Top tips for video interviews

Posted in: Advice, Applications, Interviews, Tips & Hints

In a recent Institute of Student Employers survey (2017), 49% of employer respondents said that they now use pre-recorded video interviewing during recruitment processes. Unilever, EY, John Lewis, CERN, and Goldman Sachs are all big-name users of video interviewing.

Video interviews are normally used in the early stages of a recruitment process, so there's a good chance that you’ll also have to complete a live interview at some stage.

How does video interviewing work?

Interviewees usually receive an email inviting them to access a third party video interviewing system (for example Sonru, Vidcruiter or HireVue).  Interviewees must then complete their interview within a given deadline.

The interview will consist of a number of pre-recorded questions (normally 5-10), each of which must be answered within a given timeframe after a short period of preparation.  A timer shows how much time the interviewee has left to both prepare and answer the question.  Typically, preparation time is around 30 seconds for each question, and answer time tends to be somewhere between 1 minute 30 seconds and 3 minutes (but this will depend on the employer).

Take a look at a screenshot of a HireVue video interview (which shows the face of the person being interviewed).  Sometimes, the system moves on automatically from question to question. But some systems do allow you to review and re-record your answers.

What’s great about video interviewing?

As long as the interview is completed within the deadline given, interviewees can complete the interview anytime, and anywhere (within reason – see tips below!). So you can complete the interview somewhere you feel comfortable, at a time when you can be at your best.  You can also be sure that you’re getting exactly the same interview experience as every other interviewee.

….and the downsides?

Many people find talking to a device - with no-one at the other end to respond - frankly very strange. It’s difficult to know how your answers are going down when you can’t see the expression on a face, as you would do in a normal interview.  Also, your responses are timed, and this can be really challenging!

TOP TIPS for successful video interviews:

Familiarise yourself with the system.

Is there a user guide, or set of instructions? If so, read it! This will tell you things like whether you can re-record your answers, which could be critical to your success.  Guides and introductory information often give you basic information on the role you're interviewing for, or other useful information about the employer.

Most interviewing systems have a bank of practice questions for you to work through before completing the actual interview, whenever is convenient to you. Doing this will help you to get a feel for where things are on the screen, and how the timer works.

Practice timing answers to common questions.

See our Interviews and Assessment Centres guide for the types of questions you might get asked. Glassdoor is another useful resource, as is the Employer Hubs section on

InterviewStream is available to all undergraduates at the University of Bath.  It’s a great resource which has banks of interview questions to practice in a timed video interview format.

Don’t forget the STAR technique for any answer that involves telling a story (e.g. for a question beginning “Give us an example of a time when…”). This will help to ensure you say everything you need to say in a structured, succinct way.

Practice making eye contact

“Eye contact? But this isn’t a live interview!” I hear you all shout. Yes…but remember that a recruiter will be watching your interview at some point.  You still need to show your enthusiasm for the role, and making eye contact is a key way to do this.

To make eye contact with a recruiter, you need to look into your device’s camera. Practice doing this the next time you use Skype or Facetime, or when using InterviewStream.  Try not to watch the popup that shows your face, or the timer!  However, there’s no need to mercilessly stare into the camera.  It’s fine to look away occasionally (for example, to glance at your notes).

It’s not just WHAT you say.....

Don’t forget to:

  • Look the part! Dress in the same way you would for a face to face interview. You still need to look appropriate and professional. Don’t be tempted to be smart on top and casual on your bottom half, because what happens if you have to get up from your seat at any point during the interview?
  • Use a positive, warm and “smiley” tone of voice and good body language (no crossed arms, no fidgeting).

Choose the best location

Watch this fantastic short video on how to choose the right location for your video interview, taking into account the lighting, background, sound, and the angle and height of your device. This will help you to look as professional as possible.

Using notes well

It’s perfectly acceptable to use notes during a video interview. However, you should never read out answers verbatim as recruiters do want you to respond as naturally as possible, and they want you to make eye contact. So you should aim to look into the camera when giving your answers.

Ensure any notes are simple, brief and legible, and focus on the most important points you need to make. You could consider using post-it notes and positioning them near the camera, but do this sparingly so that they don’t become off-putting.

Check your tech!

Before you start, have you checked that:

  • The technology you need is fully charged?
  • Your webcam and microphone are switched on?
  • Your internet access is stable?

Do not disturb!

And finally…employers find interruptions and distractions during video interviews very annoying!  Give ample warnings to friends or family about when and where you want to do your video interview, so that they don’t take a starring role. It’s also a good idea to close down any other programmes on your device, and make sure you've turned off notifications.

Further resources:

Technology in recruitment (including in video interviewing)



Posted in: Advice, Applications, Interviews, Tips & Hints


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