10 Tips for a Successful Video Interview

Caroline Ceniza-Levine '93BC
April 07, 2020

Being asked for a video interview instead of a live job interview is increasingly common, especially with the current global situation. Employers like it because, unlike phone interviews, video interviews feel closer to live interviews with the ability to connect face-to-face and the employer's ability to assess non-verbal clues. It's good for the candidate, too, in that there is less time lost in travel, and many times, these appointments are faster to schedule. However, digital interviews are not the same as live interviews⁠—they require technology and a different set of skills to prepare and perform successfully. Here are 10 tips for successful online interviews:

  1. Test your connection. Internet connectivity varies based on what platform you're using and is also influenced by what else you have running (if there are others in your household, and everyone is streaming Netflix, you get the idea). Do a test run to see how fast/slow your connection is and to see if you will have any problems with video. If an interviewer asks for a video interview, they want you to use the video, not the audio-only option.
  2. Test your webcam and display placements. Depending on where your webcam is and where your display is, you may have to toggle between the two frequently during the interview. Ideally, they are close enough such that, as you're looking at your display (therefore looking at your conversation partner and reading their non-verbal cues) you are still looking directly at your webcam so they feel like you are looking at them. Sometimes, however, the webcam and display are far enough apart that, by looking at your display, you look away from the person, and that's distracting to the other side (they will feel like they're having a conversation with someone who doesn't make eye contact). You have to practice toggling back and forth unless your display and webcam line up exactly. Again, test with a friendly person so you can determine what they’re seeing.
  3. Test your audio. Make sure that your mic resonates clearly to the other person and that your speakers make the other person understandable to you. You may need to use headphones to ensure that there isn't an echo. Ideally, you don't need headphones because you'll look more professional in any interview (video interview or otherwise!) without headphones, but audio quality is more important than appearance here, so check the audio in advance to be sure.
  4. Connect to your interviewer in advance so you're not waiting till the last minute and realize you can't find them right before your interview time. At the very least, trade usernames for the platform, not just actual names. Make sure you know how to log into the platform you're using – don't assume your computer will remember you when you last signed in. Have your interviewer's phone number as a back-up in case the platform doesn't work for whatever reason.
  5. Make sure you have a professional background visible during the online interview. If you normally work in your bedroom and your bed is visible to the other person, perhaps you can move your laptop to a different room where there is a more neutral background. Or perhaps you can put some kind of throw over your bed so it doesn't look so casual.
  6. Make sure you have professional dress from the waist up. You will probably just have your face to the shoulders visible in a digital interview, but the webcam can still capture what you're wearing on top. You could wear jeans and no one will know. However, some people act casual when they dress casual, so you may want to dress up anyway to give your body the signal that yes, this is an interview.
  7. Video deadens your energy so this interview still won't replicate a live meeting. You have to proactively make sure that you smile, make eye contact, and speak clearly and enthusiastically. Don't fidget or make a lot of movement – if the connection is slow, you'll appear fuzzy and out of focus. This is distracting to the other person and appears unprofessional, even though it's the technology, not you.
  8. If you need helpful reminders of all these interview specific tips (e.g., look at the webcam! Smile! Speak clearly!) or if you need talking points for your interview, put Post-its or tape index cards to your computer monitor to remind you. This way, you see these hints in real-time as you're interviewing.
  9. Remember that, beyond the technology, a video interview is still an interview. Content and preparation matter, as they do with phone or live interviews. Practice your key project examples, know what your value proposition is, and prepare how you’re going to tell your story so it's relevant to this company and this job.
  10. As with phone or live interviews, after a video interview, follow up with a thank you once it's over!

A version of this article originally appeared on SixFigureStart.com. Image courtesy of Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a longtime recruiter turned career coach and media expert on the job market. She writes for Forbes and teaches professional development courses at Barnard and SIPA. She has coached professionals at Amazon, Conde Nast, Goldman Sachs, Google, Tesla, and other leading firms. A classically-trained pianist at Juilliard, Ceniza-Levine stays active in the arts, performing stand-up comedy. Learn more about Ceniza-Levine and the Columbia Career Coaches Network.