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Video interviews are now commonly used as the initial part of the selection process for students and graduates applying for internships, placement and graduate jobs. Additionally, they are being introduced in Civil Service Interviews. Video interviews, commonly referred to as online or virtual interviews, are increasingly replacing the initial telephone interview. They allow an organisation to record some interview questions and then send these out to candidates they want to screen. Most candidates find it a daunting first interview – after all, most of us would prefer to meet the interviewer and have a conversation rather then record an answer to a set time. However, despite the impersonal nature of video interviews it is possible to stand out from the competition. Here are 10 tips to give you greater confidence:

1: Be positive. Unlike most interviews this is probably the most consistent and fairest interview you will have. All candidates applying for a role get asked the same recorded questions so you have an equal chance of being successful. All it needs is the right preparation.

2: Make it easy for the interviewers to see and hear you.  In an online coaching session I expect sometimes to have to coach around pixelated images and erratic sound. However, in a video interview if an assessor is struggling to see or hear you then you are more likely to be rejected. Whilst you can be interviewed from any device it is important to check beforehand that your webcam and microphone is working well.  If necessary you should buy a separate microphone. Equally, you need a consistent and strong Wifi signal in order to get a clear recording. You can check the quality beforehand with a friend using Skype or Google Hangouts.

3: Prepare for a variety of interview questions. Most video interviews are fairly short with 4-8 questions, yet they vary in style. Do not simply expect common interview questions as you can be asked a combination of competency and strength based questions as well as more analytical and situational questions.  Whilst competency questions test the ‘what’ and ‘how’ you behaved in a situation, strength questions test your natural strengths and enthusiasm. It is impossible to predict every question so prepare for a range of questions or prompts such as those given below:

Common interview questions:

  • Tell me about yourself and what you could bring to this programme/role.
  • Why are you applying to us?
  • Talk about our vision, what does it mean for how we work and communicate.

Competency based interview questions can be very varied but some of the most popular questions are on behaviours such teamwork, communications and organisational skills:

  • Give us an example of working collaboratively in a diverse team.
  • Tell us a situation when you had to adapt your communication approach in order to communicate effectively.
  • Tell us about a time when you were working under pressure, had to multi-task and achieve a difficult deadline.

For competency questions prepare a specific story to tell which demonstrates your experience for each of these questions. You can use the acronym STAR to help you structure your stories. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result.  Try not to be too formulaic. You want to tell them a real story which will engage the interviewer.  ‘What was interesting or challenging about the situation? Why and how did you do what you did?’

Strength based questions tend to focus on your motivation and resilience.

  • Think about the last time you almost gave up on something. How did it make you feel?
  • When are you at your happiest?
  • Do you like it when your ideas stand out from the crowd?

Analytical question assess how you approach problems and your communication skills. Getting the answer right is not so important.

  • Some people say that hard factual data gives us all the information that we need. Do you think this is true? Why?
  • How many golf balls are up in the air at any one time in the UK?

Situational questions are more open and assess your curiosity, drive and desire to learn and achieve.

  • If you had unlimited funds and six months available what would you do with your time?
  • If you could invite 3 people dead or alive to dinner who would they be?

4: Practise aloud in front of a mirror. Generally we all feel more comfortable thinking to ourselves or writing out the answers but you need to practise aloud.  You need to get to know your stories well and practise telling them differently each time so that you keep the stories fresh and conversational.  Many candidates talk too quickly because they do not want to forget anything and want to get the interview ‘over and done with’. Take your time as with online and virtual interviews the interviewer cannot ask you to slow down and the assessor will have to concentrate more to follow you. Try and project your voice as this helps to convey energy and enthusiasm and use emphasis to get more variety in your tone.

5: Answer the question directly. It is very tempting to just hear some of the keywords in a question such as teamwork or communications and then regurgitate your prepared answer but to get a high assessment you have to answer the question directly. So it is important not to learn your answers off by heart  because you need the flexibility to adapt your answer naturally to different questions or you could end up sounding and looking robotic.

6: Keep to time. Most video interviews ask for 2-3 minute answers. You want to use all the time they give you without over-running or you will be cut off in the middle of your answer. There is a stopwatch counter to help you. If you are struggling to answer a question for 2 minutes this a strong indication that you have not gone into enough detail.  Go back over your examples and ask yourself, ‘What was interesting about this story? How did I contribute? Why did I do it this way? What does it say about me?’

7: Expect to be asked questions you have not prepared for.  In most video interviews you are given 30 seconds after the question before the recording begins. This is invaluable thinking time.  If your mind has gone blank and you cannot think of any example to share with them then it can be useful to think around the question, ‘why are they asking this question?’. For example:

  • “Tell me a time when you did something for the first time and it worked but when you tried it a second time it didn’t work?”  If you cannot think of a specific example for this you could ask yourself, ‘Do I have a related story about solving a problem, being innovative or having to  adapt to a situation?’

8: Dress for Interview. Whilst on occasion I have coached clients for interview dressed still in their dressing gown or cycling gear you need to be appropriately dressed for a face-to-face interview. Wearing a dark jacket can look very smart in person yet online it can make you look a bit too serious so add some colour with your shirt, tie or scarf. If you are wearing a white shirt and no jacket check on your webcam that you have not disappeared into the wall behind you!

9: Choose a quiet room where you will not be disturbed.  You are normally given a few days to book your interview slot so you have time to find the best location to record the interview. Try not to sit in front of a window or you could be seen in silhouette. If possible, try to remove any ‘clutter’ behind you and ensure that you do not have lights or pictures distracting from your face.

10: Be yourself.  The interviewer is going to warm towards you if they can see your personality showing through. I appreciate that this is difficult when you are in a very unnatural situation and when you are being assessed for a role you really want.  However, try to find places to smile and speak with enthusiasm. In most video interviews you will be given a practice question to start with. At the end of each question you are often able to pause before pressing ‘Continue’ to the next question. This gives you a chance to take a sip of water, compose yourself again and smile!

Video Interview Coaching

Graduate Interview Coaching is available for students and graduates with preparation and mock interview coaching for video interviews, telephone interview and face-to-face interviews.  Video interviews are also used increasing for initial Civil Service Interviews.

Coaching is available in London, Bournemouth and online. Discounted student packages are available. For more information book a free consultation or contact Elizabeth Conley.