Blog by LSE Careers consultant Maddie Smith:

We’re seeing a year on year increase in the numbers of organisations using video interviews to conduct first round interviews so it’s important to be prepared.

Video interviews (VIs) are not designed to catch you out. In much the same way as a telephone or other first round interview, recruiters are looking at how you communicate, how you respond under pressure, and what motivates you. The questions are designed to help them understand who you are and what interests you about the role you’re applying for which is the same as any other interview really!

What can you expect? 

So let’s look at what a VI involves. Details vary but essentially candidates are given a set of questions delivered via specialist video software which records their answers. Once the question has started you cannot pause or rewind and a specific time is allowed for each answer. For the majority of interviews you’re given a set amount of time to prepare and then record your answers. You may or may not get a couple of attempts to record your answer or time to think through your answer in advance before the recording starts. It depends on the company and their approach.

For example one company’s VI assessment involves six questions: general motivation (why you?), a competency based one, three related to the functional area, and then a final summing up such as ‘is there anything else you want to tell us?’ The required answer length ranges from three minutes for the first two down to 90 seconds for the functional questions. For the first question you are given as long as you like to prepare your answer and then record it, for the second you are given two minutes to collect your thoughts before answering and then for the final ones the clock starts automatically!

How can you prepare?

Here are my top tips to deliver your best result:

Get your set-up right

  • Room and equipment set up is really important. Make sure your computer, webcam and microphone are all running correctly. You’ll need a reliable internet connection too.
  • Read all the instructions carefully and make sure you understand what you have to do. Don’t be one of those candidates who walks away from the screen while it’s still recording or who cuts themselves off mid flow!
  • Ensure you’re positioned correctly in front of the screen, that your microphone works and that you are in vision. Look what is directly behind you. A plain background works best. Lighting is important too. Make sure you can clearly be seen.
  • Don’t sit so close to the screen that it looks like you’re peering through at your interviewer but don’t sit so far away they can’t hear your responses either!
  • Take control of your environment. I’ve reviewed video interviews where mum has bought in a cup of tea, a housemate has yelled through that there’s a fire in the kitchen, and the cat has taken a liking to sitting on the candidate’s lap. Apart from the fire, all these other things can be controlled for!

Prepare

  • Prepare just as you would with any interview. You won’t know the exact questions you’ll be asked but can anticipate what you’re likely to be asked, including motivation and understanding of the specific role and company, skills and attributes you bring, and knowledge of the wider sector.
  • Record yourself on your mobile phone or other device. Playing back a clip of yourself answering a question can help you be a bit more objective about your performance and help you spot things you might not notice the other side of the camera. Practice answering the same questions a few times to see how you have improved. This should certainly help give you more confidence for the real thing!
  • It’s usual to be given a time limit with a video interview question. Practice what a one minute or two minute answer feels like. Are you giving enough information? Do you have a clear beginning, middle, and end? I’ve lost track of the number of really good answers that have been let down because those final few sentences summarising were cut off!
  • Use video software like Interview Stream and interview4.com to familiarise yourself with the format and to watch yourself back.

 Think about how you come across

  • You might be doing the video interview from your bedroom but it’s still an interview so dress as you would for a face-to-face one.
  • Make sure you maintain a good posture. No slouching! Positioning your screen correctly and sitting in an upright chair or standing should help with this.
  • Eye contact is very important so focus directly on the camera. Some movement is unavoidable and you don’t want to appear too fixed or rigid but try and minimise body and hand movements during a VI.
  • Don’t read from notes or simply recount an answer you have remembered (see below). Also think about your speech and slow down if you need to. We often talk quickly when nervous and this effect can be amplified on video.
  • Interviewers are wanting to see passionate and engaged candidates so remember it’s ok to smile!

Be yourself, be enthusiastic!

  • Try and be natural and show the real you. This may be your first video interview but treat it as a real life conversation and maintain good eye contact and try and be engaging – so no glancing down or reading from notes in front of you. You wouldn’t do this in a face-to-face interview.
  • Relax! As with any interview, you can’t always prepare for everything. Read the question and keep calm if you worry that you may not have replied fully. Be concise, and have the confidence to deliver your point and move on if you have answered the question.
  • Look and sound enthusiastic. Think about your tone of voice and projection. Recruiters aren’t just evaluating what you say but how you say it also plays a part too. It’s important you try and convey this interest through facial expression and voice tone. I’ve listened to many video interviews where I’ve been left thinking, I know they know their stuff but do they really want to work for this organisation.

If you haven’t yet been for a video interview my advice would be to start practising now. Get comfortable talking about yourself to a screen and watch yourself back. Often the thought is worse than the reality and you may be pleasantly surprised by what you see!

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