Interviewing Guide – Video Interviews

Video interviewing, either live via a tool like Skype or FaceTime or in the form of pre-recorded questions from the company which require you to record your answers on a company-run system, is becoming increasingly popular with employers.

Each scenario presents different challenges compared to an in-person interview, but always remember that these are still interviews. You should prepare for them as you would any other interview without taking any shortcuts. This includes all the pre-interview research and preparation, practicing your responses, as well as your attire. Even if you are sitting at a desk in your dorm room, dress as you would for an in-person interview at the company office.

A live video interview eliminates some of the challenges we saw in the phone interview. First, you and your interviewer can see each other, so it becomes easier to communicate and understand non-verbal cues during the conversation. You can see if your interviewer is bored, or trying to interrupt you to clarify a question or move the discussion along. You can see if they are excited and really engaged with your answer. On the downside, you still aren’t in the same room so the whole interaction can be a little unnatural.

A pre-recorded video interview will present you with a recorded question, give you a few moments to consider an answer, and then a few minutes to record your response. You typically only get one chance to answer (you can’t erase a bad answer and try again). While this is a very artificial setting, try to relax and answer as you would if someone was right in front of you. Most employers are not interested in hearing a speed review of all your accomplishments. Answer the question they ask, provide some detail, but keep it conversational. QU students and alumni have access to our video mock interview tool in QUCC that simulates this exact scenario. You can select the type of position or industry you are seeking and get some typical questions to practice with and see how you do. You can use this tool on your own, or you can send the results to someone you trust, including the career center or your advisor, for an additional review. Reviewers do not need access to QUCC to view the video file.

In either scenario, there are some specific differences from in-person interviewing which require some adjustments to your preparation.

For any form of video interview, you want to do your best to make your end look as natural as possible and make it easy for the person talking with you to focus on you. First, let’s consider setup and practice.


  • Eliminate distractions. Test your setup in advance and practice a call with a friend using the same location and time of day as the actual interview, if possible. What does the background look like? Remove any clutter or questionable content (if the space you are using is your bedroom, you might want to take down posters and make sure your bed is made, for example). Your ideal background is a plain wall with no decorations. You want them focused on you, not the stuff behind you. Experiment with how you look from different distances. Sitting or standing a few feet in either direction can change the entire look. Ideally, the viewer will see just your head and shoulders on their screen.


  • Check the lighting. To look good on camera, you want the light in front of you and slightly above eye level. If the light comes from directly above, it can cause dark shadows around your eyes and under your nose which can be unflattering and distracting. If the light comes from behind, you become harder to see, or worse—a complete silhouette. Natural light is best. If the room has a window, sit facing the window. If that light is too strong, or is causing you to squint, use a lamp instead. You don’t want the light to look unnatural, so if it is too strong move it further away. The intensity of the light will drop to a quarter of its original strength if you double the distance between you and the light.


  • Check the camera angle. When you are talking to your friends on FaceTime or Skype, you probably don’t care as much if the angle is weird and you are looking down or up at them. For a professional interview, however, this can be distracting. Practice in advance to make sure you can setup the camera to be eye level to you so the person viewing you will have a comparable experience to an in person conversation. This might make it more awkward for you, but you can practice and adjust. If you are using your phone, get a stand or prop it up securely so it won’t move around or shake during the call. You may need to raise your device up on some books to get it to the right height.


  • Perfect your set-up to your advantage. One advantage of phone interviews is that you can have materials in front of you, like a copy of your resume, notes, questions to ask, etc. For a video interview, you can do this as well you just have to place it strategically. Can you secure an item just to the left or right of the camera? This would allow you to take a quick glance without obviously looking down at your desk.


  • Talk to the camera. This is true with both live and pre-recorded video interviews. When we see a face on the screen, we instinctively react like it is a live conversation and want to look at the face as we respond, but the viewer on the other end sees you looking away. Practice answering while looking at the camera. If it is challenging for you to do this, one tip might be helpful. Print out a picture of the person you will be interviewing with (or someone you know if you can’t find a picture of your actual interviewer on LinkedIn) and cut out a hole right between their eyes. Make sure the hole is big enough that you don’t obscure any of your camera’s view. Tape it to your computer screen so now when you look the “person” in the eyes as you would in a normal conversation, you are looking directly into the camera.


  • Check the audio. Ideally, you are in a quiet, private place with no distractions and your computer will provide clear audio in both directions. When you do your test call, ask your partner how you sound and make sure you can hear them. If there is any question about the audio, consider using a headset. It doesn’t look as good, but the loss from a visual presentation standpoint is far better than an interview where you can’t hear them and they can’t hear you. Even if your setup works fine when you test it, you never know if the interviewer will have problem on their end. Keep a headset nearby in case you need it midway through an interview.


During the interview, remember this is not the same as being in the room with someone, even if you can see them. Especially for pre-recorded interviews where you are not talking “live” it can be awkward to be alone in a room talking to a screen. Think about presentation.

  • Smile! They can see you! Even if it isn’t “live”, this helps you engage the viewer and appear interested and excited in the opportunity.


  • Watch your body language. Without someone in the room with you it is easy to fall in the trap of feeling like you are alone. However, fidgety hands, not making “eye contact” with the camera, not sitting up straight, will all show up and perhaps even be more noticeable.


  • Watch your diction. The audio connection may not always be great even if it sounds clear to you. There may also be a lag or echo in the audio feed. When listening to a question, wait a second after the interviewer has finished before you start your answer. Try to speak a little more slowly than normal and enunciate your words.


  • Keep it brief. Most employers are using video interviews for brief “screening” interviews. While it might feel “in person” since you are seeing them, they will still typically be shorter than an in-person interview. Answer the question they ask, and provide details and examples to support your answers, but keep it short. On phone or video, answers longer than 30 seconds run the risk of losing the attention of your interviewer. In a “live” video interview, the interviewer always has the option of asking a follow-up question if they want more information. In a pre-recorded scenario, the goal is to convince them you are worth meeting in-person so a complete, but brief, answer should answer their question but leave them interested in learning more. Pre-recorded interviews will typically give you more than 30 seconds to answer. As long as you answer the question with some detail you shouldn’t feel the need to use the entire time allotted.


  • It’s not over until it is over. When the interview has concluded, double check that the session is over, closing all windows/programs you used (completely shutting down apps, closing your laptop) to be sure you are no longer connected to the employer. Nothing will ruin a good interview more quickly than an employer accidentally hearing or seeing things you don’t want them to see or hear over a connection you thought was closed.