Video interviews: 6 fails and how to avoid them

Recorded video interviews have grown in popularity amongst employers in the last few years, especially for graduate and internship positions.

While company use is increasing, candidates are often nervous about completing them – so what can you do to give yourself the best chance of success?

Video interviews differ from two-way, live Skype interviews, as they use a pre-recorded set of questions which candidates are asked to complete alone at a time that suits them – normally within a window of a few days. The candidate will initiate the interview through a laptop (or other smart device) and answer a series of typical interview questions to a camera.

Candidates are asked a question and – after a short amount of time to pause and reflect – are given a specific length of time (1 or 2 minutes, sometimes longer) to answer the question out loud. Their response will be filmed and sent back to the employer to review.

Compared to traditional face to face interviews, video interviews are a relatively new way of assessing people in recruitment processes, and many candidates are wary of this. I have heard people describe them as impersonal and intimidating, resulting in candidates feeling they aren’t able to get their best selves to across.

Recruiters love them as they can be a cost effective way to assess a large volume of people, offer more consistency of questioning, and potentially reduce bias that using a wide pool of interviewers could have.

Love them or hate them, video interviews are here to stay.


Here are 6 of the most common mistakes candidates make, and how you can overcome them…
Mistake no. 1 = Failure to understand assessment criteria 

Companies are often transparent on the competencies or values being assessed at video interviews. Spend time reflecting on what they are, and what specific examples you could use that demonstrate them. Words such as ‘Collaboration’ and ‘Leadership’ can mean slightly different things to different companies, so make sure you understand the specific firm’s definition of what they are looking for.

Try brainstorming and annotating your CV with as many different achievements and stories as you can in order to give you a wide range of potential examples to use. Don’t script out full lengths answers, keep any prompts short to avoid rehearsed and robotic answers.


Mistake no. 2 = Assuming the questions will be the same as your friend’s interview 

Even though companies typically recruit against a standard set of competencies, companies are wise to candidates tipping their friends off about what questions they are asked. Companies may well have a range of different questions that they mix up and change up from interview to interview.

It’s useful to reflect on the typical questions you could get asked, but don’t ever assume you know exactly what will come up – you may get thrown off if new questions get asked.


Mistake no. 3 = Assuming other candidates are more confident than you 

Video interviews are one of the newest mainstream methods of assessment – and many candidates are still adjusting to the lack of two-way rapport they are able to build talking to a computer screen. Remember – all other candidates are in the same position as you, and many others will find this daunting as well.

You aren’t expected to perform exactly the same as you would in a ‘normal’ interview environment. The person watching your video back will have been trained specifically in how to assess video interview answers, and will understand the artificial context the interview takes place in.


Mistake no. 4 = Lack of familiarity with the process 

It’s worth repeating – recording your answers to an anonymous screen is not something many people are overly familiar or comfortable with. You must practice so you are more comfortable with the process. Some employers offer practice video interviews – if you get this opportunity, take it as many times as you can to become accustomed to the different way to interview.

If a practice interview is not given, ask the company if they have one you can use and if they don’t – use the power of Google to search for a generic practice tool. There are also some great YouTube videos with practice simulations. Just remember that each firm will have a slightly different way of doing things so the reality may differ from your practice.


Mistake no. 5 = Misjudging how long you have to answer the question 

Video interviews often stick to quite strict timescales for each question. Try and learn in advance exactly how long you have for each response before you start, and remember to adjust your response to the expected length of time. For example, you may not want to give 4 or 5 separate reasons to demonstrate your motivation for joining a company – especially if you only have 60 seconds to respond.

Don’t rush through your answer to try and squeeze more content in – the recruiter will be looking for detail and depth to what you say. Try and use all or most of the time you are given to respond, but avoid padding out your answer with fluff and buzzwords if you have said everything you have to say.


Mistake no. 6 = Forgetting about body language and delivery 

Even though you’re not in the same room as the person watching you, you need to think about body language. Sit up straight, use your hands naturally to support what you’re saying, and try and show energy and enthusiasm.

Be clear, concise, and practice out loud to ensure you are getting across your motivation and passion in a measured and natural way. You might want to record yourself on your phone and watch yourself back to reflect on how you come across. This can feel quite embarrassing to do, but is really helpful to increase your self awareness!

Want more help with interviews?

Motivational questions at interview: How to succeed without sucking up

Interviews, presentations, networking: How can we get better at things that most people dread?

“What should I ask at the end of an interview?”

Interviews: 5 common fails


Psst… Are you a student or graduate looking for a job? I run a career coaching programme in partnership with City Career Series specifically designed to help graduates develop the skills and awareness they need to get a graduate job they really want.

Email me for more information: 

London Cityscape

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