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3 Tips for Surviving a One-Way Video interview

3 Tips for Surviving a One-Way Video Interview
by Kaitlin McManus | March 22, 2019
My Vault
Burgeoning bankers beware—recruiting techniques continue to shift towards the electronic.
Financial services giant JPMorgan announced that it will be drastically cutting down its
presence at college career fairs and will be moving the entry phase of its recruitment process
to a one-way video interview (i.e., pre-recorded, not with a person on the other side)
accompanied by games meant to reveal behavioral patterns. I can’t speak to the efficacy that
games would have in predicting behavior attributes, although I admit to being skeptical.
What I can speak to, however, are one-way video interviews.
In short: They’re awful. Companies really like them because, instead of spending 30 minutes
on the phone with every potential candidate, the candidates submit their pre-recorded
interviews on a rolling basis to be watching at the hiring managers’ convenience. The format
they take for the candidate, however, is an anxiety-inducing nightmare. There is no person on
the other end of the line on a one-way video interview—I know, right? So it’s less like an
interview and more like a virtual, visual questionnaire. You’re given a question, given a set
time to think about the question (approximately 30 to 60 seconds), and then your camera
turns on and you answer. Within a strict time limit (approximately one minute). Oftentimes,
with only one take. I’ll reiterate: One-way video interviews are awful. But you better get used
to them, because they’re here to stay. Luckily, I’ve got some tips to making sure that you
make it through in one piece.
Look the Part—and in the Right Direction
A video interview is still an interview—so dress like you’re going to one. Although I
suppose, if you really wanted to, you could ostensibly wear sweatpants with your shirt and
tie, so long as you’re shooting from the waist up. I wouldn’t recommend it, though. Get your
webcam set up and pointed to a spot with a relatively neutral background. (Blank wall or
classy painting—probably fine. Dirty laundry piled on your bed—definitely not fine.) I
actually place my laptop on a sturdy stack of books to get a better angle, like when you lift
your phone up to take a selfie. Make sure you’re well-lit but there’s no lens flare and that
you’ve kicked your roommate out until you’re done. One-way video interviews are usually
done on a rolling basis, which means you’ve got the time to set yourself up right—and work
your best angles.
And don’t forget to look into the camera, not at yourself! Drag the window with your face in
it nearer to the webcam if you can’t control yourself. Eye contact is important, even if you’re
not technically making eye contact with anyone yet.
Practice, Practice, Practice
In my experience, the average time to answer a question on a video interview was about a
minute. Considering that time limit accompanied broad questions like, “How do you believe
this position fits in with the team at large?”—which also seemed specific for a first round
interview—I felt the time crunch hard. And you can’t rush through your answer either
because the first rule of being on camera is: Speak slowly. Usually, I only had one take to get
it right—which is fine in person but, with the clock literally ticking, it felt more like being
in 8 Mile. So what’s a girl to do if her palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy?
(I’m so sorry.)
Practice. Write up a series of questions you think you’re likely to hear. Ask your friends and
family for questions they’ve been asked in interviews. Check out Vault’s sample questions—
we’re here for more than striking fear into the heart of those facing video interviews, after all.
When you’ve got enough, set a timer for one minute, then rehearse your answers aloud until
you have them down pat. Sounding a little scripted and “over-rehearsed” is infinitely better
than falling prey to time-induced panic or—worse—getting cut off in the middle of your
sentence. The more you practice having to answer questions concisely as opposed to
comprehensively, the better you’ll get at it.
Don’t Panic
Crucial advice from the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom. A person can read
panic through a video like one might read a book, and hiring managers won’t be impressed to
see you very obviously freaking out. Being calm in confident in any situation is critical to life
in the working world.
My advice? Keep your perspective. Video interviewing is new—the process is unfamiliar,
and you’re not the only person potentially struggling with it. If you went over your time,
shake it off—a dozen other people probably did, too. So many of your fellow candidates
were definitely looking at themselves and not the camera, and somebody out there certainly
sweated profusely through the entire interview. You should try to avoid mistakes, of course,
but almost no one is a pro at video interviews, which means your “huge glaring mistake” will
simply be one tree in a forest. Just answer the questions as best you can, and then wow them
in person at the call back. This initial interview is less about being perfect and more about
letting the company know that you’re interested, enthusiastic, and can communicate
effectively. So just breathe.