You may think that preparing for a video interview is identical to preparing for any other interview. But that’s not entirely true. Yes, how you should conduct yourself and the questions you’ll be asked are the same, but there are other things to worry about.
In video interviews, it’s difficult to show enthusiasm, the conversation feels scripted, not everyone feels comfortable on camera, and there’s a chance technology will let you down.
In this guide, we cover everything you need to succeed in both types of virtual interviews (live and pre-recorded).
- 20+ easy tips on video interviews you can implement right away
- A step-by-step guide on what to do when technology goes haywire
- Sample answers to the most common virtual interview questions
General Video Interview Tips
Let’s cover the ground rules for video interviewing first. Those apply to all kinds of online interviews — one-one-one interviews, group calls, and pre-recorded “interviews.”
Ensure proper technical setup
Test the equipment and software in advance
Take the time to check if your microphone and camera work properly (video conferencing software like Zoom, Google Meet, or Teams have the option to run a quick test). Also, make sure you know what tool will be used for the interview and install it beforehand.
Ensure a strong internet connection
A stable, reliable, high-speed internet connection is a must in video interviewing. Otherwise, there may be lags and interruptions — and studies have shown that connectivity problems might bias the interviewers against the candidate.
Choose a quiet, clutter-free background
When testing your camera, check what’s behind you in your video interview. Use common sense here — your interviewer doesn’t want to see your messy bed, towels hanging around, or someone walking in the background.
Pay attention to the light and avoid sitting in front of windows, as there might be a glare or your face might be in a shadow.
Some good background options:
- A blank wall
- A tidy bookshelf
- A picture that’s not too distracting
- A natural setting (like your backyard)
If you can’t find somewhere like this, video software comes with background options — you can blur your background or use their custom backgrounds. But be careful here. Colorful, dynamic backgrounds may look fun, but they’re both distracting and unprofessional. Only use one of these options if you really can’t find a real neutral background.
Manage all potential distractions
There are many things that can distract both you and your interviewer, so here’s a short checklist to follow:
Keep your housemates, children and pets away
You don’t want a cat jumping on the back of your chair, your mom entering the room, or your toddler screaming. Yes, we’re all human and we all have lives, but these distractions tend to diminish your credibility (even if your interviewer happens to be a crazy cat person).
Turn off the ringer on your phone. Shut down any other programs on your computer, especially any programs that might unexpectedly make noises or launch pop-ups to distract you during the interview. If you can, it’s best to turn on the “do not disturb” option on your computer. And if something happens, apologize, address it very briefly, and move on.
Choose a private and quiet location for the interview
Make sure it’s a room or area where you won’t be interrupted or disturbed. Don’t do your Zoom interview from coffee shops and public places. If you do end up in a loud area, you can use a noise canceler (krisp is my fav) but this should be your last resort.
Pro Tip: If, for any reason, you’ll want to share your screen during the interview, make sure you present a single window (or a single tab, if you’re in your browser), rather than the entire screen. You really don’t want random embarrassing notifications to pop up!
Dress for your Zoom interview just as you would for an in-person interview.
A black or dark-colored blazer or suit jacket over a crisp shirt is usually a great choice. For some jobs, and depending on how you identify, you may want to go with a full suit-and-tie look.
If you’re applying for a position at a laid-back startup, a plain shirt or T-shirt would also do.
Either way, avoid skimpy clothes, excessive jewelry, and anything that could distract the employer from you. Avoid strong makeup and go for natural, neutral tones.
If you’re not sure what to wear, check out the employer’s About page or social media accounts to get a general idea of how casual or professional their dress code is.
Extra tip on what to wear in a virtual interview: There are some patterns that don’t display well on camera — plaid and stripes will look like the lines are moving, and black may make your face look pale and washed out. Many softer, solid colors work great. A dark, deep blue is one of the best options.
Be mindful of your body language and maintain eye contact
Body language is an essential part of communication, even in virtual interviewing — you should have a positive attitude and smile, control fidgeting or any nervous energy, and calm your interview anxiety. There are two things candidates struggle with in virtual interviews:
Maintain proper posture
A good posture is important because it conveys professionalism, engagement, and confidence. Instead of slouching in your chair, sit up straight and relax your shoulders. Center yourself so that you’re positioned in the middle of the camera frame.
Look directly at the camera for optimal eye contact
During the interview, don’t look at the interviewer’s face when speaking. Instead, look at the camera because this creates the impression of direct eye contact. (This may be strange and unnatural at first, so make sure you practice beforehand.)
Prepare and practice
Just like with regular, face-to-face interviews, you can’t expect to have a successful video interview without preparation. Here are some steps to take:
Research the company
The interviewers will expect you to know about the company. Doing your homework shows you’re genuinely interested in the company and the position and makes you come across as a more informed and competitive candidate. Plus, researching the company will help you come up with meaningful and relevant questions to ask after the interview.
Review your resume and relevant job info
Before the interview, go over your resume and cross-reference it with specific requirements from the job description. Think about your key accomplishments and strengths to discuss in the interview.
Practice common questions
Finally, practice answering common interview questions. It’s best if you can record yourself on camera so that you can review your answers and evaluate your answers, body language, and confidence on camera.
You can also check out interview preparation tools like Big Interview, where you can practice answering hundreds of questions on video (+ get tailored courses based on your role, seniority, industry, and career situation) and then get AI feedback.
Tips for Live Video Interviews
In live video interviews, you meet with the interviewers in real time over a video link.
This type of video interviews are the closest thing to actual in-person interviews where you get to meet and talk to the interviewer, and are also the most popular kind of video interview.
What makes these interviews unique is video technology. In most cases, your interview will be held on Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams, and you’ll also need video hardware, including a camera and microphone.
While most PCs and Macs today have built-in mics and cameras, it’s easy for these to malfunction because of settings or compatibility. It’s a good idea to double-check if everything works and get an external camera and a headset with a microphone to avoid any last-minute issues.
When it comes to the software, things are pretty straightforward since, in most cases, the interviewer will either send you a link or call your user-id or screen name.
Alternatively, the company could use a system that does live interviews but also acts as an internal candidate tracking and screening tool.
However, although these tech tools make virtual interviews easier, there are still some challenges to consider and overcome before jumping on a call with your prospective employer.
A few hot tips to keep you ahead of the competition:
Being punctual is a critical factor in any interview, but with online interviews, “eleven o’clock sharp” means logging in a couple of minutes earlier to make sure you start on time. You want to be the first one on the link — even if that means a few minutes of awkward waiting-room time.
Give yourself some time to check the connection and identify potential technical issues before the interviewer shows up. This will allow you to address any problems immediately and resolve them quickly.
Engage with the interviewer
Most candidates prefer to be interviewed in person because of helpful non-verbal cues. Although video interviews provide more non-verbal context than phone interviews, it’s still difficult to be charming and show personality when on camera. This means you need to double-down on trying to make the conversation natural.
Here are some clever and subtle tactics to use in online interviewing to build rapport with the interviewer more easily.
Show interest in the position and company
Research the company while preparing for the interview and use this knowledge to ask relevant questions. This will show your enthusiasm about the position and showcase you’re thorough and detail-oriented while also switching up the interview from a grilling session into a lively chat.
Listen actively and respond thoughtfully
Establish a personal connection in a virtual setting however hard that seems. Active listening is the key here. Before blurting out an answer, take a second to gather your thoughts and get your point across clearly.
Don’t just say something you prepared beforehand that feels somewhat relevant. Instead, answer the actual question. Remember, exceptional communication skills are key for pretty much any job.
Show some personality
Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through.
Such an approach will help you stand out from other candidates. You can use appropriate humor, anecdotes, or personal insights to make your answers more memorable and authentic.
Just how important is it?
You can personalize the conversation by briefly sharing relevant experiences or interests that align with the company’s values or the job’s requirements. However, be cautious not to overdo it or divert the focus from the interview’s main purpose.
Handle technical difficulties gracefully
Technical difficulties are common in online interviewing. There could be problems with your audio, video, or internet connection affecting the quality or continuity of the interview. If this happens:
Stay calm and have a backup plan
It’s natural to feel a rush of panic if something goes wrong, but staying cool and composed will help you project a sense of control — an indicator that you won’t fall apart under pressure. Plus, such a professional attitude will also allow you to put your problem-solving skills to work and fix things ASAP.
Have a backup plan in case you can’t resolve the issue quickly.
For example, you can switch devices, use a different browser, switch to your phone’s hotspot, or contact the interviewer via phone. Just confirm this works with the interviewer before making the switch.
For any of this to work, make sure to test your backup plan beforehand and have the interviewer’s contact information ready.
Notify the interviewer if issues arise
And do that right away.
So, if you run into a tech hiccup during the interview, don’t just brush it off or act like it’s not there. Give the interviewer a heads-up and apologize for the glitch. Talk them through what’s going wrong and what you’re doing to sort it out. Ask them if they can hear and see you clearly, and if they missed anything you said.
Remember, they can’t know what’s happening on your end unless you tell them.
(There’s a full section on how to prevent tech mayhem and what to do if it happens a bit later.)
Specific Tips for Pre-recorded Video Interviews
Pre-recorded video interviews are virtual interviews where you get a set of interview questions (recorded beforehand) and then you record your answers through video and send them back to the company. This usually happens through a special link you get from the recruiter.
The process is simple:
- You get a link with questions you need to answer
- You have a deadline to submit your answers
- You get 1 or 2 tries for each answer (this will be specified in the rules)
- Once you’re done, you submit your application
Manage your time wisely
The interviewer (or the software itself) may put a time limit on your answers. Before you start recording, be aware of the time allotted for each question. To pack your answer into that slot, you’ll need to practice in advance and make sure your answers are concise, but filled with value.
Even if the time is not limited, a general rule is that your answer should never be longer than 2 minutes.
Record multiple takes (if allowed)
You may be allowed only one attempt before having to submit your recorded answer, or they could give you a couple of takes. In the first scenario, you can’t mess up, so be extra careful and prepare your answer well before hitting the record button.
Pro tip: If you can re-record yourself several times, do it. Don’t just submit the first answer because looking at yourself on video is cringeworthy.
Instead, review each recording to identify areas for improvement, and then choose the best take for submission.
Treat it like a live interview
Although you can’t really build rapport with the hiring team in pre-recorded interviews, do your best to act as you would in a live interview.
In fact, this type of virtual interviews is similar to other pre-recorded self-presentation contexts like YouTube videos.
Think of your favorite video influencer and try to act as natural as they would. Think about how they use non-verbal cues like smiling and body language to present themselves in the best way.
Stay professional and engaged throughout the recording, and make sure to look at the camera (for eye contact) and use effective body language.
Don’t record it over several days wearing different clothes and being in different moods. Allocate the time to complete the interview in one sitting, and act like the interviewer was sitting across from you.
Troubleshooting Your Video Interview
Because technology is unpredictable, it’s smart to do a complete run-through of all the tech stuff at least an hour ahead of your video interview.
Test all of your equipment in advance to make sure that the webcam and audio settings work well. Ask a friend to do a trial run with you to test the equipment and get some feedback on your wardrobe and backdrop.
However, no matter how many times you test your equipment, technology can let you down. If, for any reason, you suspect your connection might not be ideal, have this contingency plan in place.
Communicate with the interviewer
The interviewer might be completely unaware of any technical difficulties you might be facing, so the moment you notice you can’t hear or see them, let them know. Use the chat feature available in virtually all of the common video call software. This will save you from playing the broken telephone game and disrupting the conversation flow.
In case the problem persists and all your Plan B solutions fall through, offer to reschedule the interview.
Have a backup plan
The first line of defense against malfunctioning tech is to familiarize yourself with alternative video platforms.
For example, if you’re using Teams for your interview, you can also have Skype, Zoom, or Google Meet installed on your device and ready to use. You can also ask the interviewer in advance what other video platforms they prefer or have access to and test them before the interview.
This way, you can quickly switch to another platform if necessary without wasting too much time or causing frustration.
Another backup plan is to have a secondary device, such as a tablet or smartphone, ready for the interview. This way, you won’t have to worry about your main device running out of battery or crashing during the interview.
Restart and reconnect
Sometimes, solving technical difficulties doesn’t require being tech-savvy. A good, old “turn it off and on again” will do the trick.
- First, try closing and reopening your video interviewing software. This can refresh your connection and fix some minor glitches. Or you can try leaving and rejoining the meeting, or even log out and log back into the software. Just make sure you let the interviewer know and apologize for the disruption.
- If that doesn’t work, you might need to restart your device to clear any cache or memory issues that might be messing with your device’s performance. Again, keep the interviewer in the loop and ask for a bit of their patience.
- If your device seems fine, but your internet connection is acting up, then you should check your router or modem and give it a quick reset. In case that doesn’t help, consider switching to a different network, like a mobile hotspot or public Wi-Fi. That’s why it’s always good to have a backup network on standby if your main one takes a nosedive.
Use your phone as a last resort
Every once in a while, despite your best efforts and backup plans, you may still face technical difficulties that prevent you from having a smooth and successful live video job interview. In that case, you may need to use your phone as a last resort.
Both Zoom and Google Meet have the option to join a meeting via phone. You can use the Google Meet phone app and use your data plan if the wi-fi is unstable.
Alternatively, you can join on a phone call — there will be a phone number and a meeting code provided in the invitation.
If this doesn’t work, you should have the interviewer’s phone number available, or give them your phone number beforehand. This can help you avoid wasting time and energy trying to find or share contact information during the interview.
You can also ask the interviewer in advance if they are comfortable with switching to a phone interview if necessary. Be prepared to switch to a phone interview if they say yes, so charge your device before the interview and test the software to avoid a double-whammy situation.
Sample Video Job Interview Questions and Answers
The questions you’ll get in a virtual interview are likely to be identical to standard questions asked at face-to-face job interviews. We have dedicated guides on all of these, with sample answers and tips on how to structure each answer.
- Common interview questions and answers
- Tell me about yourself
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Why do you want to work for our company?
- How do you handle conflict or challenging situations?
- Can you provide an example of a time you demonstrated leadership?
- Questions to ask at the end of an interview
Want to learn about how to answer typical questions for specific jobs? Check these out:
- Sales Interview Questions and Answers
- Customer Service Interview Questions and Answers
- Customer Service Manager Interview Questions and Answers
To give you a short TL;DR:
- Your preparation flow for virtual interviews should be similar to an in-person interview, but put in extra effort in feeling confident on camera and preventing technical glitches.
- There are two types of video interviews: live and pre-recorded. The first one is a real-time call between you and the interviewers, and the second is when you get questions recorded in advance and are given a limited time to answer them on camera.
- To have a successful virtual interview, you need to ensure your internet connection is reliable and fast, and do it from a quiet, appropriate place.
- If something goes wrong with your equipment or connection, always have a backup plan and communicate with the interviewer.
- Use common sense when in video interviews — dress appropriately, be there on time, don’t smoke or vape, don’t wear excessive makeup or jewelry, and make sure your body language shows confidence and authority. Don’t be afraid to be natural and show some personality.
What is usually asked during a video interview?
Video interview questions will be the same as in any other interview. The questions may be phrased in different ways, but it comes down to introducing yourself, explaining why you’re the best candidate for the job, providing information on your skills and past experience, as well as speaking about your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t forget to share your past accomplishments.
What should I bring to a video interview?
You won’t need to “bring” anything to a virtual interview, but there are some things you should have near you for best results. Keep your resume, the job description, and notes nearby for quick reference. You should also triple check your equipment to avoid tech mishaps. A bottle of water will also come in handy.
What not to do during a video interview?
Some virtual interview mistakes to avoid include: being late, not making eye contact, not testing technology, using an unprofessional background, insufficient lighting, looking at your phone, and interrupting the interviewer.
How do you stand out in a video interview?
To stand out in a video interview, you need to make the connection with the interviewer. You can do this by making small talk and not interrupting the interviewer. Make sure to nod from time to time to show you’re actively following what they’re saying. Finally, show you’re enthusiastic about the position and follow up with a thank-you email.
How do I prepare for a video interview?
To prepare for a virtual interview, it’s important to research the company, review the job description, and go over the regular list of commonly asked interview questions for your role, seniority, and industry. Dress professionally, make sure your webcam and microphone are working properly, choose a suitable location for the interview and minimize distractions.
How should I introduce myself at a virtual interview?
When asked to introduce yourself in a video interview, do it like you would in a face-to-face interview. Start with your name and job title, then give a brief overview of your work history, showcase your key skills, and explain why you’re excited about this opportunity. Focus on your professional life and keep your answer short.
How do you end a video interview?
When the interviewer says it’s all from them and asks you if you have any questions — by all means, ask questions! Once those are answered, it’s important to end the interview professionally and on a positive note. Always thank the interviewer for their time and reaffirm your interest in the position. Don’t leave the call too abruptly, but wait for the interviewer to wrap things up. It’s always a good idea to follow up with a thank-you email.
Can I read from my notes during a video interview?
You can have notes nearby and glance at them occasionally, but be careful not to spend too much time looking at them. This is the equivalent of sitting in an in-person interview and staring down at the table instead of looking at the person you’re speaking with. Reading directly from your notes will make you sound unprepared and disconnected from the interviewer.