How to prepare for a recorded video interview

Preparing for a video interview goes beyond what most people think. Let's take a look at some key issues that need to be addressed before you go online.

How to prepare for a recorded video interview

Introduction

Recorded video interviews are quickly becoming the norm when assessing people for jobs and university programs whether that is through Kira, HireVue, or another platform. COVID-19 has only accelerated this trend so it is worthwhile learning how to get ready for a video interview in a way that you look great and minimize things that might distract or irritate your interviewer.

In this article we take a look at how you can either spend a lot of money getting ready for the interview or just hack something together with what you have laying around at home!

Camera angle

Your camera should be level with your face when interviewing on video.  You don't want the camera too high or too low - its not like the interviewer is interested in getting a great look at your chin and neck!

Expensive solution: Adjustable tables for laptops or even standing desks are all the rage today since people are mostly working from home and need to improve ergonomics.  But the mechanisms on those tables or stands that adjust your computer will also adjust the height of the camera.

Free solution: Books, catalogs, boxes - you name it!  Anything that is flat and relatively solid that will hold you laptop or camera up is more than enough.  Just stack them up until the camera is slightly below your eye level when you are sitting comfortably and you are good to go!  

Laptop on top of a pile of books, bringing the camera to eye level.
Use books as a quick and easy way to raise your camera to eye level.

Lighting

This is an extraordinarily important issue that, sadly, most people don't address properly.  The whole point of the video interview is to facilitate a better connection between you and the interviewer.  If your face is dimly lit, how will the interviewer be able to see your face and body language?  

Expensive solution: With the increasing popularity of streaming, there are several specialized lighting options available for video calls - from LED panels to ring lights and beyond.  For a truly professional set up, you'll need three separate lights to be able to set up a three point lighting arrangement - though you'll probably have to spend hundreds of dollars to achieve that.

Free solution: If you have a desk lamp or two - you are set!  What most people don't realize is that what matters most is not the type of lighting you use but how you position those lamps.  Place them behind your camera pointing at you.  If the light is particularly intense, angle the light away from you so it bounces off something before reflecting onto your face.  

Put a lamp behind your laptop to light your face, and stand out from the background.

Background

Interviewers are humans, and they will make snap judgements on you based on what is behind you.  Despite working from home (and maybe even from your bedroom or kitchen!) being widely accepted, your background can be distracting to the interviewer, therefore it is worthwhile putting some thought into it.

Expensive solution: A solution that would solve this problem is to buy a photography grade backdrop and stands to prop that up.  This would provide a studio look to your background but comes at a steep price and takes up a lot of room.    

Free solution: Just tidy up your background!  Admissions and hiring staff we've talked to have uniformly told us that going on an interview from home is perfectly acceptable - especially given COVID-19.  The caveat is that they expect it to be organized.  If you don't want to give a stranger a view of your room, move so that the camera is pointing at a bare wall.

An unmade bed next to a made bed.
As long as your background is reasonably tidy - you'll be fine.

Eye contact

Eye contact is absolutely key in face to face interviews and it is as important in a video interview.  However, many people forget that your camera and your screen are in different locations - so while you look at your screen, you are no longer making eye contact with the interviewer.  You don't need to look at the camera during the entire interview, but make sure to do so when mentioning something particularly important.

Expensive solution: There really isn't a fancy solution to this problem!  Take a look at the solution below that solves the eye contact issue.

Free solution: If you don't know where the camera on your computer is located, the first step is to find out where is the camera lens.  That can be easily accomplished by opening the camera app and running your fingers around the edge of your laptop's screen until you can see your fingers.  After that, one of the most effective hacks we've seen is to simply stick an arrow pointing to the camera - or if you want to be less dramatic - eyes!

Audio quality - quiet, no echos, mic

Last but not least, audio quality.  If everything I've listed above is set up properly, but your audio quality is sub-par, the person interviewing you will still have a hard time engaging with your responses.  This is probably the easiest item on the list that you can fix, but most people overlook it.

Expensive solution: Dedicated external microphones will make you sound far better - sometimes even better than in real life!  Spending around $150 on a dedicated, external microphone from a well known brand will guarantee that you will sound great on calls for many years and therefore might we worth the investment.  

Free or inexpensive solution: The first step is to make sure everyone in the place you are recording is quiet!  Even low quality microphones can pic up the sounds of someone in the kitchen washing the dishes, or listening to music in the adjacent room.  The second step is buying a cheap microphone, a $15 or $20 lapel microphone will improve how you sound dramatically versus your camera's or laptop's integrated microphone.  Like I mention with the expensive solution above, that microphone can be used and re-used over many years, so it is definitively worth the investment.

Avoid distracting your interviewer by being in a quiet environment.
We know it is tough, but try and get those around you to be quiet when you're on a video interview.

Conclusion

Your surroundings and the way you come across are as important as the content of your answers on a video interview.  Make sure to be aware of the different ways an interviewer may be assessing you and think of ways to present yourself in a manner that increases engagement with the interviewer as much as possible.

Voomer is an AI-powered interview platform built by AI researchers from the MIT Media lab that allows you to prep for your interview on your own time, as many times as you like.

Check out Voomer and start prepping for free today!