Video interviews are novel and challenging. But preparing for your video interview should not be much different from preparing for an in-person meeting! Your med school, law school, grad, or should include practice for video interviews, as well as in-person interviews.
How to prepare for your video interview will often depend on the interview format and the amount of time you have. Whatever the format, it’s very important to ! In this blog, we will go over the different types of video interviews and interview formats, and give you failproof tips that will set you up for success.
Video interviews provide an opportunity to screen applicants without having to meet them in person. Admissions committees can select any or all applicants to participate regardless of where they live, as the only requirement for an online interview is a good internet connection and a computer. Normally, students spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars attending in-person interviews which involve flight, accommodation, and food costs. With online interviews, applicants can have a face-to-face or recorded interview with all the usual questions without even having to leave their homes. That doesn’t mean you can turn up in pajamas! Most things that you would do to , you should do for online interviews as well.
A video interview is exactly as it sounds, it's an interview that is conducted over video, instead of in person. Regardless of your interview type, your assessors could be comprised of faculty, current students, residents or even members of the community without a background in your field. The interview format will vary depending on the type of interview.
You can expect the following different types of video interviews:
Live video interviews are conducted using a video conferencing program, perhaps even one you're familiar with such as Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts. Interviewers may send you a link to join the interview or you may have to provide your screen name or ID and they will call you to begin the interview.
There are four types of live video interviews that you can expect:
Different medical schools have varying interview formats and they often adapt it year to year according to their logistical needs. It’s very important to find out in advance what style of interview you can expect so you can prepare accordingly.
A virtual interview is also a type of online interview; however, this format differs from a live interview as it won't be conducted with interviewers. Instead, you'll be recorded and will answer questions verbally or by typing, and admissions committees will review your responses afterward. You’ll typically get a set amount of time to think about and record your answer. Normally, the interview questions are pre-determined, and all applicants will be asked the same questions. In recent years, virtual interview tools like and have become quite popular with many professional programs, including medical schools. The used by emergency medicine residency programs and are some additional examples of virtual interview formats. Prior to your interview, you'll be given instructions on how to join the interview as well as how to set up your microphone and camera properly. Most of the times, you will actually be encouraged to practice with the platform and record your answers. This will allow you familiarize yourself with the interview format and software before you record the final answers that will be sent to the admissions committee.
Many schools conduct multiple rounds of interviews, so you may need to prepare for more than one interview format. For example, a lot of medical schools like to use a pre-recorded AAMC VITA interview to screen applicants, following which, they are invited for a live interview.
Would you like to see what a virtual MMI interview is like? Check out our video below:
First of all, keep in mind that an online interview, in essence, is not that different from an in-person interview. They are both just different ways of achieving the same goal i.e. judging if you are a suitable candidate for admission into the concerned program. It’s an opportunity to impress so it’s important that you make the most of it by preparing well.
Start by gathering all the required information about the interview. First, research the interview format used by the school or company you are interviewing for. The admissions office or the recruiter should send you this information via email, but you can also typically find this info online. Keep in mind the following items that you should try and find out about in advance:
Next, start building your “narrative”, keeping the core competencies in mind. Try recalling the key incidents, achievements, challenges and set-backs of your life. Think about your passions, ethics and vision for life. Thinking or writing about these key topics will help you consolidate all the important information about yourself and pick out the key incidents you want to highlight. As far as possible, try and focus on your lived experiences including clinical hours and volunteer experience.
Once you have brainstormed about the core competencies and how they align with you, the next step is to get more focused. Find out about the specific questions and question types you should be preparing for, such as , , , and so on.
Next, you need prepare your answers to all these common questions. Most questions you can expect to be asked during your video interviews will not be much different from questions you can expect in in-person interviews. Questions such as “” and “”, dentist, pharmacist, etc., require prior brainstorming and consideration to structure a well-thought-out, effective answer. Prepare for as many commonly asked questions as possible so that you’re prepared no matter what type of question you receive in your interview.
It’s not enough to just think out what answers you will give to each question. You also need to practice actually answering the questions so you can appear confident, articulate and well-informed in your interview. This is especially important for online interviews, both live and virtual. The best way to practice is by participating in real-life mock interviews that will simulate the interview format you'll be experiencing. For example, if you have a panel interview, set up a group video conference with some friends or family members and ask them to mock interview you. Do this multiple times to get comfortable with the format and gather their feedback about your speaking style, presentation, internet connectivity and so on. This way, you can eliminate weaknesses or glitches early on.
Moreover, mock interviews help to reduce the anxiety and stress that comes with high-pressure interviews. The more anxious you are before the interview, the more likely you are to make a poor impression and make silly mistakes while answering. Mock interviews help you to get comfortable with the interview format and gain confidence about answering a wide variety of questions.
While practicing, remember to focus on your style of speaking and improve on it, if needed. In online interviews, you are less likely to pick up on body language cues and hence people often tend to speak too quickly or too slowly, without realizing they are doing so. Getting personalized feedback via mock online interviews is the best way to perfect your online speaking style.
It’s also extremely important to practice in advance for virtual interviews where there are no interviewers present. These can be strange and awkward as you're essentially talking to your own web camera. There's no one to converse with, no nods, smiles or feedback, no sounds, not even an interviewer's question, only you and your computer. If you don't practice beforehand, you are likely to come across as nervous, confused, robotic or inauthentic. For virtual interviews, you can try recording yourself so you can see how you come across and try to address your weaknesses.
As online interviews occur in an informal setting, there’s a great potential for technical or other mishaps. That’s why it’s very important to create a mock set up for the interview a few days in advance and conduct a few practice interviews in that set up. Anticipating technical issues and working to eliminate each potential issue before it happens is essential to a successful video or virtual interview.
Complete the following steps to create a good set up for your video interview:
Technical Set up
Logistical Set up
When it comes to online interviews, prevention is better than cure. You don’t want to receive the feedback of “we can’t hear/see you” during the interview and then scramble to fix it last minute. Following the above steps will help prevent any glitches and give you confidence going into your actual interview.
Despite all your preparations and set up, if you do face a technical mishap, a good tip is to find out in advance what is the official procedure to be followed in case of interruptions. Keep this information handy so you can immediately do your best to re-join the interview or let your interviewers know what happened. Most interview administrators will have some kind of protocol for how to re-connect or who to reach out to in case of technical disruptions.
Additionally, if possible, share all of your own information with the interviewers in advance. That way, they have the option to call, email or message you if needed.
Finally, if you are facing any minor technical issues such as blurry video, unclear audio or frozen screens, don’t just ignore what’s happening and continue talking. It’s better to address the issue right away so you don’t make any errors when answering questions. Ask the interviewer for a few seconds to check if the problem is from your side – check your internet speed, make sure your laptop is charged and the software is working properly. Remember that it's entirely possible the technical problem is at the interviewer’s end – after all, they’re human too! After ensuring the issue is not at your end, politely let the interviewer know that you can’t see/hear them properly. It’s better to have a momentary interruption and then continue with a smooth interview than to have your entire interview be choppy and unclear due to a bad connection at the other end.
- Practice talking to your computer. Yes, this may sound strange, but while doing your interview prep, you need to practice maintaining eye contact with your interviewers, which in the case of online interviews, is actually your web camera. Most of us have a tendency to look at who we're speaking with on our computer screen during a video call, but to the interviewers, this doesn't provide them with the eye contact they're hoping for and appears as if you're looking down or sideways or in an awkward spot depending on how you've positioned the interview platform screen. Looking into your camera when you answer questions is the best way for you to maintain eye contact with your evaluator but, no doubt, it's going to feel unnatural at first as it's not something we're used to doing. Be sure that you practice until this feels normal. Other than eye contact, it's important to practice your responses out loud, either looking into a mirror, or ideally while you record yourself. This is a great opportunity for you to review your recorded responses and look for distracting speech fillers such as repetitively using the word “like” or “umm”. You want to try and limit the use of these words because using them excessively will make your thought process appear disjointed and will make you appear nervous or unconfident. Lastly, watching your responses will also help you look for nervous, distracting or unfavorable behaviors such as touching your face, twirling your hair or appearing angry.
- Check your username and picture. You know what's not professional? Connecting with an interviewer with “cutiepie4life” as your Skype ID complemented by a photo of your dog licking your face. Yes, we're all guilty of having embarrassing usernames, at least at some point in our lives, but now is the time to change your username and picture or set up an entirely new, professional account if you really can't let your original username go. This same principle applies if you have to create a new account for an interview platform you don't possess – just ensure its professional. For example, Maggie_Smith would be acceptable.
- Clear all unnecessary programs from your computer. Closing all programs and internet tabs as well as restarting your computer before the interview can help ensure your computer's processing power is maximized. In addition, once you've restarted, quit any programs that automatically open on start up.
- Keep your battery plugged in. Keep your computer plugged in for the duration of your interview. Even if you think you have enough battery, your interview may take longer than you expected. Having your entire computer shut off because it's out of juice would be disastrous.
- Turn off all notifications. It's so important that you turn off all notifications before you begin your interview, not once you've already been interrupted. Not only is a buzz or a ding distracting for you, your interviewers will be unimpressed that you didn't take the necessary steps to ensure these interruptions wouldn't occur. First, turn your cell phone off. Keeping your phone on silent instead of turning it off is risky because your phone could still vibrate, there could be an old alarm or timer you forgot to turn off, and even if you put your phone on do not disturb, if your Mom is annoyed that she can't get a hold of you and tries to call you twice in a row, now you've got a Britney Spears ringtone blaring through your interview. Better to play it safe, just turn it off. The next set of notifications you need to consider are those coming from your computer, such as calendar notifications, reminders or incoming emails. Ensure that you navigate to your computer settings to turn off all notifications, and again, as a safety measure, close all open programs and internet browser tabs.
- Keep your interview space free from pets. Sometimes people forget to remove their pets from their interview room which is a big mistake. You could be partway through introducing yourself and all of a sudden your cat jumps up and starts rubbing its face against your face. Even if your pets are very well behaved and you think they'll just lie down in a corner, a random knock on the front door could still cause your dog to start barking, your cat could need to cough up a furball, or your hamster might decide it's time to run a marathon on their exercise wheel. Don't take any chances, make arrangements ahead of time for someone else to watch your pets, or put them in an area of your home that is far from your interview room. That way, any sounds they may make won't be picked up during the interview.
- Close your windows. Even though fresh air is nice, an open window is an opportunity for loud noises to interrupt your interview. A person could be walking by with a barking dog, an ambulance could drive by or a car might beep its horn. Ensuring the windows in your interview room and adjacent rooms are shut eliminates these possibilities.
- Keep water close by. Having a glass or bottle of water within reach during your interview is always a good idea. Your interview could be over an hour in length so it's quite likely that at some point you may feel thirsty, your voice may become hoarse or you might have a tickle in your throat. It's perfectly acceptable to have a few sips of water throughout the interview when needed, but the last thing you want to do is leave the interviewers waiting while you jump up to run to the kitchen for water during a coughing fit because you failed to prepare in advance.
- Dress appropriately. You do not want to be one of those people that you've likely heard about who decided not to wear pants during an interview or conference call, and stood up at some point without remembering that unfortunate choice. Even though your web camera may only see the top half of you, dress exactly like you would at an in-person interview. This means head to toe appropriate. For example, if you are deciding on , try a suit paired with a button-up shirt and tie for men and a pantsuit or skirt suit paired with a blouse for women. In terms of color choice, neutral colors are ideal. Try to select solid colors as opposed to distracting patterns. In particular, be sure to avoid highly contrasting colors, such as a black and white pinstripe top, which tend to show up intensely on camera and can distract your interviewers. Make sure you also shower and groom yourself appropriately before the interview. Messy hair or dirt on your nose can leave a really bad impression. Don’t think that just because it’s a video interview, these things will escape notice – quite the opposite. If you choose to wear makeup, keep it simple and natural. Additionally, if you wear glasses, just check to ensure there’s no reflection coming off them on video.
- Maintain interview etiquette. Just because you're having an interview online doesn't mean you should disregard interview etiquette. Some students make the mistake of getting too comfortable because they are having an interview in their own home. Talking to your interviews too casually or in an unprofessional manner is never acceptable. Remember, you are still being assessed as a potential candidate for a specific program. This isn't a fun meet and greet with friends, it's a formal interview and you must ensure you put your best self forward. First of all, be punctual. Give yourself plenty of time on the day of the interview to get dressed, set up your computer, do your final technology checks, arrange your interview area etc. Secondly, first and last impressions will still make or break your interview. For example, just because you're not shaking hands, doesn't mean you shouldn't introduce yourself. Be sure you begin by introducing yourself, smile, be friendly and courteous and respond to all questions in a professional manner. At the end of your interview, remember to smile and thank the interviewers for both their time and consideration. Finally, ensure you maintain your posture just as you would in an in-person interview. Do not slouch, put your feet up, rest your face on your hands etc. You might unconsciously slip into a more relaxed mode but remember that you’re on camera all the time and interviewers are taking note of your overall attitude as well as the content of your answers.
Check out our video for a full recap!
1. What is a video interview?
A video interview is an online interview that is conducted over video rather than in person. It’s a popular choice for admissions departments as its more convenient and saves time and money for everyone involved. A live video interview typically takes place via a video conferencing program at a pre-determined time.
2. What is a pre-recorded virtual interview?
A pre-recorded virtual interview is an online interview that does not involve any real-time interviewers. Instead, applicants are given questions and their answers are recorded and reviewed at a later time by the admissions board. Typically, you’ll receive all instructions about joining the interview, time of the interview, how to take the interview and so on well ahead of time so you can be ready. You’ll have a limited time to answer each question and there may be a written as well as spoken component.
3. How to conduct a video interview?
A video interview is conducted entirely online so you can easily attend it from the comfort of your home, a booth in the library, or any other private place. You’ll need a high-speed internet connection, a computer with a working webcam and mic as well as the required interview software such as a video conferencing application or program (if needed). Set up a quiet, uncluttered, well-lit corner for the interview and ensure that you do a technical test ahead of time to check if everything is working.
4. What should I wear in a video interview?
You should dress for a video interview exactly how you would for an in-person interview. That means neat, clean, formal clothes from head-to-toe. For example, men can wear a suit paired with a button-up shirt and tie while women can opt for a pantsuit or skirt suit paired with a blouse. Just because it’s an online interview, doesn’t mean you can get away with informal wear. Also, avoid bright colors and patterns, as well as starkly contrasting colors as these can be distracting and wash you out. Stick to light pastels or muted colors. Make sure you groom yourself appropriately and if you have glasses, check to ensure they’re not giving off a glare on camera.
5. What kind of questions are asked in a video interview?
While video interviews have a different format than in-person interviews, the essential content remains the same. Interviewers will ask you the same range of questions they typically would in an in-person interview. These questions fall into four major categories:
- Classic: Interviewers often start by asking you to introduce yourself, describe why you are pursuing this profession and explain why you want admission into this specific program or university.
- Personal: At some point interviewers also like to learn about your suitability for the program. They will ask about your strengths, weaknesses, passions, hobbies and other such topics.
- Situational: Interviewers like to test how quickly you can think on the spot and provide well-reasoned, coherent answers. Situational questions involve a specific, detailed scenario involving a difficult decision that needs to be made, such as choosing between loyalty to a friend or integrity.
- Behavioral: Interviewers also like to deep-delve into your personality. They will ask you questions about your accomplishments, failures, leadership experiences, conflicts, mentors and more.
6. How do you prepare for a video interview?
To prepare for a video interview, you have to practice, practice, practice. Just like a regular interview, it’s best to start by thinking out your answers to all the possible range of questions that you can be asked. Go over these answers until you’re very comfortable with them and won’t be nervous talking about these topics. Then, conduct several mock interviews to ensure you can answer precisely and coherently in the flow of the interview. Rope in your friends and family to help. For video interviews, it's absolutely crucial to do a technical test for your computer (software and hardware) to ensure it’s working perfectly. Then, do a few mock interviews in an environment as close as possible to the final interview. This would include elements such as the location, computer set up, internet connection, background, lighting, webcam position and so on. Use the test calling function in a video conferencing app (such as Skype) to test how you appear and sound on camera. Record yourself giving your interview answers so you get comfortable with the set-up and can observe any mistakes you’re making.
7. How to impress the interviewers in a video interview?
Interviewers of any kind are always impressed by preparedness, professionalism and good communication skills. The same applies to a video interview. Make sure you map out the answers to all the possible questions you could be asked so you’re not caught unprepared in the interview. Doing several mock runs in the same style as the final interview will also help you be confident and assertive during the actual interview. If you come across as nervous, underconfident or unprepared, it leaves a very bad impression.
For video interviews, your preparation should include not only practicing your answers, but also setting up your computer properly so that there are no interruptions during the interview time. Notification pings, loud noises in the background, internet connectivity issues, battery running out, are all big no-nos. Choose a quiet, private area, turn off all notifications, test your internet speed in advance and speak to the people you’re living with to ensure they don’t disturb you for that time period.
8. What should you not do in a video interview?
Just because it’s a video interview, doesn’t mean you can take it lightly. At the end of the day, whether the interview is happening in-person or online, your admission into your desired program is at stake. The interviewers expect you to prepare, and behave, accordingly. Avoid the following mistakes:
- Don’t turn up for the interview in pajamas – yes, not even the bottom half! Dress as you would for an in-person interview, head to toe.
- Don’t leave your technical set-up and testing for the last minute. Check all the hardware and software well in advance so you have time to make other arrangements if necessary.
- Don’t forget the requirements of the camera and the mic. In a video interview, it’s not just about how well you, personally, communicate. If you have poor lighting or loud background sounds, your interviewers could have a tough time understanding your most eloquent answers. Ensure you have proper lighting, the camera is well-positioned, your background is clutter-free and there are no ambient noises.
- Don’t forget to make eye contact with the interviewers.
- Don’t use an unprofessional username and picture. Don’t be discourteous. In a video interview, this could happen unconsciously, as the informal home environment you’re in could make you relax and forget who you’re talking to. Remember to smile, sit up straight, introduce yourself, thank the interviewers and all the other little courtesies you would do in an in-person interview.
- Don’t choose a public area to conduct the interview.
- Don’t keep your pets in the room during the interview.
- Don’t keep the windows open near you during the interview.
9. What should I do in case of technical difficulties during my video interview?
If you face any technical issues, stay calm and address the problem. Let your interviewer know that there’s an issue and ask for a minute to check if the problem is at your side. If not, politely ask them to confirm if there’s a network or other issue at their end. In case of a major technical mishap such as power outage or no internet connectivity, follow the interview protocol for such situations. Most interviewers will provide this information in advance if asked. Try and re-connect as soon as possible. Finally, ensure that the interviewers also have your information so they can call, message or email you if required.