Video Interview Tips

Video interviews are an important part of today’s recruiting process and when applying for jobs in Australia from overseas, they may likely be presented as your only option.

In today’s article, we’ll learn the difference between one-way and interactive video interviews. We’ll also cover how to set up your environment and leverage the technology to put your best foot forward. Finally, find out how to practice for a video interview before the big day, so you’re comfortable and confident in front of the camera.

What are video interviews?

So you have found your dream job on 482jobs and have clicked the apply button and landed an interview. Woohoo! But wait, they want you to do a video interview. Don’t stress! Below we will provide you with all kinds of help with video interviews because love them or hate them they’re not going away.

So let’s get some basics out of the way. Video interviews can either be two-way or one-way.

In a two-way interview, you interact with a hiring manager or recruiter live through web conferencing software. It might be familiar tools like Skype, Zoom, FaceTime or Google Hangouts. This type of interview is usually your second or third conversation and companies use them as a cost-effective and more convenient alternative to bringing you in especially when you are in another country which may well be the case in your scenario

And then we have the dreaded one-way interview. These can be a little awkward but they’re totally survivable if you prepare.

One-way interviews typically come early on in the interview process and often replace the initial phone screen. In a one-way interview, as weird as this might sound, you record yourself answering prescripted questions. In other words, there is not a live person on the other end. It’s a recording or you might just see text questions come across the screen.

One-way interviews come with specific instructions and often time limits for each question. Totally no pressure! :-/

Preparing Yourself For A Video Interview

What are the basics of a video interview?

So let’s start with the basics.  First, get as many details as you can about what to expect. Try and figure out how things will unfold before the actual interview. This will reduce your anxiety big time. You won’t be sitting around worrying about, well, what about this or why are they doing that?

Knowledge is power. If you are working with a recruiter, start there. Remember, it’s the recruiter’s job to get you prepped and ready because that’s literally their entire job. Many times, candidates are nervous about asking the recruiter questions because they don’t want to look dumb or be a bother. You won’t be a bother, well you won’t be a bother unless you call them every 20 minutes. Don’t do that, but do this.

Ask your recruiter questions like how many people will be on the call or what’s the hiring team going to be looking for? Or maybe do you have some prep materials that you might be able to share? For a one-way interview, ask if you can review the questions in advance. Obviously, this will give you a big advantage if that’s available.

You might even ask how you should handle a technical snag. Now, hopefully, you won’t run into one of these but if your internet connection goes out halfway through the interview, it’ll be great to know a backup plan. Next, do your homework. Study up on who you’ll be interviewing with. Linkedin is a great resource for doing this.

Study the products or services that they offer. Do some sleuthing online to learn more about what’s going on at that company or within their industry. This will not only help you angle your answers towards stuff that aligns with their goals and their priorities, but it’ll also help you come up with some thoughtful questions to ask.

The absolute last thing you want to say when they ask you, so, do you have any questions for us is nope, not one. Have a handful of questions written down in front of you so that you’re ready to engage and look genuinely interested when you get to the end of the interview. We have 50 questions to ask in an interview here to get you started,

Now, if it’s a one-way interview and you happen to know what software they’re using, get yourself at least a little bit familiar with it before you need to dive in. Last, round out your homework by assessing that company’s culture. If they have a blog on their website, that’s a great place to start. Also, peek at their social media accounts or ask around if you know people who work there. Having a pulse on the culture can help you gauge what tone and vibe and outfit might be most advantageous. And also, it might help a firm that this is a place that you really want to work.

What do you wear for a video interview?

So the age-old question, what should I wear? This is an important question and often confounding one for an interview. It can be even more challenging to figure out your best outfit choice when it’s a video interview.

what to wear for a video interview
Wearing Pajamas for a video interview probably won’t be one of your better ideas

For starters, you’re probably going to do this from home, right? So is it weird to put on a suit and then sit in your home office or dining room to record it? Can you be in just regular everyday clothes?

First, and this is important, realize that you speak paragraphs about yourself before you even open your mouth in an interview. Yup, that’s correct. Your interviewer, whether they realize it or not, will be making snap judgements about you based on your appearance alone, before you even start the conversation. Is it fair? Well, probably not, but does it happen? Yes it does.

So let’s think about how you can figure out what outfit will help create this loud and clear message that you’re the absolute best candidate for the role. Start by answering this question, what’s the vibe of this company? Are they super straight-laced, or are they more high personality? Can you tell from their website, their social media accounts, or their employees’ LinkedIn profiles, what their people typically wear?

While some career experts will insist that you dress up in your finest suit, we’d argue that this advice may now be a little out of date. Certainly, you want to look polished and put together, so don’t go with that ratty old T-shirt you’ve been wearing since college. But you also want to look relatable, as in like someone who’s going to fit right in around that place. So we recommend choosing an outfit that aligns with your understanding of that company’s culture and dress code.

If you see that everyone’s wearing polo shirts and jeans, the last thing you want to do is show up on camera in your formal suit and tie. Next, be mindful of what’s going to show on camera and how it’s going to appear on the other end. White might be amazing at an in-person interview, but it’s likely going to make you look too bright, or washed out on camera.

Likewise, super busy patterns might be your absolute jam, but they tend to look distracting on camera, and in the worst case, they might make the person on the other end dizzy, not what you’re aiming for.

Simple, rich colours that tend to work really well include mustard yellow, reds that aren’t too bright, sapphire blue, and plum. And if you go with gree, make it more of emerald green. Last, remember to coordinate your outfit with your background. We recommend trying on your outfit in advance. Throw it on, sit in the room that you’ll do the interview in, and either record a short video snippet, or have someone snap a photo of you, so you can see if it’s going to work. You have made it this far, that’s fantastic. The interviewers are clearly seeing something in you that has them excited. Keep that excitement building, step into your video interview, looking like the winning candidate.

Preparing Your Environment For A Vide Interview

How do you set up your environment for a video interview?

So you’ve finished your homework. You’ve studied up on this company’s products or services. You’ve done some research on their people. And without a doubt, you’re going to just lay it down with that outfit you picked out. Now you need to think about the setup.

Where are you going to do this thing? And what kind of backdrop should you use? This can be that nice little added layer of stress when you’re interviewing unless you happen to be a vlogger or a regular on web conferences, which most of us are not.

Let’s simplify it a bit. Here are the two most important set-up things to get a handle on before the actual interview. Meaning, things to think about a day or two prior, not 10 minutes ahead of time.

First, location. You’ll want to make sure that the location sets you up for success. Our number one bit of advice in this space is to make sure it’s an environment you have some control over. The absolute last thing you need in the middle of your interview is to have your kids arguing over the remote or sirens going off in the background, or your dog barking at the FedEx guy.

For this same reason, we strongly recommend that you avoid public spaces like coffee shops. The buzz in the background can be super distracting on video. If you have a home office, that’s probably perfect. If you don’t, ship the family off for a little while, and set up at your dining room table, or a quiet and well-lit corner of your house.

Next most important thing to think about, the backdrop. What’s going to be going on behind you? You probably won’t go wrong with a plain wall, but use care. Stark, light-coloured walls can make you look really washed out, and if you wear a light shirt, you risk looking like a talking head. And that’s probably not what you’re aiming for.

Muted wall colours like tan or grey, work pretty well, or even something bluish. Just make sure it matches your skin tone and isn’t super busy. We wouldn’t go any busier than this. If you have things on the wall or shelves behind you, or if you’re inspired to stage the room, take a close look at what’s going on back there. Make sure everything looks organized and tidy and avoid anything that could be polarizing like your antique gun collection or your shelf full of scary-faced porcelain clowns! 🙂

You want to make sure that the background doesn’t say something about you that may not work to your advantage. And it could be a subtle thing.  A poorly selected location or background have the potential to make or break even the most qualified candidate. Let your competition make those mistakes, and be the one who has your setup on point.

Get Your Technology Right

How do you make sure you set up the technology correctly?

Unless you are happily tech-savvy, anything tech-related can make you a nervous wreck. This part’s pretty straightforward though. Let’s break it down into two main components.

best technology video interview
Getting the technology right for your video interview can really make all the difference

Number one, the lighting. Now, understand that no one expects you to be a professional videographer here. But you absolutely want to put your best foot forward. Here are a few simple things that you can do to make the lighting work in your favour without investing in an expensive lighting kit.

First, face a window instead of a wall. Your easiest source of lighting is natural light coming in through a window. Have you ever taken a selfie where it looks like you’re just one giant silhouette? That’s probably because your light source is behind you. Simply turning around fixes this problem.

Next, make sure you’re a couple of feet from the wall behind you to give it some depth. If you’re right up against it, it may look strange and you might have a big shadow around you. Also, turn off the overhead light. It can make you look really harsh on camera. And, last, put a regular old desk or table lamp on the floor behind you to give you a bit of backlight.

It’s absolutely worth fussing with the lighting a bit, but we wouldn’t obsess over it. You’re better off having pretty decent lighting and an amazing interview than amazing lighting and just a so-so interview.

Secondly – Audio and camera settings. Well, that’s sort of the second and the third, but we’re going to lump those together to keep it simple. We can’t overemphasize this advice enough. Get your audio and camera settings situated well before the interview. You’re going to be awfully rattled or embarrassed if you join the interview and realize your audio isn’t working, or your webcam isn’t turned on.

If you don’t have much experience when it comes to video interviews, spend time on this. But even if you consider yourself a whiz, double-check your settings. For your video settings, make sure you’ve tested them, and remove any webcam cover or slide that will prevent your interviewer from seeing you at all. Finally, in terms of the camera angle, it’s better to position it from slightly above than below you. If you put it too low, which is super common among people who use their mobile devices for an interview, the interviewer is going to feel like they’re looking up your nose and we’re pretty sure that’s not going to clinch it for you.

How do you practice for a video interview?

Even if you’re proficient in web conferences and video interviews, you’re going to do yourself a real solid if you make sure you’re ready to knock it out of the park. If you need to download software, make sure you get it done well before your actual interview. It may take you longer than you anticipate and you definitely don’t want to be late. Get logged in and make sure you know how to navigate the platform.

If there’s an opportunity, do an actual practice interview beforehand. So say it’s a two-way Skype interview. Recruit a friend or a family member to be your interviewer. You can find some sample questions by doing an internet search on common interview questions or you might even find some actual questions that this company asks over on Glassdoor. Conduct the practise interview and then ask your interviewer for candid feedback on your content, tone, outfit, lighting and background.

If it’s a one-way interview, ask if you can access the questions in advance which could give you a big leg up on the competition. But if you do that, the only caution we’ll give is this. Don’t full on memorize every answer. You want to come across as somebody who’s conversational and engaging, not some robot regurgitating answers.

If you don’t have early access to the questions, prepare a few of your own and practice. If you can, record yourself and evaluate how you look and how you sound. Now, that’s always a weird feeling to watch yourself on video, but it will help you so much. And then you can fine-tune from there.

video interview top tips
Put a tiny little sticky note with a smiley face near your camera so you’re reminded of where to look.

A couple of additional things you want to factor in as you practice:

First, work on keeping yourself at least somewhat still through the interview. If you are a hand talker and you are concerned that you might feel stifled if you don’t move at all, try and find that balance between a frozen stick person and a wild fidgeter while you’re on camera. Also, you want to look into the eye of the webcam, not at the middle of the screen. As awkward as this might seem, the interviewer will feel like you’re looking her in the eye if you’re looking right into the webcam. You’ll appear like you’re looking down otherwise.

Top Tip: Put a tiny little sticky note with a smiley face near your camera so you’re reminded of where to look. Trust us, it works.

Conclusion

How do you end a video interview strong?

SO you have nailed the setup. Your outfit is a dream. You’ve done your homework, you’ve practised, and when the day comes you’ve nailed the conversation or, if they were one-way questions, you gave it your absolute best shot. Now what?

Simple answer, finish strong even if you’re completely spent from the effort. There’s absolutely no sense in investing all that time and effort just to fizzle out at the end.

If it’s a two-way interview, be sure and ask about the next steps at the end of the conversation. What happens from here? What’s the timeline? Would they like any follow up information from you that might support their decision making? A lot of people don’t ever take this step. Instead, they thank the interviewer, they hang up the call, and they breathe a deep sign of relief.

Unfortunately, that relief tends to end pretty quickly if they don’t hear back from anyone for a few days. Asking about the next steps can be an incredible anxiety reliever and also give some cues on when to follow up next.

Who among us hasn’t been sitting there on pins and needles wondering what’s going on or should I call or email that recruiter? If you ask upfront, you’ll hear something like, “Well, we have two more candidates “and the last one comes in a week from Wednesday. “You should probably hear shortly after that.” Great. So if you’ve not heard anything a week from Friday, that’s a pretty good time to follow up.

Finally, whether it’s a one way or a two-way interview, get your thank you emails out that day. Not three days later, not never, send a thank you note to every person that you either spoke with or the person who invited you to participate in the recorded interview. And don’t just slap these together. Be genuine, specific, and assuming you really want this role after the interview, show interest and enthusiasm in continuing the conversation. I can’t overemphasize the importance of thank you notes. If you’re in a really tight race, it could literally come down to something as small as this for the person who lands the offer. Let’s make sure that person is you.

Do you have your own video interview tips (or horror stories)?

We’d love to hear from you – Share your thoughts in our comments below.