How to ace a video interview – a comprehensive advice article

With the COVID-19 pandemic still hindering our ability to meet people face-to-face, employers are now using video conferencing software in almost every stage of the interview process.

Video interviews present their own set of challenges and knowing how best to approach them will help set you apart from the crowd.

The six-point checklist

 1.       Find a bright space

What makes a good space to have an interview? Well, to begin with think about what the interviewer can see. Can they see you well? The room should be well lit, with the main light source facing you (having the light source behind will turn you into a silhouette). Ensure your background is also ‘professional looking’ and uncluttered, as you don’t want to seem disorganised.

2.       Look at the camera (sometimes)

Try to look at the camera occasionally. It will help make the interviewer feel like you have eye contact and are really speaking and listening to them. Sometimes this isn’t an issue, but if you’re used to working with multiple screens, or don’t have your camera directly in front of you, it’s definitely worth considering in advance.

3.       Find a quiet space

Make sure any background noise isn’t distracting yourself or the interviewer. It’s a good idea to keep your windows closed and remind your household to keep the noise down while you’re on the call. Consider using a headset or a pair of high-quality wireless headphones to improve your audio. If you don’t have a headset, be wary of moving around too much whilst on the call. You don’t need to be a statue but changing the distance and direction from an in-built mic will change the audio levels and may distort the sound – Why not record a clip of you speaking in advance to check the sound levels.

4.       Prepare your interview set-up

Technical difficulties may happen, so it’s important to do everything in your power to reduce the chances. Take some time to give your computer a little bit of TLC prior to your interview. If you’re using a laptop, keep it on charge. Make sure your computer is fully updated, recently rebooted and clear of any unnecessary tabs. Silence your devices and pop your phone in airplane mode.

5.       How should I dress for an interview?

The keyword is appropriate. Don’t feel pressured to overdress. Equally, the suit/shorts combo is a joke that should stay as a joke. Make sure your outfit is consistent head-to-toe just in case you have to stand up to fix any technical issues, close a door or adjust your lighting. As long as you aren’t scruffy, the smart side of casual is the best place to be – a great guide for how formal to be is the interviewers LinkedIn profile photo. Ties can usually stay in the wardrobe!

6.       Internet Connection

If possible, plug yourself in. You often don’t know how poor your connection is until you need it to be good. If plugging in isn’t an option, test the best connection points for WiFi in your house. If you share this connection with other people, make sure it’s powerful enough to support everyone’s activities (or ask others to disconnect while you interview). Practice makes perfect, so practice video calls with people outside of your household.

Top tips from a local employer 

We asked a local Chief Technology Officers who has been hiring recently for their interview advice.

Sophie Davies-Patrick, CTO at MPB offered some comprehensive advice for how to approach every video interview:

 “Take time beforehand to prep the AV – lighting, sound and backdrop – so you can relax and focus on what you want to get across. Even so, expect the unexpected and don’t let yourself be derailed by bandwidth problems or unscheduled appearances by smaller household occupants.

We all understand that our working conditions are different and unpredictable right now. In fact, dealing with glitches in a relaxed manner may be a good indicator of resilience – an important workplace skill at any time.”

How our newest team member Kieron made the right virtual impression 

I’ve spent some time with Kieron, picking his brain for the steps he took to make sure his video interview to become the Community Director of Silicon Brighton was certain to get him the role. Here are some of the highlights of our conversation that build on the six-point checklist:

“When preparing for an online job interview, I suggest spending some time familiarising yourself with the platform that you’ll be using – Zoom, Google Meet, Webex etc – they all share similar features, but can be a little confusing on your first visit – and you don’t want to be worrying about finding the right buttons or wondering how to turn up your volume whilst on the call.“ 

“Don’t forget to position your camera at eye level too, as it’s important to maintain good eye contact– after all no interviewer wants to spend the hour looking at the side of your head from a poorly positioned web camera! “ 

“I would say it’s important to not forget this is a professional interview – and despite being at home, you should treat it as such; so, dress the part and prepare answers in advance for the questions you think might be asked – just as you would have done for a face-to-face interview.”

 “Try to avoid the temptation of reading from notes or a second screen whilst on the call. It will be obvious to the interviewer and may make you come across unprepared. If you’re really nervous and think notes might help, then you could always attach a post-it to the side of your screen with a few bullet point reminders.”

 “Lastly, do the same due diallage you would have done for an in-person interview; lookup the interviewers on LinkedIn beforehand, so you know all their names, research the business fully, and turn-up promptly for the call and give them your focused attention.  Good luck!”

Insights from recruitment experts

 1.       Ask about the software – and practice

If it hasn’t already been made clear to you, ask your interviewer in advance which platform your interview will be on. Give yourself some practice using it and look up some platform specific top tips. Most platforms have an application that can be downloaded to make it run smoother – if this is available, download it! Ensure the account you use for your interview looks professional! This means upload a professional photo, create a professional username and sign up with a professional email address.

 2.       Update your profile photo

Most of us haven’t taken any professional photos since migrating online, but many of us have changed in appearance. Have you grown a beard over lockdown? Have you stopped wearing contact lenses? Do you still look like your profile photo? Make sure your profile photo matches what your interviewer is expecting.

3.       Be human!

Remember your interviewer will likely be working from home too and well aware of the challenges it presents. So, see this as an unique opportunity to talk to a hiring manager when they are in a more relaxed setting. It won’t always be the case, but often this means that you can build some rapport that would otherwise not be possible in office interviews. Internet failures or sound cutting out, people in the background, whatever it might be, try to smile about it and just be human. If you deal with any interruptions in a practical way, smile and not let things bother you, that can give an impression of how you might react or behave in the workplace.

James Veale – Content & Marketing Lead – Silicon Brighton