Top tips for a brilliant video interview
National and global lockdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic have set in motion tremoring shockwaves of change through every part of our modern human society. With the high fragility of “in-person” correspondence, more and more activities are shifting into a more reliable virtual space, and our capabilities online are ever-increasing. Simultaneously, the economy is opening up again and businesses are re-commencing recruitment, with most companies now virtualising the whole application process, including the interview stage. Yes, that’s right. All that time spent learning how to give a proper professional handshake, wasted. And conveying genuine enthusiasm in an in-person 3D interview can already be a challenge for some, “how will I cope in 2D?”, you fear.
Fear not - BrighterBox have made a simple guide to help you through your online video interview, from preparation to execution, so you can continue to shine even through a computer screen!
What is an online video interview?
Online video interviews can take two forms:
- Live video interview. This involves a face-to-face video chat with the interviewer via webcam, potentially using software like Zoom Cloud Meetings, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout or Skype.
- Pre-recorded video interview. This is a one-way video chat (i.e. with you only), typically through a company portal, where you answer a series of pre-recorded questions, sometimes with a time limit. An interviewer with then review your answers at a later date.
Regardless of which form your interview takes, there is some basic video etiquette that you should stick to. You will also need to understand how to navigate software you might be asked to use for live video interviews. We will help you with both.
- Where should I do my video interview?
Most importantly, you need somewhere quiet so you can speak uninterrupted and be heard clearly. Your room at home will do just fine, and a pair of headphones can improve the sound quality. If possible, ask a family member to take any unpredictable young ones and/or pets for a walk in the park, or ask your noisy housemates to take themselves for a walk.
Secondly, ensure your background is plain, or tidy at least. Good lighting will only help you. We would also recommend using a laptop camera or webcam over a phone camera.
- What should I wear to my video interview?
Treat your interview as if it were face-to-face. In other words, try not to wear pyjamas on your less visible lower half, no matter how tempting it is. Check the company’s dress code and stick to that. If their dress code is not clear, investigate their website and/or social media for pictures of the team at work.
Practice makes better
A video interview is not a one click manoeuvre. Beforehand, you will need to prepare yourself and your background (as described above), establish a strong internet connection and potentially sign up for an account on the relevant software or portal. Consequently, you should give yourself as much preparation time as possible; that way, if anything goes wrong you can avoid getting flustered.
You can even make some notes to keep next to you, off screen – just ensure you are not obviously reading out your answers, as maintaining a good level of eye contact is important. That means looking at the camera, not yourself, regardless of how dashing you look.
On the topic of body language, do:
- Pause before you speak. This communicates that you think wisely before you speak.
- Speak somewhat slowly. Fast talk can be incoherent as well as robotic.
- Maintain good posture. Sit confident and upright.
- Smile. The most important one of all. It is a sign of warmth, openness, and social intelligence which are all fabulous qualities.
On the other hand, do not:
- Fidget. This is extra distracting on camera, especially if there is a video lag.
- Interrupt the interviewer. Two ears for listening, one mouth for speaking.
- Crack too many jokes. This is a professional setting after all.
The technical side
If you are not familiar with the software or portal being used for the interview, get comfortable with it the day before. If one software does not work, there are plenty more to choose from, and interviewers will most likely be flexible with this.
Using Zoom Cloud Meetings
Zoom is at the forefront of web and video conferencing software. It was created in 2011, but its popularity has skyrocketed this year, and now the brand name has become a sort of verb.
If you are invited for a Zoom interview, you will be sent a link by the interviewer, which will take you directly to the video interview. Zoom can open on your web browser; alternatively, if you have downloaded the Zoom app on your device, there will be an option to open the video chat through the app itself. You might need to enter a password to proceed, which the interviewer should have sent you along with the hyperlink. Next, you will arrive at a virtual waiting room, where your interviewer will then permit you into the video chat.
Zoom will allow you to join the video chat either as a guest or registered user. As a guest, you only have to enter your name; otherwise you can register for an email-linked account. The former is quicker. However, if you are doing many Zoom interviews and/or want to host your own Zoom calls in the future, it might be worth registering. On the free subscription plan, Zoom hosts can video chat for 40 minutes at the longest.
Once the video chat has started, you will see a toolbar at the bottom of the screen.
Make sure you click the “Unmute” and “Start Video” buttons in the bottom left-hand corner, so that the interviewer can see and hear you.
Sometimes, especially during a technical interview, you might be asked to analyse a figure or write a code, for example. Both you and the interviewer can click the “Share Screen” button to permit this. Just make sure you do not have any embarrassing tabs open!
You might also want to record the interview, for later reflection. You can do this by clicking the “Record” button, but you must ask the interviewer (or whoever is hosting) beforehand to “Allow Recording” on the Zoom call.
Using Microsoft Teams
As with Zoom interviews, Microsoft Teams interviews are relatively simple on your part. You simply have to click on the link sent by the interviewer; and again, you can either proceed via the web browser or the application on your device.
The Microsoft Teams toolbar is similar to the Zoom one.
Again, ensure your audio and video controls are ON, and you can record your video chat if you want. Microsoft Teams video call also has a cool “Blur my background” feature for those of you that never tidy your room.
Unlike Zoom and Microsoft Teams, you cannot load Skype on your web browser. You need to download it and set up an account, so allow plenty of time for this. If you already have an account, but haven’t logged into it since year 12, make sure you still remember the password and double check that the username is appropriate for an interview, as you will have to give this username to the interviewer so they can call you. Your interviewer might not be that impressed by the username JennaLovesChoccy2000, no matter how much truth it holds.
Skype also has an in-built test service, so you can make sure your camera and microphone are working before the interview. If you should have any other problems, consult here.
Using Google Hangout
Google Hangout is slightly more complex and lengthier so we really recommend testing it the day before your interview.
To use Google Hangout, you need to have (or make) a Google account. You have to sign in with this and download the latest version of the Meet plugin for Internet Explorer and Safari browsers. Google has a helpful training centre which can help you with any arising issues.
Pre-recorded video interviews
Have you ever spoken to a brick wall? If you have, then you are already one step closer to taking a successful pre-recorded video interview.
The interviewer will send you a link to the pre-recorded video interview, which will typically be hosted on the company’s own website, or through a specialised portal such as Easyrecrue or VidCruiter.
A pre-recorded interview will feel less like a conversation, and more like a test. You might be given time to reading and/or listen to a question, and then further time to record a response. If the interview designer is feeling extra harsh, you might have to answer straight away. Sometimes, you might feel that you do not have enough time to say everything you want, or that you have too much time. The key is to be creative but cogent and concise.
With this type of video interview, there is no one listening or watching live on the other end. Instead, the answer clips are recorded and sent to the interviewer, so that they can assess them in their own time. As well as assessing the content of your answers, the interviewer will also consider your body language, so it is important to act as though there really is someone watching in on the call.
It can be difficult to navigate an interview when there is no interviewer to give you validating nods of the head and reassuring interjections. It could be useful to predict potential questions and note key concepts and words in advance of the pre-recorded interview in case your mind goes blank.
Video interviews may sound intimidating or confusing, but if you give yourself time to prepare you can eliminate many of the stressful elements. Concern about the things you can control, like how well you know the company and its values, rather than those you cannot, like which specific questions the interviewer will ask. By not preparing, you are only sabotaging yourself. If something goes wrong, make sure you have the interviewer's phone number on hand.
Once you have finished the call, congratulate yourself and allow your brain and body to recover from all that adrenaline. The interviewer is probably doing the same. We’re confident that you smashed it.