Image 2023 08 08 T03 44 42

12 tips for video interview success

Search by
Search by blog tags

Interviewing via video is the new normal for now, and if it's also new to you, here are some practical tips on the process from our executive recruitment experts, courtesy of director Jenny Hills.

Getting the basics right: make sure what's behind you isn't distracting


How to get the best from video interviews

By now you'll probably know the basics from the video meetings that have come to dominate all of our working and social lives: make sure your camera and microphone are working ahead of the call, check your pyjama bottoms aren’t in view below your smart top, and that what’s behind you isn’t distracting. 

But over the past few weeks, we’ve picked up a few additional practical pointers that can help you ace that all-important video interview:





Try a test run

If you’re not familiar with the videocall platform you’ll be using, ask your friendly consultant for a quick technical test-run. We want you to nail this meeting, and if a test-run will help that, we’re only too happy to do it. If you’ve applied directly, ask a friend to do a test-run with you well ahead of the interview.





Lights, camera, wardrobe

Wear what you would normally wear (at least on top) to an interview. However, keep in mind the quality of your camera and the lighting. You don’t need a camera any fancier than the one that came with the laptop/smartphone, but if you know the image quality isn’t great, try and sit in a well-lit room, and consider the colours you are wearing. 

A white shirt in front of a white wall in bright sunlight might mean you blend into the wallpaper too much. On the other hand, wearing dark colours in room with less-than-great lighting risks you appearing as a grainy blur to the panel. In all cases, don’t silhouette yourself in front of the light source!





Steady your nerves (and devices)

If you're using a smartphone or tablet, find a way to prop it up and keep it steady for the interview, rather than holding it in your hand: a shaky picture can detract from what you're saying and create the impression of nervousness, even if you're confident, calm and collected.





Stay informed

Keep the relevant details (job description, person specification etc) and your application to hand, either printed out or in another window of your screen. If you’re switching between screens to look at something (most videocall platforms allow you to do this without leaving the call), remember the panel can still see and hear you.​


Be prompt

Keep to your start time! Normally, arriving 10 minutes ahead of an interview is good practice, but if you log into the Zoom meeting early, you may interrupt the panel’s pre-interview discussion, or they may simply not be there and they’re taking advantage of a quick break to run to the bathroom. 

We’ve been advising our candidates to log in a minute before the actual interview. This gives you time to make sure the audio and video is working before it cuts into precious interview time, but also allows the panel to take their breaks, talk amongst themselves and be ready. 





Remember you're on camera!

When on videocalls, some people understandably forget about eye contact and look around the room whilst talking (as many of us do when we’re thinking). Don’t stare down the lens (creepy), but try to keep your eyes on the screen. It doesn’t really matter where on the screen, but the person who asked the question is a good bet, especially if you find looking at yourself distracting. 





Express yourself

There’s no need to be a mime artist, but if you use body language (nodding, smiling, leaning in, etc) you might want to exaggerate it a little bit more than you would in person so it shows up on camera. This helps engagement between you all as people. Someone sitting motionless and expressionless is hard to relate to, and the panel want to get a sense of you as a person and as a potential colleague. 





The show must go on

For relatively minor audio and video disruption (screen freezes, distorted audio), we advise ignoring it unless it has impaired your understanding of what the panel are saying/asking. We’ve found that this keeps interruptions to a minimum, and on the flipside, we’ve seen conversations lose momentum when every bit of digital static is commented on.

Be expressive, but not a mime artist. Also recommended in all other situations.


Don't panic 

This way of working is strange for all of us, so don’t be phased if something goes pear-shaped. Can’t hear? Explain and wait for it to resolve (leave and re-join if necessary). Six-year-old has to show you the spaceship now? Cat decides it needs to sleep on the laptop? Smile, ask the panel for a quick pause to deal with it, and get back to it. We’re all human, and if the panel doesn’t understand that, do you want to work for them?





Stay focused

That said, despite the interruptions and informalities of working from home, the conversational style in videocalls is by necessity pretty formal (even for an interview). If two people speak at the same time, both are completely unintelligible so everyone has to take turns to speak. 

You are also missing out on almost all the non-verbal clues that we don’t realise we rely on so much. A particular risk is talking to fill the silence and missing clues you’d normally spot that the panel are disengaging from your answer, so stick to focused, relevant answers (the STAR technique is a good general guide). 

If you’ve said something interesting and they want more detail, they’ll ask. Make sure you leave a pause between someone asking a question and you talking to ensure they’re done, and that panel members are given opportunities to ask follow ups. ​





Be flexible

If your internet connection is bad enough to disrupt the conversation, apologise, fix it if at all possible, but if not, ask if you may switch your camera off and go audio only, or even dial in to the call instead. This should be a last resort because it’s the only way you can hear and respond to the panel.

On the other hand, if one or more panel members go audio only for the same reasons, don’t get phased and keep your eyes on the screen. Just because you can’t see them, it doesn’t mean they can’t see you.





BYO refreshments

Finally, much as they’d like to, the panel can’t offer you the glass of water/tea/coffee, so make sure you have one to hand for when you need it. A separate celebratory beverage for when you leave the videocall having given the best interview of your life is optional.




To wrap up, there are practical differences between the usual in-person interview and a video interview, but the intent behind them is the same: for you, is this a job you want? For the panel, are you the person they want for the job?

Being able to adapt to these differences may not guarantee you the job, but feeling more confident and relaxed about the process will give yourself and the panel the best chance of making the right decision.

Jenny Hills
Chief Executive & Director Recruitment Practice, Harris Hill

Search executive opportunities ►

More from the Harris Hill Blog





How to work well from home

Millions of us are doing it, but how well is working from home working for you? Guest blogger (and frequent home-worker) Nicola Greenbrook has advice to help you keep things running smoothly.

Read more ►





Should you be working for a large or small charity?

The biggest charities may have the biggest opportunities, but you'll typically take on more responsibilities somewhere smaller - so which is better for your career? Faye Marshall and our fundraising specialists weigh up the options.

Read more ►





How to be assertive at work

Altruistic behaviour is fundamental to the charity sector, but saying yes to every request can leave you seriously overwhelmed. Nicola Greenbrook explores how you can learn to stand your ground and be more productive as a result.

Read more ►


  • Image 2022 11 26 T23 39 23

    Opportunity for all

    Find out how we’re working to deliver more diverse, equitable and inclusive recruitment…

    Find out more

  • Image 2022 11 26 T23 39 23

    Recruiting a charity CEO?

    Our executive recruitment specialists have an exceptional record of successful CEO, chair, trustee and…

    Find out more

  • The Harris Hill Salary Survey 2023

    Charity sector salaries

    Check out the market rate for your charity role in the latest Harris Hill Salary Survey.

    View our latest survey

News and insights

For more careers and recruitment advice: Read the Harris Hill Blog
Blogthumb Final

Thinking of temping? Here’s what to consider…

Temping offers flexibility, variety and a chance to boost your CV - but is it right for you?​ Hear from current Harris Hill temps as freelance writer and guest blogger Nicola Greenbrook explores...Do you ever catch yourself gazing out of the window, dreaming about a work life that breaks away from the conventional nine-to-five? Are you someone with multiple interests and many interconnecting ca...

Read more
Blog Thumb 2

Celebrating UK charity jobs for UK Charity Week 2023!

It's UK Charity Week 2023, so join us for a whirlwind festive tour of some of the best opportunities with charities around the country!​Yes, even though it feels about 30 seconds since you bundled last year’s decorations into an overstuffed box in the loft*, it’s December already, which means it’s time to get them down but more importantly, time for UK Charity Week 2023, celebrating the brillia...

Read more
B Corp Blogthumb Final

Harris Hill is now a Certified B Corporation

We're delighted to share the news that Harris Hill is now B Corp Certified! It makes us part of a global community of businesses meeting high standards of social and environmental impact, accountability and transparency, and leading the transformation of the global economic system. That's a big ambition, but at the simplest level, being certified is recognition that we're here for the right rea...

Read more
Blogthumb 2

Access all areas: how to use the Recite Me toolbar

As part of our diversity and inclusion strategy, the Harris Hill website now features the award-winning Recite Me assistive toolbar, providing a wide range of accessibility and language support tools for a more inclusive online experience. Here’s an overview of the benefits and how to use it.​There’s a lot to look out for when you’re searching for a new job online. In most cases, you'll actual...

Read more

Meet the 2023 Charity Softball finalists!

​Landing just ahead of the big day and 20th anniversary celebrations, meet the teams playing for glory in the 2023 Charity Softball League!Like any other year, 2003 gave the world some things we’d rather it hadn’t - war in Iraq, the SARS outbreak, the Black Eyed Peas – but over the course of that long hot summer, it also gave us (courtesy of founding father Leo Visconti) something we’re very gl...

Read more
Finance Blog Thumb

2023 Salary Survey: finance market trends

They’re certainly earning their keep in these financially-challenging times, but are charity finance professionals securing higher salaries and what’s happening in the market? Here’s what our finance experts have to say on the subject, updated from our 2023 Salary Survey, which you can view or download below for all the figures.​​​​​​Finance market trendsTo the world of charity finance now, whe...

Read more
Blogthumb Final2

How to secure new talent (without spending a fortune)

Candidate scarcity and high inflation have made securing new staff more challenging (and expensive) than ever, but there ARE ways to improve your hiring prospects that needn't cost a thing...(updated and extended from the 2023 Harris Hill Salary Survey)Beyond the world of marketing, where they grow on carefully-branded trees, our 2023 Salary Survey finds candidates in short supply and high dema...

Read more
Temps Blog Thumb

Considering hiring a temp? Here’s what you need to know…

​Hiring temps is a flexible and cost-effective way to fill gaps and bring in extra resource or skills, but if you haven't before, where should you start and what are the benefits? Freelance writer and HR specialist Nicola Greenbrook talks us through everything you need to know.What is a temp?A temporary agency worker or ‘temp’ differs from a permanent member of staff as, rather than being direc...

Read more