Expert performance tips for Zoom and other video interviews

Our expert tips will help you hone your on-screen interview performance and come across as confident and professional.

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More and more employers are using video interviews as part of the graduate recruitment process, and there are two types of on-screen interview you might face: live and pre-recorded .

Pre-recorded video interviews are often used to filter candidates at an early stage, sometimes instead of a phone interview.

Live on-screen interviews such as Zoom, MS Teams and Skype interviews are closer to the traditional face-to-face interview.

In normal times, both are convenient and save on travel costs and time. During the coronavirus pandemic, however, they came into their own; the Institute of Student Employers reported that 94% of the employers comprising its membership had switched to virtual and video interviewing for the 2020–2021 recruitment round.

Virtual interviews can seem intimidating and there are potential pitfalls to avoid. Our advice will help you perform your best and come across well on screen.

Video interviews during the coronavirus pandemic

Before the pandemic video interviews would be used instead of phone interviews, but would not be seen as a substitute for face-to-face second interviews and final selection. Most companies would offer the opportunity to view their premises and meet other employees at a later stage in the process.

However, while uncertainty around the coronavirus virus remains, the final stages of the recruitment process are staying online.

Who uses video interviews?

While the coronavirus has caused a range of employers that didn’t previously use video interviews to reconsider, they were already widely used by big investment banking, technology and consumer goods employers.

What to expect from your video interview

It’s common for employers to outsource pre-recorded video interviews to external organisations. You are typically invited to log in to a system where you are asked to answer a series of pre-recorded questions.

Companies that host video interviews include Sonru, SparkHire, HireVue, VidCruiter, LaunchPad, myInterview and interviewstream.

You may find yourself under some time pressure. For example, you might be given 15 seconds of thinking time and 60 seconds for your answer, with a timer on screen indicating how long you have left.

Our partners Shortlist.Me offer resources to help you prepare for video interviews.

Three key tips for a smooth video interview experience

These tips will help you feel confident, present yourself in a positive way and come across well, whether you're being interviewed live or are taking part in a pre-recorded assessment.

  • Practise
  • Prepare
  • Be professional.

Tip 1: practise

  • Practise on your own beforehand, using your laptop to record yourself. Review the recording to see how you come across on screen.
  • Check out your body language and tone of voice . Do you slouch, pull strange faces or fidget? Do you mutter or gabble? Now's the time to tone down habits and mannerisms that aren't helping to create the impression you want. Check you're speaking clearly enough and at a pace that will allow you to be understood.
  • Ask a friend, parent or tutor to review your recording with you. They could also take on the role of the interviewer and ask you questions – particularly useful if you're going to be doing a live two-way interview.
  • Some companies that host video interviews offer online practice sessions or online videos you can watch beforehand for advice and encouragement. Take advantage of these. You may also be given the option of a couple of practice attempts before you record your final video interview.

Tip 2: prepare

Make notes in bullet point format and keep them where you can see them easily. It's OK to glance at your notes for reference if you need to, but you shouldn't sit there with your eyes glued to a piece of paper, reading out answers that you've written down in advance.

Check any instructions carefully. Once you've started, you are usually not able to rewind or review your answers.

Tip 3: be professional and dress the part

Treat your video interview as you would a face-to-face interview. If you're in doubt about the dress code, opt for smart. It is better to feel over-dressed than under-dressed; gain more interview style tips in our ' what to wear to your job interview ' advice feature.

Check out the background that your interviewer will see. Look at it on your practice recordings or take a snapshot of what's behind you. A relatively uncluttered background is best. Check the light levels, too. You want the recruiter to be able to see you.

If necessary, shut out the wandering cat, silence the dog and warn your flatmates or family that you'll need some peace and quiet for a while.

If you're doing a Skype or Zoom interview, think about the impression your username will create and make sure it's professional.

When a live interview is under way, avoid talking over your interviewer.

What kind of interview questions will you be asked?

You could be asked competency-based interview questions , strengths-based questions , values-based questions or a combination of these.

Some employers use video technology to present candidates with different workplace situations and to ask them questions about it. If this is the case, you might be asked to respond in one of the following ways:

  • answer multiple choice questions
  • record yourself speaking
  • type in your answer.

This kind of interview is sometimes described as a ‘job simulator’, ‘virtual assessment’ or ‘online immersive assessment’. You can find out more about this type of assessment in our advice on psychometric tests.

Alternatively, you could be asked to upload a self-recorded clip to a password-protected site to highlight specific skills or tell the company about yourself. This is particularly likely for roles in sales, media or marketing, and gives the recruiter insight into your presentation skills.

The next stage in video interviewing

The interviewer of the future might be a robot, at least for part of the recruitment process. The technology behind video interviews is evolving and companies are looking at approaches that use artificial intelligence (AI), or virtual reality (VR) whether it's in the form of a robot, a chatbot, a voice call with an automated caller, interacting with an interview avatar on screen or taking part in a virtual reality escape room. One of the arguments in favour of this type of assessment is that it is free from bias and personal prejudice.

Although the early stages of the recruitment process are increasingly likely to be handled by technology, human judgement is still a deciding factor in the later stages, when recruiters typically invite applicants to assessment centres or face-to-face interviews.

The ISE reported that in the 2020–2021 recruitment round, 5% of the employers that comprise its membership had used virtual reality assessments.

Find out more about video interviews for popular graduate careers

What to expect from video interviews for law firms

Find out how to handle retail video interviews

Top tips for tackling construction employers’ video interviews

Advice for video interviews for graduate jobs in property

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