Video interviews can be awkward, but get used to them

Six best practices to help you get through yours


Christy Phillips | November 28th, 2016

I was recently invited to talk to a group of students in a Masters Data Science program at a nearby university. Long story short, my mandate was to help prepare them to find jobs after graduation. There are worse positions to be in these days than having a Data Science degree, but many of these students have never interviewed for anything more than an internship so I covered everything from resumes through offer letters.

One area of particular interest was my time spent on video interviews. At WillowTree we started using video interviews near the end of 2014. In fact, it was video interview capability that swayed me to select our current applicant software, Jobvite. When you work at a quickly growing company and have a lean recruiting staff, video interviews are absolutely priceless. Many applicants complain about them and think they are used for nefarious purposes, but nothing could be further from the truth. Here are the facts: we get a lot of resumes; a real human looks at every single resume; and there are simply not enough hours in the day for us to talk to all of these people.

Video interviews allow us to do three things:

  • We can ask detailed, job-specific questions to assess a candidate’s fit for the position.
  • We can assess communication skills.
  • We can ask questions related to WillowTree’s core values to assess cultural fit.

As much as people do not like them, I’m here to tell you they are not going anywhere. In fact, more and more companies are using this technology and every article I read talks about usage increasing year over year. With the knowledge you may very well have to do a video interview in the future, let me offer a few best practices our team put together to help you get through yours.

Take your time and prepare

Most applicant software I have seen sends the applicant an email with a link to the practice interview and video interview. It also gives you a deadline to complete it. Take your time! Prepare for a day or two. If the deadline is too short, don’t be afraid to ask for an extension. We give them all the time.

The background is important

I mean, it’s not important to have a posh room in the background, but at least make sure there isn’t some offensive poster on the wall behind you. Close the door so the movie your roommate is watching in the living room doesn’t drown out your voice.

Dress for the company

Just as you would for an in-person interview, research the company and dress appropriately. Look clean and put together. If the company has a more formal dress code then dress that way for the video interview.

Be yourself and smile!

We know it is hard to talk to your camera, but just imagine a person is sitting on the other side of your laptop! Relax and smile. Let your friendliness and personality come through.

Don’t cheat! It’s obvious

We have seen it all and it is so easy to tell. Long pauses while the candidate frantically Googles the question; Whispers coming from someone out of sight of the camera; Reflections in glasses of what they have pulled up on their screen. We would rather have someone just say they don’t know the answer to the question. That we can deal with, but not cheating. Anyway, what’s the point? The interviews are only going to get harder.

Technology job? Don’t say you can’t do it

WillowTree is a technology company and pretty much everyone who works here needs to be adept with current technology. Please don’t tell me your camera is broken, or worse, that you don’t even have one. Instead, figure out a solution! Borrow a laptop from friend or family. Go to the library. Find a way to use a computer that has a camera.

We completely understand that every applicant would like to talk to a person, but as I said earlier—it is not possible. We also get that video interviews are awkward, so trust me when I say we do not judge you harshly. Just look presentable, take a deep breath, answer the questions as best you can and, most importantly, be yourself!