If you are seeking employment post-COVID 19, it is more than likely you will be asked to participate in a video interview of some form. Although for most people video interviews can feel unnatural, even uncomfortable, embracing them and knowing the techniques for success are now an essential skills for many job seekers looking to secure their next role. With the advance of smartphone technology and online meeting platforms, the past decade saw an incremental increase in video interviews, which exploded as they became the only acceptable way of recruiting during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Employers have correspondingly clocked on to the massive time and cost-saving benefits of video interviews, which allow organizations to eliminate large numbers of unsuitable applicants at the initial stages of the recruitment process and whittle down the pool of likely contenders. This is especially true for national organizations comprising a labor force of lower-skilled workers where there may be multiple roles to fill within a limited timeframe. Video interviews equally allow for a larger volume of applicants to be screened for highly sought-after roles, in the search for the strongest candidate. At the same time, they also allow candidates to schedule interviews more easily around other work and family commitments, so even as lockdown eases and life starts to return to normal, the flexibility afforded by the video interview to companies and candidates alike means that they are here to stay.
Live and pre-recorded video interviews
There are two types of video interviews; the first ‘live’ format is more akin to the face-to-face interview, where the interviewee dialogues with one or a panel of interviewers. Second and arguably more challenging is the pre-recorded or ‘Asynchronous’ video interview’ (AVI) where the candidate logs in to a designated platform to pre-record answers to a series of onscreen questions. Depending on the organization and the software there might even be a problem-solving exercise or game to complete and, when finalized, the recording will be returned to the employer to decide whether the candidate will progress to the next stage. Some companies use software that gives a set time in which to deliver the answers and limits the number of attempts allowed. Others will simply forward the questions in advance and let the candidate record the answers in their own time.
Pre-recorded video interviews are typically more common for the first stage of the recruitment process and may even use Artificial Intelligence to monitor facial movements, body language, and pitch of the voice to assess the depth and integrity of the candidate’s answers! AI is also used in this context to compare candidate responses to those of previously successful employees. For pre-recorded video interviews that use AI technology, there has been controversy regarding whether they discriminate against certain individuals such as non-native speakers with imperfect pronunciation and grammar, or candidates from culturally diverse backgrounds whose features and gestures may not align with the profile against which the algorithm was designed. However, this is largely unproven, as the metrics of AI technology remain confidential to its software designers, and how AI is used in the recruitment process is not disclosed to interview participants. Some people even counterargue that AI in fact eliminates unconscious bias because the software does not acknowledge factors such as appearance, ethnicity, and age. There is also the credible argument that pre-recorded video interviews are the most consistent of all as each candidate will face an identical set of questions.
The monologue format of pre-recorded interviews may exacerbate the nerve-racking ‘being on stage’ feeling experienced by many at the interview, especially considering the lack of conversational prompts when talking to a machine! Even if your video interview is live, it can be more difficult to make an impression remotely; the enthusiasm in your voice may appear muted and the limitations of being onscreen can make positive body language more difficult for the interviewer to read. It is also possible to fall foul to technological problems such as slow internet speed, resulting in pixelated images and jerky audio. Some applicants also feel despondent about the mystery surrounding how their performance is appraised, a factor which may be heightened by the lack of opportunity to ask questions!
Preparing for a video interview
While pre-recorded video interviews are perhaps trickier than their live counterparts, there are steps in common for strengthening your performance during a video interview of either format. Many of the same rules in fact apply to face-to-face interviews. As with a face-to-face interview, much of the preparation should be directed toward anticipating and preparing for the types of questions that you are likely to encounter:
Research the company beforehand in-depth and, if it is a live video interview, investigate the interviewers on LinkedIn. As with any interview, the interlocutor will want to know your motivations for applying for the role; what excites you about the company and its mission and vision, what you are able to contribute, and why you would be a natural ‘fit’, so be prepared to answer the more common ‘What would you bring to this role?’ type questions.
Analyze the job description in detail and use the ‘essential and desired criteria’ to confirm the behaviors and related questions which are likely to feature at the interview. Understand the style of the interview concerned, if this information is provided, and the subsequent question formats. Interviews most commonly center around competency-based questions, which are marked using a specific ‘STAR’ (Situation, Task, Action, Result) framework to measure the value of a candidate’s actions in an example situation. Such questions often focus on common behaviors of teamwork, communication, and organizational skills. Certain employers and industries may also use strength-based questions to test a candidate’s innate capabilities, analytical questions to interrogate how they tackle problems, and situational questions to measure their motivation to learn and achieve.
Despite the possible temptation, avoid writing out examples long-hand and learning them by heart. To achieve a higher assessment, the response must directly answer the question. Flexibility in adapting the emphasis of your example according to the nature of the question is therefore key.
In addition to preparing rigorously for the questions, it is also worth considering some of the physical factors that may affect how you are perceived onscreen and therefore the outcome of your video interview:
Make sure that you are level with the screen and therefore able to maintain good eye contact with the actual or imagined interviewer. Ensure that enough of your upper torso is visible to allow plain sight of your (positive) body language, although do not be too frenetic as mannerisms can seem accentuated onscreen! To double-check your appearance ahead of time, carry out a trial run with friends or family.
Establish good communications from the get-go by downloading and familiarizing yourself with any necessary software for the interview and confirm that your webcam and microphone are well positioned and working properly. If in doubt, consider investing in an external microphone and/or camera. Correspondingly make sure that your internet signal is uninterrupted and strong; this can be checked online before the interview and if you are apprehensive about the reliability of the connection, consider purchasing an ethernet adapter and/or cable.
Select a quiet, well-lit location for your video interview with a neutral, uncluttered background that will not divert attention from you. Dress smartly as you would for a face-to-face however, avoid wearing block monochrome colors that may ‘drain’ you on screen or even cause you to blend into the wall behind!
Although it pushes many people outside their comfort zone, the only way to gain confidence and deliver fluid answers at an interview is to practice out loud beforehand, ideally in front of the mirror. This also helps to replicate the video interview experience of watching yourself speak on camera. For pre-recorded interviews, aim to make sure that you can deliver your examples within the allotted time, usually 2 to 3 minutes each for 4 to 6 questions. If you are having difficulty making an example last 2 minutes, it is highly probable that you have not included enough structure or detail in the answer. If conversely, you run over time, then revisit how you can deliver the key points of your story more concisely; how and why you took a certain action and its relevance to the task at hand.
Finally, in delivering your answers, pace yourself so that you can be clearly heard but also try to modulate your tone of voice so that your natural enthusiasm and interest come across. Although nerves may tempt you to speak rapidly, this will be off-putting for your interviewer.
Albeit challenging when trying to impress, avoid presenting an ‘interview veneer’ of yourself; connect with your audience by allowing your personality to shine through and engage with the interviewer by maintaining eye contact and smiling regularly. Staying composed and accepting the format of the video interview will set you on the path to success.
Turn around your interview result: If you need help with video interviews, Interview Skills Clinic has a team of highly experienced coaches working across all industry sectors who would be happy to help you prepare for leadership, competency, strength, value, or blended interview. More than 500 clients have added reviews to our website. Read Reviews.