How to succeed at digital interviews and get the job you want

Are you digitally ready for today’s video interviews? Hiring managers are looking for digitally savvy candidates who come across well on video. We take a look at how to prepare for video interviews, the latest etiquette and how to adapt to the video medium so you get the job you want.

Get the essentials right 

Make sure you’re in a quiet room with a good wifi connection and great lighting. We often see candidates overlooking these essentials but they really make a difference to how you’re perceived by hiring managers.

Check your wifi speed

You need to ensure your wifi is up to the task in hand. You can check the quality of your wifi connection by running a test here at Speedtest.net.

Lighting is critical

Front-facing natural light is best, so if you can, sit in front of a window. It evenly accentuates and brightens your skin and features, giving you a clear, flattering, professional appearance. Avoid being ‘backlit’ at all costs, so no sitting with a window or other strong light source directly behind you. Too dark or too light are both no-nos. 

Hiring managers are looking for digitally savvy hires, regardless of the job role, and poor lighting is a dead giveaway that you haven’t prepared or that you’re not set up for effective remote working. 

Sunlight 
Be aware of where the sun falls at different times of the day and ensure it’s not streaming into your face or laptop and distorting your image during the video interview. Hiring managers are unable to create a connection with you if they can’t see your face properly and it will definitely leave a poor impression. In fact, we recently had a candidate spend their whole interview with bright sun shining in their face and they were not shortlisted as a result, despite being a strong contender. 

Ensure you have more than one light source
Don’t just rely on overhead lighting. Use a desk lamp or multiple lamps, especially in darker rooms, so your face can be seen clearly. It’s tiring for the interviewer if they’re straining to see your facial expressions. Find extra lamps from around the house and set them up especially for your interview. 

Avoid low angles on your video interview

Keep the camera eye-level or higher. You want to make sure your computer’s at least a little bit elevated so that you don’t have the double-chin effect or give the hiring manager a view up your nostrils! You also want to ensure you’re not giving the appearance of looking down at the interviewer.

Choose your background carefully

As we’ve all discovered, when you dial into a call, people won’t just be looking at you – they’ll naturally be nosey. Be aware of your background and distractions behind you. You want people to focus on you, so a plain background is often best, but a thoughtfully set up background, using plants, for example, can work well and say something about you.

Distance and position from your camera

Try to position yourself so the camera is seeing you from the chest or waist up, instead of your face taking up the whole frame. Seeing more of you is more natural for the interviewer, more akin to a face-to-face meeting in real life. This helps the hiring manager read your body language – building rapport is still very important in digital interviews.  

Always use a PC or a laptop and not a smartphone to give a more stable view, and to allow you to make notes.

Camera on or camera off?

It will definitely put you at a disadvantage if you don’t turn on your camera at the start of the video interview. The immediate question that springs to the hiring manager’s mind is: “what is the candidate hiding”? This ties in with being seen as digitally ready and coming across as an effective remote worker. 


Remember, the hiring manager wants to know you really want this job. Demonstrating that you’ve prepared well, with good lighting and a suitable background demonstrates your commitment. 

Stewart Robertson, Co-founder, SRM Recruitment

What to wear for a video interview

What to wear often depends on the particular company or industry sector you’re applying for but as a rule, it’s always better to overdress than underdress for a video interview. Always go ‘one above’, for example, it might be usual to just wear T-shirts at a media company so a smart shirt or top will be seen as making an effort at a video interview. Our clients definitely notice and appreciate when candidates go the extra mile.

Smart business casual is the accepted norm in most cases. If you’re in doubt, ask your recruitment consultant what the client usually wears and take their lead.

Break the ice at the start of the video interview 

Start with a smile and a positive demeanour to help the hiring manager warm to you. Both parties want to break the ice, so small talk is still essential. Asking each other: “how are you” and “how’s your day going” gets things off to the right start.

Slow down and speak clearly 

When we’re nervous we tend to speak more quickly. So slow down and focus on getting your messages across clearly. This is even more critical on a video call where we may miss subtle body language cues. When you finish your point, it’s ok to stop. Don’t be tempted to start talking again to fill the silence. Just wait for the interviewer’s next question to avoid talking over each other. 

Present like we met you down the hallway

If we bump into someone at the office, or in a social setting, we’ll be emotional and vibrant. Then we get in front of a video camera and we stiffen up and do our best impression of a robot! 

Remember that a video interview is just a conversation, so focus on breathing, try to relax and crucially, be conscious of using all your muscles in your back and neck to come across well. Most of us need to project a little more energy and animation to come across well on video.


Don’t eat or drink and keep a notebook to hand

Of course, it’s fine to have a glass of water but don’t eat your breakfast or drink your protein shake! It’s also fine to have some notes to hand to help prompt you and have questions ready for the interviewer. It’s harder to actively listen on a video call, so focus on this and pick up on what the interviewer is saying, rather than just thinking of your next answer. 

What are the most common platforms for a video interview?

There are some specialist video interview platforms but the three most common are BlueJeans, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Ask what platform will be used so you can practice with a friend if it’s a tool that’s unfamiliar. Make sure you know how to turn your camera on and unmute yourself without panicking! Errors here can give the impression that you may not be very digitally savvy.

If restrictions allow, finish a remote process with a face to face interview 

We’ve seen candidates start new roles without meeting anyone but if your new boss offers a face to face interview in a covid-secure environment you’re comfortable with, we’d recommend you take the opportunity. It will tell you more and give you the advantage over other candidates. 

Get in touch to discuss your next career move 

If you’re looking for further advice on your next career move in finance or accounting get in touch with me, Stewart Robertson today on +44 (0) 20 3637 7808 or connect with me on Linkedin. Alternatively, if you’re planning your headcount or want impartial advice on the current market, please do get in touch with me.

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