How to Ace the Video Interview: Tips for Outrageous Success

Video Interview tips

By Chere B. Estrin 

Don’t Make Rookie Mistakes and Blow Your Interview

It’s interesting how some people think they are giving a great interview. Sometimes, it is just downright laughable.

A couple of months ago, we were searching for a new recruiter for our own organization. We interviewed a number of people but couldn’t seem to find the right person. I interviewed a candidate that while I thought maybe was not quite right, should go for a second interview with our team. (Always trust your gut – it’s experience that is talking.) 

Fast forward to the Zoom interview with my entire team.

[Open Zoom] “I am not feeling very well today,” said the candidate in her opening conversation. Somehow, I wasn’t getting it. Zoom in on the video and she seemed to be sitting on her bed. Upon closer look, she was actually in bed under the covers. Our team seemed reluctant to continue the interview so we cut it short. What I didn’t recognize that my team pointed out immediately, was that the candidate was not only in bed, she was in her p.j.’s……..

Obviously, that was a 10 minute courtesy interview. Yep, this is a true story, no exaggeration.

It would seem that everyone now knows how to Zoom. It is the primary way to communicate in the working world today. However, there isn’t a day that goes by (we interview all day long) that someone doesn’t have it quite right. The most important thing is that they don’t get it right when video interviewing with the potential employer and don’t understand why the heck they didn’t get the job. Some claim age discrimination, others claim various other excuses. However, when it comes down to it, it may have been all about how you conducted the video interview.

Employers today do not tolerate anyone who cannot properly participate competently in a video interview. They just don’t. Their attitude is that by now, you should be an expert in video interviewing. It is a non-negotiable requirement to get the job. That applies to all positions – let me repeat that – all positions. What inevitably happens is that the employer sees the candidate fumbling and 9 times out of 10, they cut the interview short and pass on the candidate. In particular, attorneys will not tolerate video fumbles. They just won’t.

The most frustrating thing for employers is the candidate who is still futzing with the audio when the interview starts or not getting on screen at the appointed time because they are trying to figure it out. You can absolutely count on not getting the job. And I mean absolutely. If you can’t handle this simple task, what else are you lacking? It’s a legitimate question. You are guaranteed a very short interview along with a rejection.

The most frustrating thing for employers is the candidate who is still futzing with the audio when the interview starts or not getting on screen quickly.

If you want to make the right impression, it is time to solidify your video interviewing skills. Right now! You will not get moved forward by being inept. It just isn’t going to happen.

Here are some important tips for a successful video interview. 

  • Always have your resume in front of you
  • Log on at least 15 minutes ahead of schedule to make sure there are no technical difficulties. Check everything, even though you may have Zoomed a hundred times before. Things have a way of changing.

Check:

  • The technology to make sure it works for you. 
  • The lighting to make sure the screen is not too dark or have shadows. Do not sit in front of a window as the lighting will be bad. Be sure to use a video ring. Turn out other lights and check each and every time that you look fine in the video. Check ahead of time. 
  • The sound and the reception. Don’t wait until the interview starts and find out something technical is going haywire. Make sure you are in a quiet room with excellent cell service.  Outside is not great as there is noise you cannot control.

Practice this BEFORE the interview especially if you are not confident with the video platform

Do not appear unprepared:

  • Do not tell the interviewer to hold on while you go to another place or shut the door. Turn off your other phones so nothing rings during the interview. Don’t let kids or pets interrupt. Be in a quiet place and check your reception prior to the interview – each and every time. Did I tell you not to interview in an elevator?
  • When you fumble with the technology, you literally knock yourself out of the running. It’s unprofessional to login and try to get the audio and video going while the firm is waiting. Guaranteed a pass.  

Research the firm thoroughly:

  • Check the website and Google and go to LinkedIn for info on the firm and its achievements. Bring up something in the interview that shows you did your research i.e., “I saw where you won the Acme case. I was very impressed. This is the type of firm I would like to work for.” 
  • Look up the interviewers on LinkedIn, Google them and know something relevant to the position about them or something that you both have in common. Tie it into the interview: “I see where you went to UCLA. I did my undergrad there.” Your interviewer has a stellar background and will expect nothing but excellence. 
  • Be sure to show your personality, smile a lot and do not be too stiff. Statistics show that your odds of getting a job increase tremendously when you smile. 

 Appearance:

Be sure to suit up. A conservative “Brooks Bros or Anne Taylor” look is best.

Don’t let tats show either. If you are a male, no earrings.

Be careful about your physical background. Bedrooms are not good at all (too personal). Messy backgrounds are bad as well. I once interviewed a candidate who was in her bedroom. Behind her was her dresser loaded with every conceivable piece of makeup, brushes and other personal items. It was embarrassing because I felt like it was much too personal.

On Camera:

Whether you are using FaceTime or laptop, be sure not to get too close to the screen so that all is seen is a huge face or a partial face such such as your eyes or mouth only. Get a shot of your head down to your chest or waist sitting behind a desk. Make sure that you look directly into the camera and don’t start looking at your picture to see how you are doing as you talk. That makes you look down or askew. Look directly into the camera. I once told this to a candidate and she said “Where’s the camera?” Great. We were off to a good start….Always, always, look directly into the camera.  

Make the video as though you were sitting across from the interviewer in an office looking directly at them. Make sure your background is acceptable and not messy. Watch your body language. Don’t cross your arms, be open. Try and look as professional as you can. Test yourself out long before the interview. 

There are pictures that you can use in Zoom that gives fake backgrounds such as beautiful offices, homes, conference rooms and more. Use those or at least blur the background. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they absolutely love my Malibu residence. (I should be so lucky.) 

The Interview:

Be prepared to answer questions such as why you left your last positions; what you are looking for in the future (do not say you are going to law school or have plans other than working for this particular firm), how you prepare certain assignments, and hear a little about the firm. You might be asked behavior questions such as: “How would handle two attorneys requesting due dates at the same time? Or “If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would that be?” (I never quite know why anyone asks this question. To check out your politics? Priorities? Smarts?)

Ask at least two questions, no more than three. Do not use the routine: “Tell me about a typical day in the life of …..”. Show some originality. Aways tie in your skills to your questions. Your answers should not run more than 2 minutes, 3 at the most.

Salary and Benefits:

Do not ask questions about salary or benefits. If you are asked about salary and went through a recruiting organization, be sure they tell you what they asked for. Your recruiter will deal with the salary negotiations. It is best that you leave that to them.

Follow-up:

Call your recruiter immediately after the interview. If you are going through a staffing organization, do not contact the firm after the interview. The firm will call the staffing agency to let them know whether they want to move forward. Your recruiter definitely needs to know how the interview went and anticipate any questions the firm may have. They are also looking for red flags.  Be sure to send a thank-you email within 24 hours of the interview. I have witnessed deals made or broken based on the thank-you email.

Be sure to send a thank-you email within 24 hours of the interview. I have witnessed deals made or broken based on the thank-you email.

Continued Learning:

Here is a link to one of our most popular videos: How to Land a Job in Coronaville. Listen and learn. This is your chance to get the job that meets your hopes, wants, dreams and desires. Make it easy on yourself and start getting multiple offers.


Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top staffing organization in California. She is the President of the Organization of Legal Professionals ,an online legal training technology organization. Chere was recently interviewed by Fortune Magazine (www.estrinreport.com) and has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles. She has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of LAPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator in an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

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