The 2020 Ultimate Guide to Video Interviews

Updated: July 1, 2020

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 without even having to leave their homes. If you have an upcoming video interview, this blog will serve as your ultimate guide to online interviews packed full with tons of tips and essential information. By the time you've finished reading, you'll know what to expect, how to prepare and most importantly, how to ace your live or virtual video interview.

Video Interviews: Live vs Virtual

How to Prepare for Online Interviews

13 Tips for Acing your Video Interview

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Video Interviews: Live vs Virtual

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.

Live

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 three types of live video interviews that you can expect: traditional, panel and MMI. A traditional interview is a format you've most likely experienced throughout your life and is a standard one-on-one interview. A panel interview will involve multiple assessors, often between 2-4, with some or all of the panelists asking questions. The multiple mini interview, known as the MMI, is a more complex interview format as interviewees will be exposed to a variety of different stations, normally between 6-10. Each station is timed and will be focused around a specific question or scenario known as a prompt. You'll have two minutes to read the prompt and prepare your response before you join the assessor. Once you've virtually entered the room with the assessor, you'll discuss or answer the prompt for 5-8 minutes. Once the timer is up, you'll be automatically transferred to a new station and the process will repeat. Review our blogs to practice the most common medical school interview questions and MMI questions and to learn how to answer multiple mini interview follow up questions. 

Virtual

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, or at a later date. Normally, the interview questions are pre-determined, and all applicants will be asked the same questions. The Standardized Video Interview (SVI) used by emergency medicine residency programs and Kira Talent are 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.

How to Prepare for Online Interviews

If you want to be seen as an excellent applicant during your video and virtual interviews, you have to prepare and practice in advance. Most questions you can expect to be asked during your interviews will be very difficult to answer on the spot. Questions such as “tell me about yourself” and “why do you want to be a doctor”, dentist, pharmacist, etc require prior brainstorming and consideration to structure a well-thought-out, effective answer. No matter what type of question you receive in your interview, you need to have a strategy for tackling each one. While you won't know exactly which questions you'll be asked, if you know how to answer each and every type of question, you'll be able to ace your interview.

So, how can you best identify and answer any question? By participating in real-life mock interviews that will simulate the interview type you'll be experiencing. For example, if you have a panel interview, participating in a panel interview simulation is a really good idea as it will allow you to experience everything you'll experience during the actual interview. Real-life mock interviews will not only allow you to practice with questions that are likely to come up in your actual interview, but you'll receive personalized feedback on your responses to each question so that you can strengthen or eliminate weaknesses early on and only provide strong answers on your actual interview day. Mock interviews will also help you manage the inevitable emotions and stress that come with high-pressure interviews. There is no getting around the fact that interviews are stressful and being observed and judged can feel strange for many of us. This constant surveillance adds a lot of pressure on you to respond to questions in a way that showcases your best self. Of course, you really want to perform well and you want to get into your dream program, but being worried about making mistakes and not knowing how to answer certain questions is going to add on a lot of anxiety. Participating in mock interviews can significantly reduce the stress and anxiety on the actual interview day because you will know what to expect and you'll have your strategy ready to tackle any question that might be thrown your way.

Most people find virtual interviews strange and awkward as you're essentially talking to your own web camera. Virtual interviews without interviewers means no one to converse with, no nods, smiles or feedback, no sounds, not even an interviewers question, only you and your computer. Trust me, it's weird if you don't practice beforehand and if you come across as nervous, confused, robotic or inauthentic, you're not going to proceed further in the admissions process.

In addition to participating in realistic mock interviews, practicing with sample questions is an important part of your virtual or video interview preparation. This allows you to get a sense of common questions that will come up during your interview, so you can begin formulating responses to questions you may not have thought about previously. To get you started, here are some sample questions and categories you can expect:

Classics

Tell me about yourself

Why our program?

Why our school?

Why should we select you?

Personal

What is your greatest strength?

What is your greatest limitation?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

What is your biggest accomplishment?

What is your proudest moment?

What are your hobbies?

What makes you mad?

Situational

You are working alone in a convenience store as a cashier late at night. An older man comes in staggering, appears disoriented, and you smell alcohol on his breath. On the way out, he bumps into a shelf and knocks some cereal boxes off. He tries to put the boxes back, but cannot manage this task. What do you do?

You are a carousel operator at a midway fair and a female employee arrives to take over your shift. You notice she smells of marijuana and her eyes are red, what do you do?

You are at home in your apartment watching TV when you hear screaming coming from your neighbor's apartment. You open your door and look out to see a man you don't recognize come out of your neighbor's apartment and hurry towards the elevators. Your neighbor is at the doorway crying and you notice a bruise around her eye before she goes back inside her apartment. What do you do?

Behavioral

Tell me about a time you failed

Tell me about a challenge you overcame

Tell me about a time you worked with others

Give me an example of a time you were in conflict with a peer

Give me an example of a time you demonstrated leadership

13 Tips for Acing your Video Interview

1. Practice talking to your computer.

Yes, this may sound strange, but 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.

2. 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 it's professional. For example, Maggie_Smith would be acceptable.

3. Avoid technical issues.

Anticipating technical issues and working to eliminate each potential issue before it happens is essential to a successful video or virtual interview. First, start with your internet connection. It's a good idea to check the speed of your connection by using an online internet speed tester. You can simply search in Google and a variety of speed test options will come up. If you find that your internet connection is sporadic or falls below the recommended internet specs of the interview platform you'll be using, it's best to connect directly to your router to ensure constant connectivity. This is a good idea to do regardless of your connection if it's at all possible. If connecting to your router isn't possible, try to ensure the room you pick for your interview is close to your router. Distance does make a difference with connectivity, so being close to the router can ensure better connection strength. Next, you should test your mic and camera to ensure that they both work beforehand. If you're going to be using an external mic, ensure you've selected this as an option in your computer's sound settings, otherwise, your computer may still use the sound from your computer's mic. 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. Finally, 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.

4. 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're at an in-person interview. This means head to toe appropriate. For example, 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 and 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.

5. 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. In particular, 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.

6. 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.

7. Find a quiet, private location for your interview.

You want to make sure that you've set aside a private area of your home, such as a bedroom or office, or a private room in a study hall or library. Essentially, you want an interview room without noise or distractions. Background noise is not only distracting for the interviewers but it will also be difficult for them to hear what you're saying and vice versa. You want to make the online interview process as easy as possible for yourself and the interviewers so ensure that you’re somewhere quiet where you can be completely alone.

8. Notify your housemates or family members.

Yes, it's happened before. A student has been partway through an interview and their dad walks in and asks them if they have any dirty laundry they want washing. So embarrassing yet 100% avoidable. It's so important to make it known to whoever you're living with, whether it's your family or friends, that you'll be taking part in an interview and you cannot be disturbed at any point until it's over. How will they know you're finished? When you come out of the room and let them know. Don't be afraid to put up a polite sign on the door to your interview room as a reminder that you'll be occupied and to ask that noise is kept to a minimum.

9. 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.

10. Choose a neutral background.

Now is not the time to show off the posters plastered around your bedroom, ensure that the background for your interview is neutral and non-distracting. For example, a solid white or grey wall is appropriate, whereas a wall with mirrors or one filled with colourful paintings will be distracting for the interviewers. You want your interviewers to be focused on you and what you have to say, instead of wondering who has autographed that baseball you have in the background.

11. Ensure you are well-lit.

Be sure that you're well-lit during your interview so your interviewers can see you properly and can view your expressions, body language, and gestures throughout the interview. Your background should not be brighter than you, meaning that you should never have a window behind you as this will “blow out” your image. Essentially, you'll appear very dark while the window will appear radioactive. Instead, position yourself with a plain wall directly behind you. A good way to make sure your lighting is sufficient is to check the video settings in a video program like Skype first, even if this isn't going to be the interview platform you'll be using. This way you can not only check that it's easy to see you, but you can also test your framing to ensure that there isn't anything random in the background that you thought you cut out, but actually didn’t. Keep in mind that the aspect ratio of each video program will be slightly different, so always make sure your background is free from objects and clutter, even beyond what your test shows you. If you notice that you're not bright enough, use a lamp or a handful of lamps to help light a dark room. Lastly, even if you feel the room you're going to interview in is very bright, it's still a good idea to keep a main light on to allow for changes in outside lighting, such as the sun going behind a cloud.

12. 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.

13. 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.

Check out our video for a full recap!

Do you want us to help you with your online interview?

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting