11 May 2020

How to Ace a Video Interview

Job interviews are daunting at the best of times. There’s pressure to build rapport and showcase your skills and achievements (without seeming arrogant), as well as to convey your value to the business and leave a lasting impression. If you are a clear communicator, however, and able to pick up on silent signals and body language, that pressure is lessened.

That’s not so easy with video interviews, when you and your interviewer(s) have to glean what you can from a screen, while also having to contend with possible connectivity issues and delays.

So how do you nail an interview hosted on Zoom? We’ve compiled a few simple tips for success:

1. Pace Yourself and Pause

Interview nerves can make us speak quickly – with lots of 'ums' and 'ers' – or give rambling, unstructured answers. Remember to pause: this will not only allow you to pace yourself and think about your responses, but will also alleviate some anxiety.

Similarly, when the interviewer (seemingly) finishes speaking, err on the side of caution and wait a half-second before starting your reply. This will allow for any delay in the connection, meaning you don't inadvertently interrupt him or her mid-flow.

2. Prepare

It goes without saying that you should prepare for an interview, but having it take place in your own home allows a rare opportunity to refer to your notes! Think about some commonly-asked questions and prepare your responses beforehand – there’s nothing to stop you having flash cards taped to the wall in front of you so that you’re never caught on the back foot. Just remember to keep looking at your interviewer rather than the wall.

3. Do Some Stage Management

Assume that the content of your CV is the only information the interviewer has about you. Just as in a face-to-face setting, turning up carrying a bike helmet lets them know you’re a cyclist, so your background on a video interview provides an insight into your life outside work. There’s no need to replace your ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ sign with one that reads ‘Always Be Closing’, or to have your Suits boxsets proudly on display to show you’re serious about law, but be mindful that these things will be noticed (and tidy up!).  Ensure that you have good lighting (avoid sitting in front of a window, which will make you look very dark), and that the camera and mic are working. Finally, play it safe by wearing what you usually would to an interview.

4. Have a good answer to “what have you been up to in lockdown?”

The issue of the current COVID-19 pandemic, and how you’re coping with it, might be raised during some initial small talk rather than as an ‘official’ interview question, but your answer is still important. Be honest: gardening, exercise and looking after your children may seem like run-of-the-mill answers, but lying on the spot about having learnt a language or become an accomplished basket weaver will only come back to haunt you. Remember to mention any additional efforts like volunteering, fundraising or simply helping out your neighbours.

5. Gain an idea of next steps

Try to get an understanding of timelines, processes, or anything that gives you an idea of what to expect going forward. Due to the uncertainty of the world right now, there might be some things out of the interviewer’s hands, so don’t take a ‘we’ll review the position after we’ve seen some more applicants and let you know’ as a negative – just manage your expectations accordingly.

Dan Scothern, Debrett's Senior Business Development Manager


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