How to prepare for a video interview

Careers expert John Lees outlines how you can perform better at video interviews.

Two women doing a video interview on a laptop


In these Covid days, many employers who are hiring will be doing so by video interview. Surveys suggest the number of companies using video interviews to hire staff has increased significantly due to concerns over the coronavirus. This may have started as a short-term response to a crisis, but it is now becoming more entrenched as employers seek to reduce travel costs and increase the diversity of their potential workforce.

Below careers expert John Lees has some advice on how to prepare for a video interview.

Video interviews are potentially tricky. They feel much more artificial than live meetings, and it’s harder to come across as relaxed.

I’d recommend practising with a friend over Zoom. Talk about recent jobs and your skills and projects where you have added value at work. As well as asking for objective feedback, record the session and look at the results. Do you maintain eye contact? (Look at the camera, not faces on the screen). How easy are you to talk to? Now watch the interview with the sound off. Do you fidget or move around distractingly? Do you look as if you are listening attentively?

Showing you can undertake online meetings sounding calm and professional is a key audition for work. Make sure your background is clear and uncluttered and switch off or remove your phone. Have a copy of your CV and the job description in front of you. Sit and calm your brain for 10 minutes before logging on early to reduce the chance of technical problems.

Online interviews leave little space for small talk, but take any opportunity to chat informally. It helps if you’ve done some research on the people interviewing you. Practise answering obvious questions about job content. That advice may sound unnecessary, but thousands of people try to ‘wing it’ by improvising under pressure when they should have good answers matching experiences to the skills required.

Work out the employer’s shopping list and prepare convincing stories about how you match the top half dozen requirements. Think about what might be worrying the interviewer based on your CV – where do you need to reassure with good evidence?

Keep it short and upbeat

Attention is weaker in online discussions than live interviews, so don’t speak for too long. Practise delivering short, upbeat stories. Keeping things tight means the interviewer can get through questions efficiently – you can always conclude with ‘does that cover it, or would you like more details?’.

End well. Have at least one question up your sleeve. Don’t ask about something you could have looked up online, but ask about the future of the job – what you will learn and how the role will develop.

*John Lees is one of the UK’s best-known career strategists and author of 15 books on work and careers. How to Get a Job You Love (now in its eleventh edition) regularly tops the list of best-selling careers books by a British author and was twice selected as the WH Smith Business Book of the Month. More information here.

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