How to survive a video interview

Technology has changed the way employers screen candidates, and I’m not just talking about automated resume screeners. While previously more commonly used when a job candidate was considering relocating from another city, companies are increasingly undertaking telephone and video interviews as a way to vet candidates before inviting them for more intensive, face-to-face interviews. And if you want to get into remote work or freelancing, video conferences are virtually guaranteed. While you might be familiar with phone interviews, video interviews (often held via Skype) present their own unique challenges.


Not ‘Just a Chat’

While these types of interviews might feel more low pressure than in person, they are just as important. You’ll need to do the same levels of interview preparation and remember that the first impression you make via your phone or laptop will determine whether you get to make an impression in person or not. As well as researching the company, practicing your answers, and all the other usual interview prep, here are some specific things you can do to nail phone and video interviews.

Select a Location Carefully

Don’t just go about you day and take the call wherever you happen to be when your phone rings. You need to select a location carefully and find somewhere that:

  • is quiet
  • is secure
  • is private
  • has good internet or cell coverage
  • has good lighting (for video calls)

Basically, this means you should be at home, in a room with a lockable door, good phone reception, and windows for natural light if you’re getting a video call. If you have young children who’ll be at home try to find someone to watch them or take them out for an hour, so they won’t come banging on the door.

Dress for Success

Everyone knows that you need to dress well for a face-to-face interview and obviously the same applies for a video chat. Dress neatly, do your hair nicely, and put on a little makeup if that’s your style. For a phone chat, you might be tempted to just wear, well, whatever you happen to have on when your phone rings, but this is a mistake. As well as affecting the way others see you, what you wear has an impact on your mood, your mindset, and even your thinking ability. So, even on the phone, dress for success.

Be on Time

Even though you don’t have to leave your house for your interview, you can still be late. If your phone rings while you’re halfway through eating a sandwich or doing the dishes, you’re not going to be in the right headspace to ace the interview. Ensure the phone, tablet or computer you will be using is on and that the relevant software is connected. You don’t want to miss the interview because a potential employer couldn’t get through to you. Make sure you’re prepped and ready to go at least 15 minutes before your call is scheduled.

Clear, Slow, and Loud

Speaking clearly is important in any interview, but over audio or video chat that importance is heightened. Audio through a phone or computer speaker is never perfect and your interviewers won’t have the same access to non-verbal cues as they would face-to-face. So speak just a little slower, louder, and clearer than normal to cancel out this effect.

Listen Actively

When you’re speaking on the phone, you need to listen very actively to make sure the conversation flows. You don’t have any access to your interviewer’s facial expressions or body language and some subtleties of tone are lost over the phone. So, be on the aural lookout for the right times to speak and when to listen. This is important on Skype as well – even though you can see them, you have limited visual access to your interview and video quality during calls is rarely perfect.

Hot tip: if you find phone calls awkward, talking into a mirror can help — it might sounds silly, but your own face in the mirror makes it feel more like a face to face conversation.

Sit up Straight and Smile

Body language is very important on a video chat, so sit up straight and don’t be afraid to show your natural smile. This is surprisingly important during phone calls too. Sitting up straight opens your airways and helps you project your voice, sounding more confident. Smiling while you talk on the phone might feel a bit silly, but it will actually change the way you sound to the other person, helping you convey more warmth and create a better connection despite the distance.

Take Notes

Keep a pen and paper next to you while you talk and take notes. These will come in really handy when preparing for the in-person interview and help you remember the names of your interviewers. Before the interview starts, write notes in the notebook on what you would like to mention and relevant experiences so you have an easy reference point. Having your resume handy can also help keep your mind focused when you get a curly question.