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Written by Anna MuckermanAnna Muckerman

Video interview

23 min read
Video interview
Artwork by:Katya Simacheva
With more than 40 percent of all Americans working from home, it’s hardly surprising that video interviews have become the new normal in hiring. While a video interview provides certain advantages (no more getting lost on the way to the office!) it can also pose plenty of new challenges.

Before the remote communication revolution, video interviews seemed like a terrifying prospect. Your prospective boss is there, on the screen, judging you from across cyberspace. You can't gauge the normal body language cues and you feel that little bit more self-conscious than normal. That was before we all got used to Zoom calls.

Now, a video interview seems a little less daunting. We have become accustomed to the intricacies of remote communication and it is now rare that first-stage interviews aren't conducted remotely. The video interview is now a firm part of the hiring process - every candidate needs to master the medium.

By preparing and practicing, you can put your nerves to rest and go into your next video interview with confidence and charisma. Our video interview tips and answers to all the most common video interview questions will help you show off the great personality and experience that makes you an ideal candidate.

Here’s what will cover:

  • Our top ten tips for acing your next video interview
  • How to answer key video interview questions
  • Insights on the technical considerations needed for digital interviews
  • The most common types of video interviews (Hirevue, Zoom, Skype, etc.)
  • Tips on completing one-way or recorded video interviews

If you are nervous, remember that the interviewer may also be feeling uncomfortable. If you can find a way of navigating the video interview in a calm and measured manner, you will also put them at ease. If they are focusing on your answers rather than their nerves, you will be remembered over the other candidates.

Expert tip

What is a video interview?

There are many different forms of video or digital interviews but most involve logging on to a common video-sharing service where a hiring manager will ask you questions about your qualifications and experience, just like in a face-to-face interview. You may be given material to assess beforehand and the interview may involve some interactive tests, but mostly it will follow the normal behavioural format.

Top 10 job video interview tips

Video interviews are a complex thing, since they showcase your personality as much as your professional side. They are permanent records of a conversation that can be viewed multiple times by multiple people. In person interviews are rarely recorded, so this permanency adds another level of pressure.

Technology also complicates what used to be an age-old tradition of personal negotiation. So, a be-all-end-all guide on video interview tips could turn into an entire book. That being said, here are our top 10 job interview tips to help you succeed in your next digital interview:

1. Arrange your background

During a video interview, hiring managers are processing everything they see on the screen – including your background. A disorganized bedroom, a messy kitchen or a living room full of friends and family will distract the hiring manager from all the good things you want to present about yourself. A white wall is better than nothing, but if you can, try to arrange a professional-looking background. A bookshelf, some plants or a nice painting can all turn into a professional background for a digital interview.

2. Compose your shot

A video interview tip that can be used both by creative people and very organized logical people is: treat your video interview shot as a functional scene or picture (yourself included). Once you’ve created a pleasant background, you’ll want to double check that it also looks good with you in it. Make sure to sit about two feet away from the webcam so that you’re visible from the torso up. If you find that you are looking down at the screen, place some books under your laptop so that your camera is at eye-level. Finally, open your webcam on the platform that will be used for the interview. Make sure you are happy with everything that’s in view and that the plants don’t look like they’re growing out from your ear.

3. Plan for good lighting

Good lighting is arguably even more important than your background during a digital interview. You want a hiring manager to be able to see your facial expressions and react naturally to them. Poor lighting can cast unflattering shadows on your face while harsh lighting can wash you out making you look like a ghost with eyeballs. Natural day lighting is your best option, but when that’s not possible, a lamp placed behind and to the side of the webcam can work. Avoid windows behind you, or you will appear like a shadowy figure in comparison.

4. Check your connection

Poor internet connection or audio issues are the quickest way to dash your chances of a great video interview. Make sure your computer registers your microphone and that your network is strong enough to support video calling. Keep your phone nearby in case you need to create an internet hotspot in an emergency. Or, ask to do the interview at a friend’s house where the wifi is stronger. Do whatever you can to make sure the video interview can happen as scheduled.

5. Keep headphones nearby

If you’re in a completely silent room, you may prefer not to wear headphones. Otherwise it’s a good idea to use them. They help filter out background noise and allow you to concentrate more fully on what the interviewer is saying. And while you’re collecting things to bring to the digital interview, it can’t hurt to have a notebook and pen, your resume and any other documents handy to review.

Expert tip

How do you prepare for a video interview?

There are a few extra steps when it comes to preparing for a video interview. You'll want to adjust your background and make sure your internet connection is strong enough to last for the duration of the interview. You can find much more on these technical considerations of digital interviews in our top ten tips below.

6. Dress code for video interview

Just because you’re not showing up to an office doesn’t mean you get to throw out the dress code for a video interview. Wear whatever is most appropriate for a day on the job in your industry (that doesn’t always mean a button-up shirt or jacket, but it might!) so that you show the hiring manager that you take the job seriously – even when working from home. And the number one rule: make sure you wouldn’t be embarrassed if the interviewer were to see the bottom half of what you’re wearing.

7. Make eye contact with the interviewer

Maintaining natural eye contact is one of the most difficult parts of video job interviews, but it is extremely important. You may be tempted to sneak a look at yourself but you should avoid it as much as you can since it will create the appearance that you are looking down. Instead, focus your attention on the interview so that you can read their facial expressions and respond naturally.

8. Sit up straight

This video interview tip may seem trivial, but it directly affects not only the impression others get from you, but even your own mindset and mood. Great posture with both feet on the floor helps you convey confidence and authority about your experience. It also helps you feel more in control of your situation. You don’t have to take this video interview trick to the extreme by not allowing yourself any movement. The general idea is to be in control of your body.  Don’t pick at your fingers or give away your nervousness by fidgeting. Make sure to breathe naturally so that you give the impression of being at ease. 

9. Act natural

Don’t let the formal feeling of a video interview keep you from being yourself. Make small talk, show interest in the hiring manager and prepare questions to ask them at the end. If appropriate, you can still crack a joke or two. Handle any connection issues or cats popping up on screen with grace and humor. At the end of the call, sincerely thank the interviewer for their time.

10. Practice with a test call (and just practice!)

As far as video interview tips go, practicing may be your most valuable tactic. You may have the dream background with perfect lighting and ultra high-speed internet, but if you’re not prepared for the added stress of a video interview, it might not go as you hoped. Ask a friend or family member to call you on the exact platform and at the same time of day as the actual interview. Then, practice answering questions naturally, taking deep breaths and limiting the number of times you stop and start over. This may be the most important video interview tip of all: with practice, even the scariest things can become much easier. The more times you do something (even if it’s not your natural cup of tea), the more at home you will feel. You may never become as relaxed as an on-air personality, but you’ll definitely get better!

Expert tip

What kind of questions are asked in a video interview?

A video interview could contain virtually any of the questions asked in other interviews, however there many be a few inquiries into your work style and time management while working from home, especially if the job is remote.  If you are applying for a remote role, employers will now expect you to be set up for it, with organisationally and mentally, so you won't be grilled quite as much on the practicalities.

  • Arrange your background and check the framing ahead of time
  • Ensure that you will have strong internet connection on the day of the interview
  • Practice for digital interviews just as much (or even more so) than you would for in-person ones
  • Slouch, fuss with your hands or make any other movements that will distract the interviewer from what you have to say.
  • Look at yourself on the screen and not into the camera
  • Forget to choose an outfit that is complete and appropriate for the position

How to answer key video interview questions

There are a few questions that might come up in a video interview that otherwise might not. While they likely won’t be the focus, you should prepare for them just in case. Here’s our list of the top video interview questions and how to handle them:

What does your average work from home day look like? 

This video interview question would have been a weird one several years ago. Now, it may not only be appropriate but extremely relevant. Since you won’t be present in an office, an employer wants to know how you’re spending company time. Tell them the ways in which you’ve adapted to remote working including ways in which your productivity has increased. If you often work a certain schedule, like 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for example, you may mention that if you know the company offers flexibility in that regard. Remember that when answering this video interview question, you don’t need to go into too much personal detail (the interviewer doesn’t need to know about every home habit you have). What they’re interested in is how you establish productivity, during which hours you’re available (careful with this one, do some research on the job role), and whether you can lead a sustainable work day from home.

What have you accomplished professionally over the last year?

Especially in creative fields, an employer wants to know that you persevered in a difficult time and didn’t get completely stuck in a rut. Although it’s alright to be honest about any changes brought about by the pandemic, you should at least offer an example of professional development as evidence you are still active and interested in your field. People are often flummoxed by this video interview question, but it’s really not that scary or complicated. Just think about it beforehand and be positive about yourself!

Expert tip

How long does a video interview last?

A video interview is just like any other normal interview, but because it is usually used as a screening interview before a face-to-face meeting it is not normally longer than 45 minutes. You should ask before the meeting so that you can check that you don't have any deliveries due and that you can inform any family who might be in the house. Interruptions are not ideal, although don't worry if things don't go entirely smoothly. These interruptions show off your human side and they will almost certainly happen during your work day, so showing how you react is not necessarily a bad thing.

Would you be willing to work in an office again in the future?

Many companies are now hiring for remote jobs with the expectation that you will relocate or come back into the office once it’s safe to do so. If the employer has outlined this as a condition of the position, be prepared to say “yes” to this video interview question and to mean it, otherwise you probably aren’t the right fit. Don't kid yourself that you will be so fantastic that they will let you work from home forever in such cases - you have to be ready to make the move if it is on the horizon.

Statistical insight

Not only do employees working from home report higher productivity, a better work-life balance and higher job satisfaction, employers also reap the benefits. According to a study published by CNBC, an employer saves an average of 11,000 dollars for each employee who works remotely at least half the time.

The majority of video interview questions will remain unchanged from an in-person interview, but you should practice answering them nonetheless. Here are some of the most common ones to be prepared for:

Tell us about yourself. The interviewer wants a brief synopsis of your professional journey. You might mention personal details like where you’re from, but keep this answer to a short one-minute max. This video interview question is not a cue to detail all your hobbies (unless one is SUPER relevant to your job, such as research or an applicable creative talent).

Why do you want to work for us?

Compliment the company and their achievements without coming across as fake. Explain key pieces of your experience that align with the company operations or goals.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hiring is a costly process so a HR manager wants some guarantee that your true intention is to stay within the industry. The only exception to this might be for an hourly job like store associate or server where the hiring manager is used to dealing with students and part time workers.

Tell me about your experience?

The tricky part about this video interview question is to give enough information that the hiring manager is interested without overloading them on the details. Ask for clarification if needed (for example, how far back would you like me to go?) and then choose the most relevant positions and tasks to the job you’re applying for. Don’t assume that the hiring manager has your resume memorized. You may need to offer a brief bit of background.

Statistical insight

Even after the pandemic, working from home may be here to stay. A survey in the UK found that nearly 75 percent of employers planned to increase remote working options even after it was safe to return to the office.  Digital interviews aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

60+ Behavioral interview questions – tips and examples
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60+ Behavioral interview questions – tips and examples

Behavioral interview questions will be on the tip of an interviewer’s tongue for much of any job interview. Your specific role in your past accomplishments will inform them of how you might perform in the future. Answer the questions well and the job is yours.

How to do a Skype interview

Skype is one of the video calling services that’s been around the longest so you shouldn’t be surprised if that’s where the interviewer wants to do the digital interview. Most of the video interview tips above apply to Skype interviews, but you can find more detailed information in our blog “How to do a Skype interview.”

How to do a Zoom interview

Meetings and job interviews on Zoom have become synonymous with working from home (#Zoomfatigue.) Job interviews on Zoom are just like on any other platforms but if you’re looking for more details on how to prepare, check out our blog dedicated entirely to Zoom interviews.

How to do a YouTube interview

Since YouTube doesn’t have a video calling feature, an interview on YouTube is one that you pre-record and post yourself. Related to a video resume, you’ll need to film yourself answering questions given to you by the employer and post them on your account. You’ll probably be asked to make the interview on YouTube private and send the employer a password-protected link.

How to do a FaceTime interview

FaceTime interviews aren’t much different than any other type of video platform except that you and the interviewer may both be using your phones. FaceTime interviews have a smaller field of view so your body will take up most of the frame.

Here are some FaceTime interview tips:

  1. Unless told so, do not assume your interview will be on FaceTime since only Apple users have access to the service.
  2. You may find it more comfortable to do the FaceTime interview from your Mac computer, if you have one. Check that your account is set up properly so that you will receive the call.
  3. If using your phone for a FaceTime interview, remember all other video interview rules apply. Check your lighting and background, choose a great video interview outfit and prop up your phone at eye-level.

One-way video interview

Another popular video interview style is the recorded interview. This is often referred to as the one-way video interview because you'll be asked to speak into the camera without the presence of an interviewer asking you questions. Recorded interviews can often feel much more challenging because you won't have the body language or confirmation of another human to help you formulate your ideas. Generally, you'll be asked to log on to a platform like HireVue where you'll find a set of prompts. You'll be given a certain amount of time to record each answer and usually a retake in case you feel that you didn't do your best. 

One way interviews can be effective as you do not have to worry about the reactions of the interviewer that may affect your later answers. It is easy to get put off by a reaction that is somehow magnified by the video screen. Also, one-way interviews can be segmented into smaller questions that allow a candidate breathing and thinking time before answering each one. This is the primary reason why organisations choose them - they don't want candidates to be flustered by the video interview format.

Since one-way video interviews can feel more like reciting a speech than having a conversation, it's important to practice ahead of time to make sure you'll feel comfortable with the recorded interview. All the same top ten tips apply, only this time you can actually record a video of yourself answering the questions to see how you'll perform under pressure.

Expert tip

Is a video interview a good sign?

While a video interview may seem impersonal (especially if it's a recorded interview), you should generally consider the offer to be a good sign. Many companies use digital interviews as the first step in the hiring process before moving on to in-person meetings. While a digital interview certainly doesn't guarantee you the job, you should go into it confident that your experience and skills have caught the employer's attention and they are interested to know more.

How to send interview follow-up letters: the complete guide
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How to send interview follow-up letters: the complete guide

They say waiting is the hardest part – and it’s especially true after a job interview. You want to know whether or not the employer has made a decision, but there’s a right and wrong way to ask. In this blog, we’ll break down everything you need to know about interview follow-up letters.

Key takeaways

  1. Video and digital interviews are the new normal in hiring so you'll likely have to complete one if you plan to change roles soon.
  2. While you'll find many typical questions in a video interview, you'll also want to prepare for inquiries into your work from home set-up and future plans.
  3. Don't overlook the technical considerations like lighting, background and internet connection.
  4. Digital interviews can often feel more nerve-wracking than in-person ones so make sure to practice until you feel comfortable.
  5. Don't be surprised if a hiring manager asks for a recorded interview as the first step in the interview process.
The definitive interview guide
Related article
The definitive interview guide

Interviewing is stressful. Preparation and practice are the best ways to get yourself ready for the big day. This interview guide helps you to walk into that interview with the best chance of getting a positive result.

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