Lights, Camera, Action: The Video Interview

  • Posted by: Chaloner

In addition to working at Chaloner, I am also pursuing a career in acting, which often requires me to put auditions on tape. So I was interested to learn that video interviews are becoming more and more common as a means for companies to pre-screen candidates. I know how challenging it is to present an authentic, enthusiastic and grounded version of yourself on screen, especially when there’s no one on the receiving end. How do you prepare for a one-way video interview?

Practice with a friend
The presence of a camera affects the way we present ourselves, but resist the urge to be performative or presentational. This interview should still have the quality of an in person interaction and practicing with someone can help you maintain that conversational tone. Have a friend sit behind the computer and ask you practice questions provided by the company or your own questions based on what you think might come up. This is also an opportunity to test the technology with a friend, make sure you can be heard and that you are positioned well on the screen.

Dress appropriately
Dress the part from head to toe not just what you think will be visible on camera. Avoid wearing narrow stripes and too much white, as these won’t look great on screen.

Control your environment
You want the person watching the interview to be focused on you, not distracted by picture of your family or your snow globe collection in the background of the shot. Find a private room with a solid background and do what you can to minimize ambient noise and prevent interruptions.

Warm up
In my training at Northwestern University and at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, I learned many techniques for warming up my voice and body. In an audition, I want to feel comfortable and loose and this will serve you in an interview as well. Your body tenses when you are nervous so it might help to stretch or go for a walk before the interview. And certainly use your voice before you film (avoid recording first thing in the morning) so that you sound strong and confident.

Keep your focus on the camera
This is a difficult thing in practice but makes a big difference. In an in-person interview, we rely on eye contact to communicate authenticity and establish a connection. The closest thing to that in a video interview comes from keeping your focus on the lens of the camera, rather than the screen. Make sure you know where the lens is and position yourself far enough back that your face and upper shoulders are in the shot. Resist the temptation to watch yourself on the screen as doing so could make you seem distracted and self-conscious.

Be still
I always have to adjust my performance a bit for the camera because the screen reflects every little movement. Keep your hand gestures to a minimum and work to be relatively still as you speak. Watch your posture- it is easy and natural to slump down in your chair. Sitting up straight and composed will project confidence and keep the interviewer’s focus on what you are saying.

Take a breath when you need it
You will likely have a time limit for each question so you can’t allow for too much space, but it is okay to take a moment to calibrate your thoughts after a question is posed to you. Resist the need to begin speaking right away if you don’t know what you are saying. It is always better to have a brief and thoughtful response than lengthy and indirect rambling and collecting yourself before speaking might make all the difference.

Show your personality
The benefit of a video interview compared to a cover letter or phone call is that more of who you are can come through, as the hiring manager gets to see your mannerisms and expressiveness. Don’t force anything but look for opportunities to smile and share examples from your story.

Putting yourself on camera can be intimidating but recognize the opportunity the medium affords you to communicate your passion for the organization and the energy that only you can bring.