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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!