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How to smash a video interview

Thanks to Inspiring Interns for this guest blog post.

In recent years, technology has revolutionised the interview process of many companies. There are video game challenges, complex online application forms, interviews via Skype and FaceTime, and, perhaps the most disconcerting of these, video interviews.

Although sometimes the term video interview is sometimes used in reference to a Skype interview, this article is about the kind of interview where you film yourself answering pre-recorded questions, rather than talking to an interviewer directly.

This makes it a very different experience; you’re not in conversation with anybody, and so can’t read their body language or tone to get a sense of how you’re doing. Given that a lot of us also feel uncomfortable filming ourselves, video interviews can feel like a real challenge.

However, they’re increasingly used as part of the graduate recruitment process, particularly for popular and competitive grad schemes like that of the Wellcome Trust. As of 2013, 6% of hiring managers had used pre-recorded interviews, and numbers have been on the rise since then.

Pre-recorded video interviews appeal to those who want to use an interview as an early part of the screening process but don’t have the resources to conduct normal interviews with everyone.

It might well be that you have to do a video interview or two while applying for graduate jobs and internships. Check out our tips on how to boost your chances of interview success.

Research!

 Start off by doing what you would for any interview; research the job, the company, and the industry thoroughly. There can be a temptation to view a video interview as less important or less in depth than an interactive interview, but employers see them treated as a central part of the application process. If you’re come across as unknowledgeable about the company, you won’t advance any further.

Start off by familiarising yourself with the company website, including their products and services, mission and values, brand, annual report, and any press releases. Then cast your net wider, and have a look at their social media feeds to get a better sense of the company culture and how they choose to present themselves online.

Next, turn to sources where the information isn’t controlled by the company: customer and employee review websites like Feefo and Glassdoor, news stories, and rival company websites. Knowing a bit about their competitors is important, as you might well be asked about these.

Finally, come back to the job itself. Make sure you’re familiar with the job specification, the duties you’ll be asked to take on, and the skills you’ll need to do so successfully. Think about examples from your experience that will help you prove that you fit the bill.

Prepare answers to standard questions

One of the oddities of this kind of interview is that every candidate will be asked the same questions. In most interviews the interviewer will have planned some of their questions, but they will typically respond to what you say and follow the thread of the discussion. So if you mention an interesting experience briefly, they might ask you to expand on it, or if you haven’t quite answered their question, they’ll prompt you.

Here there’s no such give and take. However, there’s an upside – it meas the questions that you’re asked will generally be fairly standard interview questions. It’s impossible to predict with absolute certainty, but some common ones that are likely to crop up are:

  • Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
  • What do you know about the company?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Relevant competency questions, like describing a time you worked in a team, came up with an innovative answer to a problem, or worked under pressure.
  • Do you have any questions to ask us? This might feel odd as you won’t get a response, but it does still get asked.

Make sure you prepare answers to these in advance. You don’t need to memorise word-perfect answers (in fact, this can often backfire by making you come across as robotic), but having answers and examples at your fingertips will help you feel more confident and talk more eloquently.

As a final stage in your preparation, try using video recording software to get used to talking to yourself, and to stopping the recording – it’s easy to panic doing this, and stop it too early or pull a weird face while you search for the stop button.

Set the scene

 You’ll generally be given a deadline by which you need to have submitted your answers, rather than a specific interview time. This means it’s up to you to set aside time, and organise the setting.

Choose somewhere quiet, with a reliable internet connection, where you know you won’t be disturbed by family, friends, or rogue pets. Preferably, this will be a room with a door you can shut, and where you can set up the camera in front of a plain background.

Channel the spirit of a film director, and make sure your star – also you – is well lit, arranging lamps accordingly; production values aren’t the be-all and end-all of video interviews, but they can certainly help.

Finally, dress as you would for a normal interview, head to toe. You may have heard the horror stories of candidates asked to stand up during an interview, only for it to be revealed that their impeccable shirt and tie was paired with boxers or pyjama bottoms. It’s unlikely, but certainly not out of the question that this might happen, so why take the risk?

There’s also the psychological aspect; studies show that wearing formal clothing makes you feel more confident and powerful.

 Read the instructions

Most employers will use an external service’s video interview software, and each one is slightly different, so read the instructions really well before you start. You’ll probably be guided through a sound and video check, and might be given some instructions or tips by the employer. Note whether you’ll have the chance to re-record your answers; in most cases, the answer will be no.

Once you click go, you’ll be on a constant roll, so staying calm and focussing on each question as it comes, rather than worrying about your last answer, is imperative. Be aware of how long you have to answer each question, and in particular note down if there are multiple questions you have to answer in one segment. It’s incredibly frustrating to click stop only to realise you missed a major point.

For the most part, you want to focus directly on the camera, as if you were speaking to an interviewer. Just like a normal interview, smiling and presenting yourself well can have a big impact on your chances of success.

Contact the Careers Service for mock interviews – we can provide specific advice about video interviews.

Claire Kilroy is a content writer for graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. Check out their website if you’re looking to hire an intern, or on the hunt for internships and graduate jobs London. You can also find more graduate careers advice on their blog!

 

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Guest Blog: 7 mistakes to avoid in interviews

Thanks to Inspiring Interns for this guest contribution.

It’s never easy being interviewed, but when you’re just starting out it can be a bit terrifying. After all, practice makes perfect, so how can students and graduates with very little interview practice make a go of it?

There are plenty of ways to get things right when you’re applying for internships and graduate jobs, but there are also a few pitfalls that are easy to fall into, even for experienced professionals. While some of the biggest mistakes in job interviews are pretty obvious nonstarters – like crashing your car into the building, or setting fire to the interviewer’s newspaper, which both actually happened – some are less so.

So check out our list of 7 easily avoidable interview mistakes, and make sure you give yourself the best chance possible to get that job.

 Falling at the first hurdle

 Turning up late to an interview should be something everyone considers out of the question, but it’s amazing how many people do it – or fail to turn up altogether. Even a couple of minutes delay can really damage the impression you make.

Take precautions like calculating your route in advance, and even doing a dry run if you can. No one can prepare for everything, so if you do find yourself delayed, make sure you contact the employer straight away and let them know.

What’s more of a surprise is that doing the opposite and turning up too early can also count against you. It’s great to turn up in the area early, but don’t actually head into the office until around 10 minutes before. Arriving very early can put pressure on your interviewer to come down and meet you before they’re ready; starting out your interview as an inconvenience can damage your changes of impressing them.

 Projecting the wrong image

There’s something basic that can put you straight to the bottom of the candidate pile, no matter how skilled you are: not taking care of your personal hygiene. Job offers have been lost because of bad breath or a sad lack of deodorant. No one wants to hire an intern or employee who appears not to wash.

What you wear also matters. Match your outfit to the company; check out any pictures of their offices and staff online, or make an educated guess based on the type of company it is. A bank probably wants you to turn up in a suit, while a tech start-up might have a more relaxed dress code. Still, it’s generally better to err on the side of formal, and fairly bland, in your outfit choice.

Finally, pay attention to your body language. You might be wearing the sharpest suit in the world, but if you slouch, fidget, and mumble your words, you’re unlikely to make a good impression. According to one survey, 67% of hiring managers think failure to make eye contact is the biggest body language mistake to make. You don’t need to lock eyes with them constantly, but make sure you do a reasonable amount.

 Criticise your last employer

No matter how unhappy you were in your last job, or how much of a problem you had with an ex-colleague, you should never badmouth them in an interview. Your interviewer will be making a judgement about what you’d be like to work with as well as what your skills are. Rather then making you look like the good guy, it makes you come across as having a bad attitude.

This can get difficult if you’re asked to talk about a conflict at work, or about a time when you disagreed with your boss. Just make sure you don’t let any negative emotions show through, and don’t talk about something you’re still angry about. Instead, focus on talking about how the problem was brought to a successful conclusion.

Brag without backing

 A very common mistake made in job interviews is claiming to have a skill, but offering little to no evidence that demonstrates it’s more than an empty brag. Whenever you say something like “I’m a great team-player” or “I have strong problem-solving abilities”, draw on your past experience and give an example of times you have used these skills.

 Asking the wrong questions

 There are some questions that you shouldn’t ask in the first interview, and others that you shouldn’t ask at all. In the first category is anything to do with your salary and benefits. This is a conversation that you will do have before accepting an offer, but bringing it up too early can reflect badly on you, and make it seem you only care about the money.

Meanwhile in the second category you have questions like “Will you perform a background check”, which suggests that you might have something to hide. Of course, asking about the next steps in the application or the on-boarding process is fine, and they might well tell you then if there is a check.

Equally bad, however, is asking no questions at all. If you have nothing to ask your interviewer, you’ll not only miss your chance to find out more, but you’ll risk coming across as uninterested in the role.

 Getting distracted by technology

 If there are two places your phone should never be heard, they’re the theatre and an interview. You definitely shouldn’t pick up your phone to answer a call or check Facebook – which, extraordinarily, does happen. Even if you have your phone on silent, buzzing every time you receive a text message does you no favours either; it’s distracting, and can make you appear disengaged.

This point goes both ways. If your interviewer is distracted by their emails in the middle of your conversation, you should certainly make note of the fact. It suggests that they don’t value your time, which, especially if they’re your future manager, is a warning sign.

 Doing the robot

Not the dance-move (although throwing some shapes during an interview is also a bad idea), but rather the monotonous recital of your perfectly drafted answers. Preparing for an interview is good, as is researching about what makes a good or bad answer. But if you take this too far, and over-prepare, you might find that it backfires.

For one thing, if you recite pre-prepared answers word for word, you’ll frustrate interviewers who are looking for an insight into your personality. Again, they want to know whether you’re the right fit on that level, as well as having the technical skills required.

For another, although there are some common questions that will come up in most interviews, you can’t predict everything you’ll get asked, or asked to expand on. If your prepared answers and off-the-cuff ones are markedly different in quality, this could damage how you’re perceived.

It’s hard to strike a perfect balance, but try preparing for questions without actually drafting out a complete answer, and memorising some general points you want to bring up, rather than a word-for-word response.

If you’ve got an interview coming up, make an appointment with a Careers Consultant at City to have a mock interview!

Claire Kilroy is a content writer for graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. Check out their listings of internships and graduate jobs London, or head to their blog for more graduate careers advice.

 

 

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Guest Blog: What to do with the rest of your summer

Thanks to Inspiring Interns for this guest contribution.

The grey and rainy British summer is ticking by, and it’s not too long now students will be heading back to university. It’s a time where many of you will find yourselves wondering where the time has gone, and what on earth you’ve been doing for the past few weeks.

Relaxing and enjoying your break is important, and there’s nothing like a few days spent sleeping and lazing around in front of the TV. However, as time goes on, the initial bliss can turn to boredom, and you might start feeling a bit stir crazy. At that point, it’s time to start thinking about how you can best use the rest of your summer.

Even late in the day, there are loads of things you can get up to that will benefit you, relieving the boredom, giving you a sense of purpose, and even boosting your career prospects. So take a look at our list of recommendations, and see if there’s anything that can tempt you off the sofa.

Get a last minute internship

 Missed the boat on getting an internship early in the summer? All is not lost; many companies continue to offer internships and work experience to eager students right up until till the start of term. On the whole, those that do will be small businesses and start-ups, which have a smaller number of applicants and a shorter hiring process.

So instead of resigning yourself to spending the last few weeks of summer on the sofa, start scouring job boards and social media for roles. You can also take matters into your own hands and send off speculative applications to companies where you’d love to work. Sometimes companies that hadn’t been planning to hire an intern will offer you a role if you ask.

It’s really worth giving up a bit of your holiday to get some experience under your belt; after graduation, employers are keen for candidates to already have some proof that they’re professional and capable. Plus you’ll find out whether the industry is for you; you’ll get contacts if you want to use them, and will have saved yourself time down the road if you realise you don’t like it.

 Volunteer

 If you’re not sold on an internship, volunteering is another great way to boost your future career prospects. You’ll hone many of the same skills that you’ll need in the workplace and which employers will be looking for, like communication, working with people from a variety of backgrounds, and emotional intelligence.

It’s a very wide field, so whatever your interests there’ll be something for you. Opportunities could range from a job in your local charity shop, doing some marketing or sales work for a charity helping humans, animals, or the environment, and working with a community radio station.

Volunteering is also very rewarding, as you can make a big difference to those you work alongside. Essentially, it’s a win-win; you can do your bit for a good cause, and it will benefit you in the long run.

 Get a new hobby

 Is your hobby watching Netflix? Or gaming? Or seeing how many marshmallows you can fit in your mouth? These are all worthy uses of your time, but aren’t ones you’re generally going to want to put on your CV or talk about at interview.

So why not seize the moment and take up a new hobby? Something arts and crafts based could fuel your creativity and end up seeing you make things you can sell; learning to cook could save you another year at university surviving on toast and noodles; becoming an expert chess player could teach you a lot about strategy and problem solving.

All of these are more likely to convince employers that you have a good work-life balance, and get on with something productive in your spare time. And if you choose something you think you’ll genuinely enjoy, you might find that you cheer yourself up at the same time.

 Take an online course

 It’s easier than ever to learn a new skill online, so take full advantage and spend your summer taking an internet course. There are hundreds of websites that offer courses on a huge variety of topics, either for free or for a fee.

What you choose is up to you, but here are a few ideas: brushing up your language skills or learning a new one is always worthwhile, both for general life and for making you a more attractive, and you can do this with a free app like Duolingo. You could also consider learning to code with Codecademy’s free online training programme; as the world becomes ever more digital, programming skills will be increasingly valuable.

Finally, if you’re missing studying (but not essays and endless hours in the library), check out sites like Coursera, where you’ll find modules in all sorts of subjects, from technology to history to existentialism, many of which are free unless you want to receive a certificate.

 Go somewhere on a whim

 Travelling is a great way to spend your summer, especially given the fact that after university you’ll probably not get nearly as much free time until you retire. Even if you think it’s a bit late (and pricey) to squeeze in a holiday backpacking around Thailand, there’s still time to plan a getaway.

Interrailing is a popular choice for students for good reason – apart from the initial cost of your rail pass, you can travel and stay in places across Europe relatively cheaply. As budget flights tend to be full or more expensive if you book last minute, when it comes to getting across the channel there’s always the option of getting a bus overseas. It takes time and isn’t exactly comfortable, but it’s cheap.

Being well travelled isn’t likely to bag you a job, but proving that you have an understanding and experience of different cultures can certainly count in your favour. Employers are increasingly on the lookout for global graduates, and they value the ability to work collaboratively with people from diverse and multicultural backgrounds very highly.

But most importantly, travelling is great fuel for personal development. So if you’re tempted just to drop everything and head abroad, and you can scrape the funds together, now’s your chance.

 Get fit

Ignore this one if you’re already super sporty, but for the less fit among us, now might be the time to start lacing up your trainers. The benefits of regular exercise are undeniable and extensive, and not just for your health; it can improve your concentration by 21% and your motivation to work by 41%. Plus if you join a sports team, you can add proof of being a team player to your CV.

When you get back to university, late nights studying (or enjoying the night-life) and a poor diet can take their toll. Starting off fit and healthy will help you, and if you get into an exercise routine before term starts, you’re more likely to keep it up.

Claire Kilroy is a content writer for graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. Check out their listings of internships and graduate jobs London, or head to their blog for more graduate careers advice.

… and a note from the Careers team:

The Careers Service at City is open for appointments all summer.  Now is a great time to get an appointment before the autumn term rush starts.  If you need help thinking about how to maximise your time during the summer or want to prepare for internship or graduate job applications in the autumn term, book an appointment with one of our Careers Consultants now.