You apply to a job and get a response from the company. They like your resume and want to move forward. ::YESSSSS:: As you keep reading the email, your celebration is met with a flood of anxiety. There’s a link and a deadline. The next step? A VIDEO INTERVIEW. ::PANIC:: You’ve successfully cleared every hurdle up until this point, perhaps even a Skype interview, but this? This is uncharted territory. So many questions come to mind. What are they looking for? Are they judging me? Or worse, will they discriminate against me? Where am I going to do this? Can I use my phone? In my car? Is that unprofessional? What do I wear? Can I re-record my answers? What if I freeze?
Stop. Take a deep breath.
Yes, it will feel very different than Skype, but a pre-recorded video interview is nothing you can’t prepare for. As a former corporate recruiter who managed this process soup-to-nuts (and collected all the feedback), I can tell you that some of your concerns are probably worth a bit of extra thought… but not all of them. Understanding WHY hiring teams leverage this kind of tool, and WHAT it is they are actually looking for, can make all the difference in how you do (and how you feel) during this type of interview. Let’s tackle the WHY first, and then breakdown the WHAT. I also threw in some tips and tricks at the end, so you can comfortably and proactively perfect your technique.
“Why do companies use pre-recorded video interviews? Why not just call or Skype with me?”
In short? Because they can assess way more candidates in far less time. And that’s not just a good thing for them – it’s actually a GREAT thing for candidates. Let’s break it down.
Let’s say that you are the recruiter. You have 100 people apply to a job and, based on resumes alone, 30 of them have all the right experience. Scheduling 30 phone/Skype screens, at roughly 45 minutes a piece, is not feasible considering you have possibly dozens of other openings to manage – among other things. If you only have time to phone screen a few people PER OPENING, that means resumes are weighted a lot heavier when deciding who to filter through. (And I think we can all agree that the idea of one little piece of paper summing up our professional potential is horrifying, yes?) Certain candidates are cut simply because other people’s resumes were more compelling. By removing the time constraints and allowing for more people to be considered, it benefits everyone.
Additionally, candidates are sent links as they apply and pass the resume-sniff test, so the videos trickle in at various times, dispersing the workload. Recruiters are also able to review them anytime and anywhere. This is huge for those of us who traveled a lot. I could throw in some earbuds and review interviews right on my phone while sitting in a long cab ride or waiting for my flight. When I saw awesome candidates, I could share the video in one click to the entire hiring team and allow them to review the interview, leave feedback in the video’s comments section, and either progress or dismiss candidates ASAP. I loved this because it allowed me to KEEP THE PROCESS MOVING – one of the biggest pain points for candidates AND recruiters.
So now that you know WHY the platforms are used, let’s talk about WHAT you can expect and WHAT companies are looking for.
“WHAT should I expect with this kind of interview?”
Every platform is a little different, but the overall experience will feel a bit like video ping pong. The whole process starts when you receive the link/invitation from the recruiter. Click it when you’re ready to complete the interview, unless you’re told ahead of time that you can start it, save it, and come back. Most will require you to complete it in one sitting though. The platform is designed to be as user-friendly as possible, so just make sure you read the instructions you’re sent and pay attention during any introductory content they provide (typical) that explains the format. Remember, this isn’t a test. They don’t want you to bomb. You’re getting this link because they already like what they see, so most recruiters go out of their way to almost over-communicate the directions. In most cases, candidates are encouraged to use a device they are most comfortable with so any compatible smart phone, tablet, or laptop is fair game.
“What if I have a spotty internet connection?”
Upon launch, you’ll have the chance to test your internet connection, as well as your audio and video settings to ensure everything comes through clearly. If there’s not a strong internet connection, they will tell you the signal is weak and suggest you find a better one. They don’t want you to start it, and then get dropped half-way through. I had someone lose power once during a blizzard. I simply relaunched the link to them, and they had to complete the first few questions again. No big deal. Most recruiters are not going to hold Mother Nature against you. We get it.
“How are the interview questions going to be presented to me? Can I replay them?”
When the interview is officially beginning, the recruiter (or an avatar) will pop up on the screen and ask you the question. You’ll normally see the question typed out as well, and it will remain on the screen for you even while you’re answering it. And yes, you can usually replay the question at least once before you begin answering it. There are cases where a recruiter may (for one reason or another) not upload a video of themselves verbally asking the question to you, but instead the question is just typed for you to read. It’s less common, but sometimes they’re in a rush or have a reason for why they want it to be read instead of heard; e.g. if there is a bilingual proficiency/language requirement.
“How long will I have to think about, and record, my answer to each question?”
Depending on the complexity of the question, they may give you 30 seconds to think about it, with an additional 2 minutes to answer, or they may give you 2 minutes to think about it, and 30 seconds to answer. It’s up to them. Once your “thinking time” is up though, your camera icon will count down, “3…2...1…” before it turns on to record your response. You will be told on the screen how long you have to answer, and there is a timer to help you keep track. Note: For certain jobs or questions, they may actually require a written response instead of a video response. This is less common, but it’s a feature the recruiter can use on certain platforms; e.g. WEPOW.
“Can I review my recorded responses before submitting them?”
Sometimes, but not always. Some companies (and some platforms) don’t support this because it’s not “realistic.” I have seen a few companies/platforms that allow this, but it’s not common. If the company mentions which platform they use, you can Google it and see what is out there for inside-info on it. Again, some platforms don’t offer it as a feature at all– regardless of what the company wants.
“Doesn’t this kind of platform allow for more discrimination?”
Yes and no. Could someone discriminate against you during this step? Absolutely. But could they do the same in a Skype or a face-to-face interview as well? Of course. So while the issue of discrimination is absolutely a relevant one, this specific step doesn’t provide more or less risk than other types. In fact, it could actually protect against it considering there are multiple people weighing in on a candidate’s video. If one person has a bias, there is a good chance other people on the hiring team will call that out or counterbalance it.
“What is the hiring team actually looking for?”
In short? They want to feel like 1) you know your stuff and you can speak to what’s on your resume (which baited them enough to reach out in the first place), 2) you’re likable and will fit in with the overall company culture (do your homework), and 3) you can make an impact on the business. Keep your energy high, your personality present, and remember that multiple people connected to this role will view your video, so be sure to answer questions as if you were speaking to your future boss, not just a recruiter.
“What are they going to ask me?”
The same stuff they’d ask you in person! When I would build these interviews with our hiring teams, I would ask managers to provide me with 3-4 technical questions that they would normally ask in a first-round interview. In addition, I’d add some soft-skills questions on the front and back end of it, producing roughly a 30-minute interview experience for the candidate. Prepare for all types of questions though: behavioral, traditional / open-ended, situational, etc. It’s all fair game.
Okay! Now that you have a good understanding of what to expect, let’s talk about how you can prepare.
Talk to yourself….about yourself… in the mirror… and smile. I’m not kidding.
One of the things that becomes painfully obvious in a video interview is when a candidate has never practiced what they’re going to say, and the first time they are trying to string it all together, is in that video. They trail off. They go flat or monotone. They let the “ums” sink in. We get it! It’s different. But help us, help you. We’re trying to hire you here! And we understand that many people are used to conversational interviews where there is a HUMAN in front of them. They can read body language, laugh, smile, and there is a validating and responsive person facing them. In a video interview, you don’t have that. You are looking at YOU (or a blank screen), so practice talking to yourself in the car and in the mirror. Concentrate on what you’re thinking and what you’re saying – not what you’re seeing. Keep your energy high, find points to smile, and try your hardest to talk to that screen the same way you would another person.
Practice with Marco Polo.
I think there are probably a few of these video messaging apps out there now, but the one I’ve seen work the best is Marco Polo (and it’s free). Have a friend download the app with you and ask them to pepper you with seemingly relevant interview questions. Not only does this allow you to practice timing your responses while on video, but you can also review your responses back, see how long winded or choppy you sound, and get honest feedback from someone you trust. You can also test the lighting and backdrop of the space you’re thinking about taking your interview in.
Dress the part (at least from the waist up)!
I can’t even tell you how many people shoot themselves in the foot with this. You are ON CAMERA! They can SEE YOU! If you would wear a buttoned-down shirt with a tie for an in-person interview, don’t wear a hoodie in the video. This is still your first impression and your future boss is watching. Dress for the culture, and when in doubt, kick it up a notch. No one has ever lost points for dressing up, but many people have lost out completely for dressing down.