What is a video interview and how can you nail it?

“A video interview? You’ve got to be joking.” “What am I going to say in front of a camera for ten minutes?” “I don’t think I want to work for a company that does video interviewing – it’s so impersonal…”


These are some of the comments I have heard and seen about video interviewing this year and I get it. 

Video interviewing is new. It’s not all that common (in Australia at least), and if you don’t know much about it, it can be nerve wracking and can conjure up all sorts of conscious and unconscious blocks.

You know what, though? Video interviewing is here to stay. And if you embrace it, you’ll have a much better chance of securing your dream job and living happily ever after. 

Okay, so what is a video interview?

I am so glad you asked. Instead of continuing to let your mind run away with itself, let’s settle this once and for all. A video interview does not mean that you need to jump in front of a camera and ramble on about your experience for ten minutes. Yes, it does involve a camera, and yes, you will have to talk to said camera, but it is a lot more structured than you might be thinking.  

Employers are using video interview platform providers like Sonru, to invite their candidates to attend a video interview. Once you have your invitation link, you are provided with loads of helpful resources and testing tips to make sure your lighting is okay, your sound is working and that you have your camera angles set up so that the people reviewing your video can see you properly. 

Sounds okay… what happens next?

Well, next, you get to practice. Yep! Most video interview providers will give you a chance to run through a couple of practice questions before you start your real interview. This means you can answer the practice questions, review your responses and then practice again. Some providers allow you to have unlimited practice shoots, because no one wants to just throw you into a video interview without you fully understanding what is in store for you.  

I thoroughly recommend you take the opportunity to respond to a couple of practice questions, but in saying this, don’t go over the top. The practice runs are great because it gets you used to looking at a camera instead of an interviewer, and you can go into your proper shoot knowing that all your tech is working hunky dory. Too many practice runs and you’ll psych yourself out though, so limit yourself to 2-3 as a maximum, before you dive straight in!

What happens in a video interview?

Now that you’ve practiced, you are ready to film your video interview responses. So, how does that actually work? Well, this varies depending how the employer has set up their account, but usually you are given a little bit of time to review the question (it will flash up onto the screen), before the filming starts. If you are ready early, you can hit the record button and go for gold. You will then have a couple of minutes or so (again, customised by the employer) to record your response to the question.  

Once your first response has been submitted, you will then be given some time to review the second question before you respond and this will be repeated until all the questions have been answered. At the end of your video interview, you may even be able to review your responses before you submit them. Although it is too late to change your responses, this can be helpful in terms of reflecting back on your interview and thinking about how you could do better the next time you are asked to attend a video interview!

Alright, but I’m scared of being in front of the camera!

So am I. And so are all the people who are competing for the same job. Unless you are applying for a job as a newsreader or actor… then it might be a different story! But in general, everyone is in the same situation as you.  

I have always hated being in front of the camera. Even having my photos taken. I am super self-conscious, about the way I look and the way I sound. I’ve always been overweight and I say “ahhhhh” when I’m trying to think of what to say next. This year though, I decided it was time to overcome my fear. I had a professional photo shoot done for Pop Your Career and I did a 7-day live version of my free e-course, The Career Clarity Quest, with daily Facebook Live videos. It was scary as hell. But by the end of it, I realised a couple of things:

  • When you’re delivering a message on video, nobody really cares what you look like. They are too busy listening to what you have to say.  
  • Nobody is perfect on live video. Marie Forleo doesn’t um and ahh through her videos, but she also has a script and a fantastic team of editors (not to mention a fully styled set and a personal stylist to boot).

Want to know more about video interviewing? Here ‘tis!

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Does this mean I have to start doing Facebook Lives to prepare myself?

Nope. That’s not the point I was getting at, although if you feel the itch to give Facebook Live a go, I say, more power to you. There are a couple of points I am trying to make. The first is that sometimes the things that seem the scariest, really aren’t that bad at all. The second, is that you need to get comfortable with yourself and in the meantime, fake it til you make it (or as my favourite YouTuber, Sarah’s Day, says… “Act confident and no one will question you”). And the third point, as much as I hate to say it, is that sometimes you have to do things that make you uncomfortable, in order to achieve a desired result. 

So, how can I prepare for my video interview then?

Well, there are a few tips that I can recommend for maximum success. Of course, I think you should follow all my tips, I wouldn’t be sharing them if I didn’t. 

1. Get a tripod (or make one)

If you think you’ll enjoy the foray into video, you have plans to take up photography, or you think you’ll use a tripod for something again in the future, it is a worthwhile investment. Mine cost me about $30, and I bought a phone attachment for another $10-15.  

If you don’t have a tripod and you won’t use one again, save your pennies and set up a makeshift tripod to balance your phone on while you interview. A stack of books can do the trick. Just make sure your phone is sitting at head height and that you aren’t having to look up or down at it. The best angle is dead on, or looking ever so slightly downwards.  

Whatever you do. Do not be tempted to hold your phone while you do your video. You might think you have a steady arm. You might be awesome at selfies. Perhaps you're a champion at FaceTime. I promise you, the result will not be professional and the shaking camera will detract from your message. 

2. Check your lighting 

As I said, the video interview software will usually guide you through this process, but it is a good idea to get this sorted before your interview, so that you have one less thing to stress about. Natural lighting is always best, so if you can position yourself in a room with a window and lots of sunlight, this is great, as long as it isn’t shining directly into your eye and impairing your vision! 

If you don’t have natural light, make sure the room you are in is lit well with an overhead light or lamp (cool globes are better than warm if you want to get really finicky), that provides enough light, without any awkward shadows. Test this in front of your camera, to see how you look, with different setups.

3. Test your phones microphone, or attach an external one 

If you are in a quiet area during your interview, which I do recommend, your phone’s microphone should be fine for picking up your voice, but it is worthwhile testing this to make sure it isn’t scratchy or faint. If there is unavoidable background noise, consider using an external microphone. I have this RODE lavaliere microphone that I use for my videos. But the headphones that came with your phone, or a discreet Bluetooth headset, will also be fine.  

Notice how I said discreet? Once again, you are trying to limit distractions, so that the focus is your message. This means you that your bright red Beats by Dr Dre headphones are not a good choice for this exercise. 

4. Look into the lens 

This is one of the hardest parts about video, because your eyes are naturally drawn to your own image. But I promise, looking into the lens will give you a much better result. It will also help you to stop getting distracted by what you look like on camera.  

Looking into the lens is the equivalent of making eye contact with your interviewer. Don’t believe me? Test it out. Record a couple of videos of yourself, one where you are looking at the lens, one where you are looking at yourself. The results are overwhelming. 

5. Practice 

Set up your phone on your makeshift tripod, open the curtains and hit the record button. You can record directly onto your phone using the camera feature and nobody can see your recording, but you. I’d suggest starting with topics you feel comfortable talking about, like your hobbies, your favourite band, book or television show and then work your way up to talking about yourself. As I mentioned earlier, too much practice can make you psych yourself out, but if you get started early and you have enough lead time, practice really does make perfect.

So, what about some tips for the actual interview?

Don’t worry, buddy. I have got you covered. Here are a few tips to help guide you when you are ready to film your video interview response: 

  • Send your family out for a coffee, turn off any loud appliances and set yourself up somewhere quiet. The less distractions you have, the better your final interview response will be – sound wise and focus wise.  
  • Turn off all notifications, applications and put your phone on do not disturb. You don’t want your Apple updates notification to pop up on your screen half way through your interview. Nor do you want to be receiving a call from a telemarketer mid response. 
  • Have a pen and paper handy. As I mentioned, you have a minute or two to think about the question before you answer. Jot down a couple of dot points to trigger your memory, in case you forget the question half way through your response, or feel like you’re going off on a tangent.  
  • Cut yourself some slack. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Like everything else, video interviewing is a new experience and nobody expects you to perfect. In fact, there’s no such thing as perfect! Remember this when you’re going into tyour interview.

Do you have a video interview scheduled and feel like you could do with a little extra help preparing? I do offer interview coaching packages and this includes preparation for video interviews. You can view my services here, or reach out to me through my contact page.  

Best of luck in your interview!


About the Author


Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.

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