Video interview: How do I practice for a successful appearance in front of the camera?

Practice video interviewing: How the professionals prepare for their performance
Practicing video interviews: How the professionals prepare for their appearance | © Image montage: Filmpulse / Pixabay Free Photos

Today you can’t get past a video interview in many functions. Here we explain to you what you want and have to consider in front of the camera.

Sooner or later, it’s gonna get you. Whether for a job application, social media, private or business: You will have to deal with a video interview.

You gotta know that:

  • There are different types of video interviews for different purposes. They range from a testimonial, where you stand in front of the camera, to an interview for a job.
  • Practice makes perfect.
  • For online video interviews you should look at your username as well as where you place your laptop.
  • Not only what you say is important. Even so-called non-verbal signals tell a story. So please note our checklist at the end of this article.

Natural talent?

Sure, it could be that you have already grown up with Skype, Microsoft Team, Zoom or YouTube. But that doesn’t mean you’ll just look great in a video in front of a camera. Even if you’re not one of those people who shy away from the camera like an influencer from the offline world. There are a few things to keep in mind when making a video appearance.

This guide will help you with that. It tells you what you need to do to look professional in front of the camera lens. Whether for TV, web or for a new job.

The video interview

More and more companies rely on video communication. They use moving images to explain their unique selling points to their customers. As a rule, employees of a company are also asked to appear before the lens. For the upper management level, CEO videos are usually the standard today anyway.

Moving images also have a steep career path when it comes to recruitment. Skype is increasingly replacing the initial personal interview on site. Applying by video message is no longer an absolute exception. The advantage for the companies: They see more of you than with written documents and only one photo.

The disadvantage for you: You can’t just shoot yourself out of the race with mediocre grades or a lukewarm recommendation. But additionally and new with a bad video. Anyone who is not prepared for a video interview to the same extent as for a personal interview has not yet understood the power of the moving image!

The first impression counts.

Non-verbal communication is more important than what we say. It is not without reason that studies show that photogenic people are more successful – those who appear shy, fearful and unattractive to their fellow human beings.

This also applies to a video interview. But conversely, you can also look like a Neanderthal as an attractive personality in front of the camera.

So what can you do to dramatically improve your impact and appearance in a video interview?

Practice makes perfect in video interviews

You can learn to do a video interview well just as well as you can learn to play football, tennis or chess. A lot is a matter of technique and practice.

If you have talent and the camera loves you, you might find it a little easier. You shouldn’t trust that: Practice is the best card you can play. Not once, but over and over again. For this you need enough lead time for the interview.

Routine brings serenity. Only then can you react like Robert Kelly, who is unexpectedly interrupted in a live interview with BBC at his home:

Practice with your partner, a friend or girlfriend or a parent. And practice until you don’t even notice the camera anymore. If you’re practising for a job interview, use Skype. For videos and social media, you can rehearse with your smartphone.

Of course, you’re not just supposed to practice your act. What you say is as important as your performance.

Whether casual, relaxed or business professional, you want to determine how you appear. To do this, let’s first look at the different types of video interviews:

Types of video interviews

Video interviews exist in two forms. Either live with a camera (for TV, social media, image films etc.) and Skype interview. Or as a recorded, asynchronous video, for which you yourself answer the questions you’ve been given in front of the camera.

ALive-Video / Skype-Interviews

You know the live video from TV reports or news. Someone aims a camera at you and bombards you with questions to which you should answer. After all, unlike a few years ago, the technical equipment is smaller today and you no longer have to feel as if someone is aiming a gun at you and at the same time covering your entire field of vision.

But live interviews are increasingly shifting the online world as well. Video interviews are now part of everyday life in news and TV.

In the past, it was common to conduct a live interview over the phone. Today the quality of streaming is good enough to conduct such a conversation in sound and vision. Companies usually use Skype, Google Hangout, Zoom, Blue Jeans or one of the millions of video conferencing tools that are available online for free. Often you get a link with a personal code. Then you enter your user ID or a password and you are in the video image.

But this is also where the first trap lurks for you.

If you’re a CEO who travels a lot and your wife lovingly calls you “beep”, you shouldn’t necessarily use this nicely meant acquisition as a Skype ID for an online interview with investors.

Long-standing, cherished digital identities from your school days, such as “Superstoner” or “YOLO69”, have no place for a job interview on Skype.

However, there are more and more companies that do without public tools like Skype. This is because they have networked their video software for live interviews with other (company-internal) tools. An internal candidate tracking and screening tool is linked to the software. Specialised providers of such software include HireVue, SparkHire and TakeTheInterview.

From the candidate’s perspective, the live video experience via one of these platforms does not differ significantly from an interview via Skype or Google Hangout. Only on the employer side are there input fields and icons that allow them to rate and categorize your answers.

BPre-recorded / asynchronous video questions

In a pre-recorded video interview (hence the term asynchronous, the questions are recorded or written down before your answers) you will get the questions in advance. This can also be done by e-mail a few minutes before the interview. Or almost in real time, because the questions are displayed on your computer and you have to answer immediately.

This procedure with asynchronous answers is currently only very rarely used by the press, television or news portals. With job interviews it is different. In this case you will get a link to a webpage where you have to record answers to pre-selected / recorded interview questions. Normally you will receive a time limit for each answer and you can record your first answer (only) once with a new one.

Asynchronous video interviews can be the first hurdle in an application process that you have to take. However, you may also be invited only if your documents and resume are convincing. Well-known providers for asynchronous video interviewing are AsyncInterview, Wepow und Sonru.

Nonverbal signals / body language in video interview

So what is the effect in a video interview? Here are 7 points you should remember and which will help you practice for your appearance in front of the camera:

1Hold eye contact

We all know how important it is to establish trusting eye contact during an interview. Video makes this extremely difficult.

When you talk to someone via video conference, you naturally want to focus on the face of the person you are talking to. Depending on where the face is and where the camera or webcam is located, you may appear on the screen as if you are looking down or looking away.

Usually you don’t even notice. But your counterpart does.

If you have a video camera in front of you, first ask the director or cameraman where you should look.

Basically, you have two options.

You look directly into the lens and thus directly into the eyes of your audience.
Or you look at the person who is asking you the questions. When shooting with more than one camera, this is the rule. It’s the same for TV interviews.

For online interviews, you can avoid looking in the wrong direction by resizing and moving the window with the person’s video image. Move up or as close as possible to your webcam. This gives the closest possible approach to real human eye contact.

Remember, the line between comfortable eye contact and the ice-cold stare of a serial killer is thin.

Eye contact via webcam can feel a little uncomfortable at first. Many people who consciously want to look at their counterpart react with “overcompensation”. They stare at the camera lens like a psychopath. That is why the following applies here, as already recommended to you at the beginning: practice, practice and practice again.

As a good rule of thumb you can remember the following two guidelines:

if you can see the white around your pupils (also above and below the iris) – then your gaze is almost certainly too intense and therefore uncomfortable.
Do not maintain eye contact for more than 5 seconds at a time. Break off eye contact briefly, look away briefly, breathe, then reconnect.

Once you have found the right balance with practice, you will develop what is most important for the effect in a video interview: trust.

But beware:

If you interrupt your gaze, don’t shoot your eyes around like a villain from a silent movie from the 30s, nor bat your eyelashes as if you were Hildegard Knef.

Find your natural look!

2Make sure you smile (but not too much)

A permanent smile in a video interview is creepy. A confident, genuine smile is important – but don’t be too eager. You are not a used car salesman.

Avoid laughing at every supposed punch line. Smile is supposed to be a tool. It shows that you are a pleasant person to work with. A person who has a good social conscience and has a good portion and self-confidence.

Smiling can also be inappropriate. Namely whenever it does not fit into the context.

If someone interviews you about a disaster or crisis and you smile, you seem cynical.

When asked in a job interview about your most difficult challenge so far, you should not smile. But show that you have taken this situation you are talking about seriously.

In short, you have to practice not only smiling into the camera, but also not smiling. Both at the right opportunity.

3Nervousness and fidgeting

We all have little nervous tics under stress, twitching our fingers or unconsciously scratching the corner of our mouth. Such gestures have no place in an interview. They may be small. But their effect is great.

That is why we recommend that you record yourself several times to improve your performance. Analyze the recordings. Find out what you are doing. Only then can you practice suppressing these gestures.

Small gestures and behaviors that don’t bother anyone in everyday life can be distracting on video. Brüske hand movements, disturbing the fiddling around in your own hair. But even more common are nervous tics on the speech level. A “uh-huh” or “how now?” every few seconds is very disturbing. These are all small habits that you may not even be aware of. Here practicing can be an eye opener for you. Here your awareness of the problem is synonymous with success. You can avoid these nervous habits with little preparation.

Last advice: Hands belong on the table and not on your face. Never! Never support your chin with your hand (free tip: don’t support your chin with your hand even when you’re taking photos, your head can’t be that heavy), nor scratch your nose inquiringly. Both looks backwoods, old-fashioned and old-fashioned. You are not.

4Keep calm

Almost everyone feels nervous when preparing for a job interview. And the most important reason for nerves is the fear of the unknown – because you are not sure what to expect. This uncertainty is the biggest cause of stress.

Questions like “Am I prepared enough?” or, when it comes to a job interview, “Am I qualified at all?” and “What if I can’t think of an answer? All of that leads to anxiety because the answers are missing.

That fear can turn into a vicious spiral and sabotage all your prep work.

The important thing to know is that it’s normal to feel nervous. You are being recorded, recorded. You are seen for what you are and what you are. For all eternity. You fixate on your appearance. The video interview reduces the diversity that defines you as a person and individual to a few factors.

And that is what it is all about! It is not your life, not everything you are and can be. Therefore: practice hard and long. Then internalize that you have important and other things in your life that are equally important. It is this mix of professionalism and calmness that makes you strong in a video interview.

5Watch your posture

In a personal conversation your counterpart perceives you as a whole person. If you fidget nervously with your legs under the table, this is visible. In a video interview it is inevitably different. Here you are reduced to the image detail. You are only what the camera sees. This has advantages and disadvantages and has consequences either way.

In a video interview your lower half of the body is usually not in the picture. This does not apply to video testimonials. For the sake of authenticity, we also work with half-length shots here. If you are sitting, you don’t have to worry about the positioning of your legs.

A nice neutral position in the chair, both feet on the floor, makes the rest of your body look upright and alert. Adjust your chair so that you are not sitting too low or too high. Crossing your legs is dangerous. This position either pushes you back into the chair. This makes you seem reserved and restrained. Because in the picture, you pull back. Or (with a webcam) you even fall out of the picture.

Practice sitting upright and keeping your back straight. Make sure you’re facing the lens and that you’re not being shot too much from the side. Find a comfortable balance between leaning forward and backward. Practice and play with different options until you are literally sitting securely in your chair or standing in front of the camera.

6The background also tells a story

Life can be pretty nasty. Backgrounds, too. If you’re out with professionals or are being interviewed by television, the choice of background for the shots is the job of the realisator and the cameraperson. The only thing worth doing here is to make sure that the background does not work against you. TV likes exaggerations and contrasts. This is not always in the interest of the person in a video interview.

When in doubt, always choose a neutral background. Especially when it comes to a job, the right thing to do is to do nothing wrong. That’s why a meaningless background is your best choice.

Especially nasty are reflections and reflexes. Movements and shadow casts direct the attention of the eye strongly. If you don’t look at windows, glass doors or mirrors behind you during a job interview, light reflections and annoying reflections can unintentionally make your video appearance a laughing stock. It doesn’t have to be the half-naked girlfriend who unexpectedly jumps through the picture as a reflection.

As a rule of thumb you can remember the following tip: If you keep a distance of one and a half meters to the background, avoid ugly shadows. The less reflective surfaces in your field of vision (including lenses, which is a separate issue for people who wear glasses …), the better the viewer can concentrate on your picture.

7Clothing & Make-up

High contrasts are a problem for the automatic iris function. Especially for webcams.

Dresses

If you wear a white shirt, your face is underexposed and hardly recognizable. Conversely, if you wear black, the webcam tries to show the black. The result is that your face will look contrastless and washed out due to overexposure.

Very bright colours (bright red tones, yellow, pink, etc.) can also cause problems. They give your skin a slightly reddish, unnatural tone.

Softer, stronger colours, on the other hand, work well. Blue is almost always one of the best options.

For technical reasons, many camera chips cannot handle pinstripes, houndstooth patterns, fishbones or similar patterns. These cause a strong image flicker. The so-called moiré effect (an interference) occurs especially with professional TV cameras.

Face

Women should wear some make-up for video interviews.

To avoid shine, you should, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, at least cover your forehead with powder in high temperatures. This will prevent an unattractive shine. After all, you don’t want to look like a bacon rind stewing in the sun.

If you wear glasses, they are ideally glare-free. This way the light is not reflected and your conversation partner can look into your eyes. Of course, contact lens wearers have an easier time in this respect.

CChecklist for the video interview: Tips and tricks

25 tips on how to make your appearance in front of the camera successful in every video interview.

  1. Choose an outfit that you feel comfortable in. Everything that fits well, is clean and wrinkle-free is a good start.
  2. Warm yourself up. Start by talking about something that suits your personality. (If you’re interviewing for a job, of course you do this immediately before and off camera).
  3. Allow enough time. If possible, shoot as many takes as necessary. There is nothing like a well made video that you have worked hard on.
  4. Have a sip of water or hot tea in between. Otherwise your parched throat can ruin the shot!
  5. Place a large mirror a few meters behind the recording unit during training. This will allow you to check your body language. Pretend that your reflection is another person you are talking to. This is not easy. If you find that this kind of training irritates you more than it helps you, do without it.
  6. When you stand: Place markers on the floor in front of the camera so you know exactly where to place yourself and your feet.
  7. Familiarize yourself with your script. But don’t remember word for word for the video interview. Be so familiar with your points of conversation that you can speak naturally during the shoot, but still cover everything important in the text.
  8. Wear clothes that cover sweat stains. Spotlights or the tension can make you sweat a lot in front of a camera. Dab your face with a cloth between shots and have neutral powder at hand to avoid shine on forehead and nose.
  9. Watch out for any unconscious, nervous tics. These include things like constantly clearing your throat, wiggling your eyebrows excessively, blinking repeatedly, swallowing empty or repeating the same phrases over and over again.
  10. If you are tense during the recording: Breathe deeply and relax your shoulders. That way the tension will be released from you.
  11. Immediately before shooting you should do something to relax. This can be a few steps of movement, a few minutes of meditation or nibbling on an apple. Many professionals have their favourite rituals for this.
  12. Start slowly. People tend to start at full speed when they are nervous. The aim is to speak a little slower than normal. Then you will have the perfect tempo.
  13. Try to look at the camera as if it were a person you were talking to. Or, if you can’t, have someone stand right next to the camera lens so that his or her eyes are at the same level and talk to him/her.
  14. Do not use too much or too little make-up (also applies to the Lords of Creation!). Get a second, objective opinion about how you look in front of the camera. Test your look in different lighting conditions.
  15. Don’t be too perfect. It’s not likeable and looks rehearsed. Show competence, but leave room for spontaneity.
  16. Write your own keywords. If not, at least make sure you are involved in the process. This will make you more convincing in the video interview.
  17. Prevent anything that might distract you. Including unnecessary people on set or in your field of vision. Avoid unnecessary noises, such as sudden calls to your cell phone or people hitchhiking into your room by mistake.
  18. Divide your script into sections of about two to five sentences. This way, you don’t have to remember long passages and have more room to attach your own notes.
  19. Write down your most important statements on a separate sheet of paper. Learn these points. This way you are sure that you will place them in the video interview.
  20. Find out what time of day you have the most energy. If it is in the morning, plan (if possible) the shooting. Conversely, if you feel better in the late afternoon, aim for that slot. This will make you feel more confident even if you have unexpected questions.
  21. If you have a say, ask for a video crew you already know for a TV interview or CEO video.
  22. If you get shaky legs despite all your efforts or feel uncomfortable standing still, do the video interview sitting down.
  23. Watch good and bad videos in advance. Make notes on what you want to do differently (or the same).
  24. Organization is the key. The better you plan, the more you can concentrate on what you want to say.
  25. Be aware that with each video interview you will become better and more confident. And don’t forget to have some fun with your appearance in front of the camera

Audio / Sound during video interview

When professionals record your video interview, you usually don’t have to worry about the sound. You either get a lapel microphone or your voice is recorded with a handheld microphone.

The situation is different with application videos.

If you produce the video yourself, you’ll need a good external microphone. Tips for the right choice can be found in the practical test section.

For Skype / Streaming you choose a room that is as free of reverb as possible. Otherwise your voice will sound as if you were sitting in a tin can. If you have no other option, you can also optimize the sound with a trick: Hang a towel outside the viewing area (usually to the side of you). If necessary, a sheet or a winter coat will also do. All this dampens the reverb and gives the sound a dry, clean sound.

So don’t just test the image, but also the quality of the sound. Comprehensibility has top priority.

Ask Dr. Film

You have a question about video production, imagefilm or storytelling? Then Dr. Film is the right place for you! He will answer your reader questions free of charge: Contact us here!

Filmpulse Editorial Office
About Filmpulse Editorial Office 180 Articles
Under the heading "Filmpulse Editorial Office", contributions appear which are jointly produced by several members of the staff.

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