10 Steps to Doing a Successful Video Interview

A hiring manager calls you after finding you on LinkedIn, and you have a good phone interview. Then he says, "I want you to talk to our VP. She uses Skype and will be available on Friday at 9am -- is that good for you?"

You reply "yes", the call ends, and you gulp: "I've never used Skype". Or you've never used it for an interview, a little different than the video chats with your friend in California. Today, however, video chat apps are SO easy to use that you should welcome the chance to use them, versus the phone.

Employers connect with people via video in different ways – Skype, Google Hangout, Apple’s FaceTime, Zoom.us – all of these do pretty much the same thing and are also gaining in popularity for interviews.

Here are 10 tips for a successful interview via video:

Obviously, prepare as if for an in-person interview. But also, be sure to do the following:

1. Do this now, not a few minutes before the interview: Go to the video conferencing site (Skype.com, Zoom.us) and download what they suggest you download, which is usually not a large file. If they ask you to create a screen name, choose wisely as this is visible with your image on the screen the whole time you’re in the video conference. Know also there’s a chat feature, where the interviewer may post a website link they’ll want you to click, or a phone number or email address, so locate where that is in the screen before the session begins.

Well before the appointed time of your interview, get the other person's Skype ID and give yours, or get the Zoom link to use. This makes connecting at the appointment time almost effortless. You don't want to be fumbling around with this at the last moment, which would cut into your interviewing time, and would affect your (technical) credibility as well.

2. Visuals: Be sure your computer has a working, built-in camera; if it does not, you can buy separate cameras for this that will plug into the USB port of your laptop. Don't go too cheap on this external camera or you'll be very blurry to the interviewer.

  • Make sure your camera is pointed at you and not at your ceiling or your keyboard! Also be sure that there are no bright lights – like the sun! – coming in over your shoulder or it will not only be super bright and very annoying to them, you'll come across as someone who doesn't know how to use today's technology. Also, with that bright light coming in from behind you, you will be seen only in silhouette so they won’t be able to see your face!
  • Just as I tell people doing in-person interviews, make it a practice to not touch your face or hair during an interview. By “face”, I mean anything that’s part of your face, like your nose, teeth/mouth, ears. This can be considered gross. And on camera, those movements are very, very obvious and therefore distracting.
  • Don't wear anything with narrow stripes close together, like a pinstriped suit jacket with high-contrast stripes -- this type of pattern has a shimmering effect to a camera lens and will be very distracting to the interviewer.
  • Keep things behind you simple: don't have distracting items behind you, either on the wall or even on the floor -- they'll see them. So make sure that wild concert poster or your unmade/made bed are out of view.
  • We call them laptops but do NOT keep your laptop on your lap during a video interview, if that’s the device you’re using. First, the camera will be pointing up at your chin (or your nose…), not a good angle. Next, any body movement on your part will cause the laptop to move, which is annoying to the other party. So find a solid (non-moving) surface for it, at a height that allows you to look straight into your computer screen.

3. Keep any coffee/water bottle far from your keyboard during the interview -- you don't want a spill during the meeting to interrupt it, damaging not only your computer but your confidence.

4. You may need to get up and get something during your interview, and the last thing you want seen is your pajama bottoms. So make sure your lower half is appropriately dressed as well.

5. Make sure your dog (or cat!) is in another part of the house – they may hear the interviewer and think “stranger alert!” and start barking or howling. And if the interviewer is calling from their home and theirdog starts to bark, and your dog hears it, I don’t want to tell you the result! Also, make sure your younger children are well-occupied somewhere else in your home, and that everyone there understands this is YOUR private time. Shut out distracting sounds from outdoors, such as heavy-duty construction, by closing your windows; for that reason, don’t do a video interview at a coffee shop where there are also so many distractions. 

6. Practicing with a friend or your coach before The Real Thing will help you work out any bugs, and give you confidence. I’ve helped clients before their “real” video-based interviews by doing a test run, something I am happy to do with them.

7. Review your resume before the call begins, then have it handy but don't be reading it. Tip: Tape it on the wall or to a flipchart behind your computer so you can readily glance at it without looking down at your desk and studying it, which will be very visible to your interviewer and you'll look like you don't even know what's on it.

To start:

8. By clicking on the other person's ID in your list, or the link they’ve given you, you'll initiate contact. Be ready as soon as the camera light on your computer comes on, which is a second or two before you actually see the other person seeing you. I mention this because you don't want to be redoing your lipstick or picking your teeth just as your image first appears on their computer. As soon as you can see one another, test for sound levels (“Can you hear me OK?”) to make sure you’re not muted, and that you can hear them.

9. While you're using the video chat software, if the screen freezes or breaks up but you can still hear the interviewer, keep going. Sometimes temporary image issues happen, so be prepared, because it can be very distracting. If it gets so bad that sound is affected, the interviewer may ask you to restart the session, or you may have to tell them you're missing some of what they're saying, “So can we restart?”, so as to get a better connection. Better that than to be wondering what question they just asked you!

10. If the interview is automated, such as with HireVue or similar software, your company contact (or an automated email!) will give you the link to use. Apps like this give you time to prepare to answer each question, time to answer it and be video recorded, and (often) time to revise it. Employers like using this so that each person on the hiring team, wherever they are, can see the same “performance”. More about HireVue in my October 2019 newsletter.

To finish:

As with an in-person interview, ask what the next step is, and who you should follow up with. Send an email thank you (so you have space in the communication to point out once again how you match the job; little hand-written notes can’t do that) within 4 hours of the interview. Then follow up 3 days later, via phone or email. And keep your search going with other employers! 

A final word

A video-based interview shows your open attitude, your smile, your energy far better than using the phone, so enjoy the time! And you see the interviewer. An interview is a two-way street, so make note of their attitude and openness to you.

Knowing the technology enables you to focus on doing a great interview. Treat the video interview just as you would an in-person, face-to-face interview - because today, that's what it is!


When you work with Joanne, you learn how to use today's tools in your job search, making you more competitive.

Contact Joanne (Joanne@TheJobSearchQueen.com) to learn more.



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