The Do’s and Don’ts of a Video Job Interview

You are about to conduct a video job interview.  You have practiced your interview questions and plan to just show up at the interview time. What could go wrong?

For most companies, video interviews have become a preferred way of conducting job pre-interviews and are increasingly the main interview itself. Companies can gain more insight into candidates before hiring, globally dispersed teams can participate in the interview, and in-depth post-interview evaluations can be conducted. Since COVID confinements have turned many employees into telecommuters, most job interviews are being conducted by video.

For job seekers, remote video interviews mean you no longer face physical barriers in the hiring process.  You can expand the geographical footprint of your search worldwide. Interviews can be conducted from anywhere in the world and before you know it, your new company’s relocation services have packed up your San Francisco home and relocated you to Beijing.

If unprepared, however, your video interview could blow your chances of getting hired. Most job candidates feel prepared and confident going into their first video interview, but then the unexpected happens. The camera is so close your nasal hairs are showing, your child bursts in with his toy gun and shoots you dead, or your email notification set to rap music goes off.

To ensure your video interview is a success on the first take — because unlike the movies you usually do not get a second take — we have dug into our repository of video interview bloopers from past job candidates and developed a list of Dos and Don’ts.


The Do’s of a Video Interview

Videotape Your Own Mock Interview

You pulled out your best performance for the video job interview and answered all the questions brilliantly, so you are bewildered by the closing comments: “Thank you for your time, John. We will be making a hiring decision next week. Do not call us, and be assured we will not be calling you!” Having recorded the interview, you quickly spot the problem. You end each response with a smirk, not a smile. Your facial expressions gave your true sentiments away.

Do you tend to make awkward faces when you do not like the interviewer? Are you twirling your hair (which could disastrously be mistaken for flirtation) or engaging in another annoying nervous habit? How many Ums and Ahs do you use per sentence?

A mock video interview will candidly reveal all your faults, awkward habits, and facial distortions.

  1. Choose questions the most apt to be asked in the interview you are preparing for. If it’s a behavioral job interview, prepare accordingly. Review the job description. Find interview questions online posted by previous job candidates for the same company and similar positions.
  2. Read the questions out to yourself and then answer them. Or if you want to closely simulate a live interview process, ask someone to read out the questions in the order of their choosing.
  3. Evaluate your performance, including:
  • Response content and conciseness (Did you go off on tangents? Fail to provide a complete answer to the question?)
  • Filler words like Ums and Ahs
  • Voice tone, confidence, elocution
  • Posture, movements, hand gestures
  • Eye contact, smile, facial gestures
Participate in Videotaped Pre-interviews

Vincent is halfway through the pre-interview questions when he is asked his salary expectations. 100k plus benefits, he says (The salary range for the position is $30–40k). The robot conducting the interview says: “You do not meet the requirements for this position. This pre-interview is now closed.” Vincent forgot to do his homework for his dream job, but having failed this time, he will not make the same mistake twice.

Before you are invited to a live video interview, you may be asked to record answers to interview questions. The hiring team will review the recorded interview and decide whether or not they want to pursue the hiring process and invite you to live video interviews. Whether or not you want the job, consider accepting invitations to such interviews for practice.  When you’re invited to the video interview for the job of your dreams, you will be more confident and prepared.

Accept interviews from companies you want to work for. In that way, you’re not wasting the hiring team’s time. If they contact you for follow-up interviews, ask about positions of interest to you. If none are currently open, ask the hiring team to keep your resume and video pre-interview on file for consideration for future openings.

Take an Elocution Test

José makes it to the final interview round only to be told his English is not good enough and his Spanish accent is too thick. Speaking the language may not be enough to land a job. Arguably, your elocution could be more important than the answers to the interview questions. Especially for client-facing positions, you could be overlooked for a candidate with similar but lower qualifications but better elocution.  Test your elocution with one of the many free tests online.

Test Your Technology At least One Day Before

The interview starts and Alex’s sound is not working.  “You have 5 minutes to troubleshoot,” types the interviewer. 5 minutes pass and still no sound.  “Thank you for applying but you do not seem to have the skills we require for the computer technician position.” Do not wait until the day of the interview to ensure your video software is working appropriately. Make sure the app is downloaded with all the necessary plugins.  Check the lighting and avoid glare. Make sure your computer has a full battery and earphones are working.

At first glance, most people do not like how they look on video. They’re too close to the camera and their features exaggerated, or the lighting is off balance. Is this what you want the interviewer to see?

Always do a video spot check of yourself. Also, check your profile name and photo. Are they appropriate for an interview? Or did you create them with your online dating adventures in mind? Keep in mind that if you’re using the same monicker, the job interviewer could find you on a dating site.  Companies commonly conduct a social media profile review of job candidates these days.

The Don’ts of a Video Interview

Do Not Prepare a Canned Interview

Jill’s teleprompter goes off and she starts to awkwardly stumble through questions, but rehearsing is also a bad idea. If you have ever flipped the TV channel because of lousy acting, you will understand why this is good advice. If your answers are overly scripted and stiff, you will lose the attention of the interviewer. By all means, avoid using a teleprompter. The secret to impressing and engaging your audience in any oral presentation is confidence, and here is how to build confidence:

                                    Research + Preparation + Rehearsal = SELF-CONFIDENCE
  • Research the questions.
  • Prepare your answers and write them down.
  • Rehearse your responses.
  • Then, ignore your written responses and focus on providing natural responses.
  • Once you are confident you have the knowledge to answer the questions, you are ready to begin recording.
Do Not Show Up in Your Underwear

What does the mayor of Belgian, Good Morning America reporter Will Reeve, and New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne have in common? They have all been caught by a mirror or sly camera angle on camera in their underwear.

Many videos have gone viral of significant others streaking naked on their way to the shower in the background of Zoom business meetings, online shows, and, yes, job interviews.  Another common interview guffaw is a child entering the room with the dog and toys in tow.  Your potential employer is already making a note about whether you can work without interruption in a home office. If you are home alone with the children, consider having a relative or babysitter look after the children while you conduct interviews.

Never Interrupt the Interviewer

Nancy has talked about her education and is halfway through her work experience (Tip: Never recite your resume in an interview!). After half an hour, the interviewer interrupts, “This is impossible!  Best of luck to you,” and disconnects. Because of internet lag, it is easy to interrupt your interviewer. You may think they are finished speaking but they may be repeatedly cut off and annoyed.

A few precautions can maintain the interview flow.  Wait several seconds after you think your interviewer has finished speaking before responding.  After a pause, begin speaking.  Help out the interviewer by indicating when you are done speaking.  A verbal indication such as “I am finished answering the question” or a gestural sign will do.  Move towards the screen to speak and sit back slightly and clasp your hands in front of you when you are finished.

Do Not Leave Your Push Notifications On

Constant bleeps from Facebook and What’s App friends, emails, and other communication apps are sure to annoy the interviewer.  Close any applications and windows you are not using.  Ensure notifications and sounds are turned off.  Set your cell phone and landline phones to silent.  Remember that if unwanted background noise like a siren interrupts the interview, you can always mute your microphone.

Keep this checklist handy to ensure your video job interviews are not left on the cutting room floor.

Author Bio:

I’m an author, blogger, and entrepreneur currently based in Amsterdam where I run a global coaching startup platform called I was previously based in Tokyo where I worked for several years as a recruiter helping tech companies like Facebook, Netflix and Amazon hire top talent (as well as startups with market entry into Japan).

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