From Snapchat to Facebook Live, video is hot. So, it’s no surprise that more and more companies are turning to video to help with recruiting. The traditional resume-cover letter one-two punch is being replaced with the video interview. And, it’s easy to see why.

In today’s hiring world, according to a recent study by TheLadders, you’re lucky if your resume or CV gets 6 seconds of someone’s time. And, if your resume bullets aren’t a “perfect fit” for the role you’re applying to, you may be quickly overlooked. But, while resumes and CVs confine you to a single 8x11 sheet, video interviews allow your personality to leap off the page and capture a recruiter’s attention. Through video, you dictate how your story is told, you showcase your soft skills and strengths, and you tell the viewer why the experiences on your resume make you the best fit for the role. You bring the words on your resume to life.

So, what is a video interview?

Although video interviews can come in many forms, we typically see them fall into one of two categories. In the first category, you are given a pre-set list of questions and are asked to record yourself “selfie-style” using your phone, computer, or video camera. You have the ability to practice your answers and to re-record your responses if you are unhappy with the results before you submit them.

In the second category, however, an app on your phone or computer will ask you questions in real time. A question will light up the screen, you will have a few seconds to think about the question, and then you will only have one chance to respond. Your answer is timed, and you will be cut off if your response exceeds the allotted time period. At HubSpot, we use Take The Interview, a real time video interviewing software. Candidates see a question flash across the screen, have 30 seconds after seeing the question to prepare, and then have one minute to answer the question. 

How is a video interview different from other interviews?

The biggest differentiator for video interviews is that there is no one on the other side. In a traditional phone, Skype, or face-to-face interview, a recruiter or hiring manager is typically on the other end of the line or on the opposite side of the table, helping to direct the conversation and reacting to your answers. But, with a video interview, the conversation only involves you and the camera. Some people like this format because you can answer questions without any interruption or judgement. For others, however, talking aloud to yourself can feel painfully awkward, and operating without context clues, like body language and facial expressions, can be particularly unnerving. Without the prompting of an interviewer, it can be difficult to draw out the answers you really want to give and to gauge reactions to your responses.

Nevertheless, the biggest similarity video interviews have with other interviewing formats is that preparation is everything. As a recruiter who reviews video interviews on a daily basis, I’ve compiled some simple tips and tricks you can follow to make sure you are expertly prepared to tackle the unique challenges that video interviews present.

Make Your One-Take Video Interview Count

Explore these eight tips for how to make your first video interview debut show-stopping:

  1. Do your research first.
    Because some video interviews are timed and only allow for one take, it’s imperative that you research the company beforehand.  You’re not expected to be an expert, but you should have a comfortable understanding of the company’s mission and the services or goods it provides. It’s totally okay to write these down (in fact, I suggest it!). Just make sure that when the camera starts rolling you’re not looking down at your notes.

  2. Dress for the occassion.
    I’ve seen the best and worst outfits while reviewing video interviews, and my advice is to make a great first impression by dressing for the part. At HubSpot, we have a casual dress code, but looking your best and dressing as though you were going to a formal interview will definitely not lose you any points. If you have a suit jacket, wear it. If not, and you are interviewing for a formal organization, consider borrowing one from a friend. For better or worse, appearances matter.

  3. Keep background noise (both visual and audio) to a minimum.
    Although it’s not the end of the world if your kid sister barges in during your video interview, it could ruin your concentration and take up precious time. Show your commitment to the interview process by spending the extra few seconds locking your bedroom door if you’re at home, or finding a quiet room in the library to record in. I once reviewed a video interview that looked like a rave. Don’t get me wrong - I’m a fan of neon lights, dazzling jewelry, and background music for the right occasion - but during an interview is not that time.

  4. Don't worry too much about smiling.
    It’s natural to want to present a friendly face to the camera, but it’s more important to focus on concisely articulating your ideas. Worrying too much about your facial expressions during the video can make you lose your train of thought or look unnatural. While smiling may be part of your role if you’re applying to a customer-facing position, it’s likely that the
     company cares much more about your communication and problem solving skills. Better to focus your energy on showcasing those abilities instead of your pearly whites.

  5. Practice makes perfect!
    When preparing for interviews, in any format, you should always practice with a friend or colleague. For video interviews, see if the company has interview questions posted on
    Glassdoor and then have a friend ask you those questions, time your response, and cut you off at one minute. Remember, it’s better to have well thought out answers that end earlier than the allotted time than it is to ramble on just to fill the empty space! Most video interview systems will allow you to click ‘stop’ when you are finished responding and ready to move on.

  6. Show don't tell.
    With limited time to respond to questions, it’s imperative that you move beyond just stating that you are an “expert communicator” or “great relationship builder,” and instead use real examples and anecdotes that explain how you are these things. Skip the build-up and focus on sharing the details of what you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished. 

  7. It's okay to stumble.
    It’s very normal to feel some anxiety under the pressure of the clock or when staring into the eye of the camera. You almost certainly will stumble over a word or two. We all do it. The best thing you can do in the moment is resist the urge to panic. Take a deep breath, refocus, and move forward. You’ve got this.

  8. Be yourself.
    Last, and perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to have fun and be yourself! The video interview puts a face and a voice to your application, so don’t be afraid to share the real you and your many colors. After all, companies are hiring people, not just a static, bulleted list of impressive accomplishments.

If you are eager to try out these tips before your official interview debut, head over to Interview 4 where you can practice recording a video of yourself, or to My Interview Simulator, which provides simulated mock interviews. And, for more inspiration, we’ve compiled some of the best video interviews we’ve received here at HubSpot. See how these candidates (now amazing employees) incorporated our suggestions in their responses!

5 Video Interviews That Stole The Show

  1. This is Isaac; our recruiters were impressed by his poise and professionalism in this clip, but also by his overall presentation, particularly his choice of attire and his recording location.
  2. Check out Caroline! From her response, it's obvious that she adhered to my number one tip and did some research on the role she is applying for. Her answer explains her experience teaching about software at her old company, which is exactly what she does for customers now at HubSpot. 
  3. By bringing up UX design and industry-specific language, it is clear to the recruiter that Anne, like Caroline, also did some industry research prior to her interview and identified concepts she’d like to learn more about.  Anne was also able to articulate her thoughts clearly and concisely while being approachable and engaging. Kudos!
  4. Similarly, Derek’s interview reveals that he not only researched the role, but also researched the company culture and values. Derek talks about his love for learning and his goal of working with other like-minded individuals who thrive at a company like HubSpot which is equally passionate about learning and growth. He also speaks clearly and closes his points nicely when he’s finishes a thought.
  5. Will is one of our top customer support team members, and in his interview, he talks about the traits that truly make him stand out from other applicants. Seeing him on video gave us insight into his warm, smiling personality that we may not have been able to see just from his CV or resume. 

So don't be intimidated by the video interview; instead, embrace the spotlight and own the stage. If you do your research, are thoughtful about how you present yourself, rehearse ahead of time, and relax in the moment, I guarantee that your video will wow recruiters and get you the callback you've been waiting for.   

Interviewing soon? Try out one of HubSpot’s candidate Zoom backgrounds in your next remote interview.


Originally published Jan 5, 2017 8:30:00 AM, updated January 18 2023