a nervous wreck? Are you sweating bullets?   Is the camera angle and lighting showing unflattering looks such as a double chin or bags under your eye?  Are you using filler words – “Obviously,” “Probably,” “Ahem,” “Like,” “I guess,” etc.

If there are going to be more than a single interviewer, a practice that in the mock interview and see if you are shifting eye contact and attention to each person while delivering an answer.

A few practice rounds and reviews will help you overcome the issues and iron out the wrinkles in time for the actual video job interview.

Participate in the Video Job Interview

On the day of the interview, please check all the equipment, room settings, ambiance, and do a dry run.

Do a last minute check of the following items:

  • Computer battery and power access.
  • Ensure all your virus definitions are up to date. You don’t want notifications popping up.
  • Ensure you shut off any computer settings such as auto update and restart.
  • Close all but the required tabs. Too many tabs may crash your browser.
  • Shut off any applications that show live notifications. You don’t want that distraction.
  • Check the room temperature and adjust the thermostat.
  • If you have a phone, unplug or shut off the ringer or set the calls to go directly to voice mail.
  • If you have a pet, please ensure the pet does not barge into your location during the interview.

When the actual time of the interview comes, log in to the video conference platform at least 3 minutes before the discussion. If necessary, most of the video conference solutions have a dial-in number or will call your phone. If your VOIP connection is iffy, you may want to do that.

At the time of the actual interview, wait attentively for the interviewers to appear.  If it is a recorded session, then you may not get a live person, but a brief tutorial and instructions about how to participate in the recorded interview and then the interview questions with a specific allocation of time to answer them.

If it is a live interview, please greet each interviewer by name.  If you don’t know the convention, greet them by their last name.  If you don’t know their names, there is no harm in asking and also ensure you are pronouncing the name as correctly as possible.

During the interview, answer the questions in a calm and steady voice.  Don’t let the adrenaline make you speak super fast.  If you have a non-native accent, please ensure you pay attention to the speed and also your enunciation.  Similarly, if the interview is a non-native speaker, and if you don’t understand a question, please request politely to repeat the item and ensure you understand it before answering.

Do not dominate the conversation.  Try to be crisp, concise, and coherent in your answers.  Use short sentences and avoid run-ons.  Do not use slang or offensive words – even if to make a point.  Avoid filler words that distract from your content. Remember, both style and substance matter in a video job interview.

Look for body language as well as word cues on how to answer the questions and how long to take to respond to a given subject.  For example, if the interviewer says, “Can you briefly explain what you mean by “ABCD” on your resume?”, the important word in that question is “Briefly,” and hence your answer should reflect that intent.

Or if someone were to ask a closed-ended question, answer it that way without too much elaboration.  For example, if the interviewer were to ask, “Are you willing to relocate?” your answers can be “Yes” or “No, due to family circumstances,” or “It depends on various factors, and we can discuss it in detail at an appropriate time.”  And if they ask a follow-up question, then, of course, you can delve into the rationale and the set of conditions for you to consider a move.

Shift eye contact from person to person if there is more than one interviewer.  Don’t let your eyes dart or yawn during the interview.  Keep a smile on or a pleasant demeanor.  Friendly people tend to get the nod in interviews all other things being equal.

When it is your turn to ask questions, please ask one or two questions from what you practiced – based on the time left in the interview schedule. Ask open-ended questions that showcase your knowledge and understanding.  Avoid questions that you can learn by Googling.

A Specific Word of Advice for Video Interviews which are recorded:

As we discussed, there are some interviews where there is no live interviewer, and instead, you will answer a set of questions after an introduction and do’s and don’ts.

Each question will be displayed on the screen, and after that, you will have either two or three minutes to answer. In such cases, you will need to behave still as though you are facing an interviewer.

Don’t let your eyes wander, don’t leave your focus from the screen, and don’t move around too much in front of the camera.  Act as though there is a live interviewer and answer questions clearly and concisely.  Do not try to fill the airtime. If you think you provided the right answer, move on to the next.

Some recorded video interview software platforms allow you to pause and restart or overwrite. So, please make sure you know what the features and functions are and plan accordingly.

Post Video Job Interview Follow Up

Video Job InterviewsAt the end of the interview, bid goodbye and sound confident and excited about the next steps in the process.   When the conversation ends, close log out of the video conferencing application and close the browser tab as well as disconnect the phone. The last thing you want is a hot mike situation where you utter something when the connection is still in place, and the interviewers are still on.

Send a follow-up email, and if your position is in a creative industry, you may also send a video thank you note.

Summarize your conversation and send it to your recruiter or the HR representative who is coordinating the interviews and request setting up the next steps.

Of course, there are situations where you haven’t performed well, or in some cases, the job or the position is not the right fit. Even in those cases, it is a best practice to send a thank you note and end things positively.  That way if something opens up later, the company representatives will be more inclined to get in touch with you.

Let us know if we missed any important advice and tips for success in video job interviews.

Now, all the best in your next job interview on video conference.

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