Video interviews are becoming commonplace in various industries as technology continues to infiltrate many aspects of modern day life. Recruiters in the legal industry were early adopters of the practice, and at present a significant number of law firms have a digital aspect to their vacation scheme/training contract application process.
For many job applicants the thought of being recorded speaking to a camera is unnerving, but we can assure you it really isn’t all that bad. The key to being successful is to treat the video interview as you would an in-person interview and make sure you’re well prepared; we’ve rounded up seven things to bear in mind when you get an invitation to complete a video interview.
1. How do you look?
Just because you’re not having your interview in an office setting doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dress as though you are. It’s important to present yourself as you would in an in-person interview – after all, the video interview is still part of a formal process. You want to show the recruiter that you take the task seriously and have made an effort to present yourself accordingly. So as tempting as it may be to wear a comfortable sweater and pyjama bottoms because you’re filming in your bedroom, it’s not really the most appropriate outfit choice. Instead, dust off your “go-to” formal outfit, be it a suit, smart shirt or dress, brush that hair and even spray a little bit of perfume if you feel like it – as the saying goes, look good, feel good!
2. Eyes on the recruiter
Sounds obvious, right? But you’d be surprised to know that many video interviewees don’t look at the camera. Candidates tend to look at themselves on their screen which can make for uncomfortable viewing for HR team watching. As unnatural as a video interview may feel, you’ve still got to act as natural as possible, and in this case that means holding eye contact with who you’re talking to (the recruiter); it’d be rude not to do so in person, so why do it on video? Make practice videos before your interview to get comfortable making eye contact with your “audience”.
3. Time limits are a guide not a target
With pre-recorded video interviews there is usually a time limit assigned to each question. This is understandably a little off-putting as it doesn’t resemble a real-life conversation, but try to think of it positively; look at the time limit as a guide to how much content you should include in your answer and how to structure it. If you have two minutes to answer the question ‘tell me about yourself’ you’ll know that it’s probably a good idea to leave off listing all ten of your favourite undergraduate modules, and instead name just two so as to allow for other comments. Also, if you’ve given a comprehensive answer and find that you still have time left, resist the urge to keep talking to fill up time, it’s better to end early and on a good note than to waffle on just for the sake of it.
It’s also worth noting that you’re likely to have a preparation window in which to think about and plan your answer. Use these 30 or so seconds to collect your thoughts and mentally structure your answer. Alternatively, use it as a moment to simply breathe and steady your nerves.
4. What’s in your frame?
It’s a given that a quiet room is the best place to complete your video interview, but have you given much thought to what’s in your frame? Now we know you’re probably thinking, ‘calm down, this isn’t a movie!’, but hear us out…
Broadly speaking your background isn’t important – whether it’s a wall filled with photo frames, a desk, wardrobes or ugly wallpaper, recruiters don’t care very much. But is there anything particularly distracting behind you? We all remember the incident of Professor Robert Kelly’s toddler strolling into the room while he was talking about South Korean politics on the BBC! Whilst his toddler dancing behind him made for hilarious watching, it also goes to show that what’s going on in the background can sometimes distract the audience and take the focus away from the golden nuggets of information you’re giving out. Ensure that you know what is visible to the interviewer and remove anything that may be overtly distracting. Take pets out of the room, turn the TV off and remove any incriminating items from view.
Also, on the topic of what’s in your frame, there’s no need to get up close and personal with the camera. Your head, shoulders and upper body is what should be in the frame so that any hand gestures can be seen and you can move naturally. It’s also a good idea to sit facing the light rather than having it behind you so that you are well lit. #Photography101!
5. Testing, testing, 1,2,3
Have you checked that all your tech is working properly? Again, this may seem obvious, but when you’re so focused on what questions may be asked in an interview, it’s easy to forget the basics. In preparation for the interview make sure your laptop or phone battery is charged, the camera is working, microphone is on, and internet connection is alive and kicking! With most video interviews, there will be a chance to check that your mic, camera and speakers are all working within the application itself, so resist bypassing this step and make sure to test it all out. How annoying would it be to find out that the interviewer couldn’t hear a word you said because your mic wasn’t turned on?!
6. Your body language speaks volumes
Because you’re not technically in a formal interview environment it can be tempting to relax your body language and adopt a more casual approach – don’t! Make sure you’re giving off all the right vibes and non-verbal signals regardless of the fact that the interviewer isn’t directly there with you. Sit up tall, look engaged and project confident (not arrogant!) energy. You want your demeanour to elevate your well thought out answers, not detract from them.
7. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
We can all agree that speaking to a camera and to a set time limit is not the most natural thing to do, so in addition to researching the firm and preparing answers to common interview questions, it’s also worth practising recording yourself answering questions. See how much content you can fit into a two-minute time slot whilst speaking at a moderate pace, are there any nervous habits you notice yourself doing? Do you look into the camera enough? Are you speaking clearly? Recording and re-watching your practice videos is a great way to spot where you can make improvements, so that come the real thing, you are working the camera like a pro!