Helping students prepare for video interviews

James McGill

James McGill is Managing Director for APAC & VP of International Customer Success at HireVue.In his role, James is responsible for guiding businesses through their transformation journeys to hire the best talent faster. With more than 20 years of experience, James has held leadership positions with companies leading the way in business digital transformation, including Salesforce and Adobe.

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The current pandemic is forcing companies across the world to rethink the way in which they facilitate routine business activities – and this includes their process for hiring. With a number of roles still open and/or as companies plan for the eventual business rebound, many are turning to technology to find and interview talent remotely while social distancing rules are in place.

Solutions such as video interviews and online assessments are quickly becoming the new method of choice for remote hiring, but both can be a daunting prospect for students and graduates who are unfamiliar with these processes and requirements.

So, with the entry-level hiring season upon us, how can you step in as educators to help prepare your students? In this article, we will walk you through the basics of video interviews – including what they are, what they will involve, and how to set them up successfully.

What is a video interview?

One of the first things you should recommend students establish when asked to take part in a video interview is what type it will be. There are, in fact, three different types of video interview:

Live video interviews – The candidate and interviewer speak in real-time via video link.  

On-demand video interviews – The candidate is asked a series of pre-recorded questions by the employer. They then record their answers and submit for the hiring manager to review later.

Interview assessments – The candidate follows the same process as with on-demand interviews, but the questions are designed to gather information that can be analysed as part of a technology-assisted pre-hire assessment test. 

For the purpose of this article, we are going to deal with the first two types as these are the most common.

What video interviews will involve

A video interview, just like an in-person or phone interview, is the candidate’s chance to shine and share the knowledge and experience they have to offer as it relates to the role they are applying for. With this in mind, it is important to remind your students to relax, have fun, and let their skills and personality shine! They should remember that the recruiter is on their side and wants the interview to go well – they want to find someone brilliant.

In order to go about this, most interviews will be built around the following question types:

Situational judgement questions – The candidate will be asked what actions they would take when confronted with a hypothetical job situation i.e. “A customer has just gotten off the phone with another support representative and is angry. Describe what steps you’d take to calm them down.”

Scenario-based simulations – The candidate will be asked to simulate their actions in a hypothetical job scenario. The key difference between this type of question and a situational judgment question is that they’ll act out their response, rather than explain it.

Past behaviour questions – The candidate will be asked to relate past experiences and previous challenges they’ve faced. For example: “Tell us about a time you calmed down an angry customer. What steps did you take, and why?”

We’d recommend that candidates develop a list of stories and experiences they can apply to different types of questions. Some of the places to find common interview questions include Glassdoor and Indeed; however, many interview questions are designed for use in a specific job role, so it’s best to search for questions from interviews for the specific role for which a candidate is interviewing.

How to prepare for a video interview

When helping students to get ready for any type of video interview, the best advice you can give them is to prepare in pretty much the same way they would for a normal in-person interview. This includes everything from the upfront research they do, to the way they dress, and how they respond to and engage with the questions. However, one additional aspect that is important to take into consideration is the environment and technology:

Location, location, location – With everyone working from home, it is going to be important for students to find a quiet location where they can devote the time needed to complete the interview. Remember, the employer will see and hear what goes on around them, so they need to make sure they pick a spot that’s quiet and free from distractions. Most on-demand interviews take 20-30 minutes, but we’d recommend putting aside an extra 15 minutes to be on the safe side. Live interviews may be a little longer but we’d expect the recruiter to provide an idea of timings in advance.

Lighting matters – A video interview isn’t a screen test so students won’t need to set up a full on film studio, however there are a few basics they’ll need to bear in mind, such as not sitting with their back to a window or a bright light source as this isn’t flattering. But they will need a well-lit room otherwise their face might not be clearly visible.

Test equipment – The great thing about video interviews is that they can be completed on whatever device your students have.  As long as it has a front-facing camera and audio capabilities, it should work for a virtual interview. That said, you should always recommend your students test their gear before starting the process. This includes making sure the device is on and has enough battery, as well as testing the internet, microphone, camera and volume. If they are taking an on-demand interview, most platforms will run equipment checks automatically before the interview starts.


Video interviews are becoming the new norm for companies looking to hire during the pandemic and this isn’t likely to disappear any time soon. This is not something that students need to fear. Video interviewing not only gives them an opportunity to apply for a wide variety of jobs at the touch of a button but also a chance to tell their story and convey their talents to a company that might not have looked at them based on CV alone. With the correct preparation and understanding of video interviews, your students can enjoy a successful interaction and hopefully pursue the job of their dreams.

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