Hello from the Other Side


How to Win a Video Interview When You Can’t See Your Interviewer.

Gotta Love Technology:

Video chatting is not a new thing. FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Google Hang Out. We use these every day to talk to our friends, family and coworkers. They are fun and effective tools for communicating, right? And why are they effective? Because you can see and hear the person on the other side (hence my not-so- clever title).

You’re probably thinking, ‘Um duh, of course you can see and hear them’. But what if you couldn’t? What if you asked a question and you didn’t get an answer? You explained a complex problem but couldn’t see a head nod with understanding. We are constantly checking for affirmation while we communicate. Not receiving any social clues can be disorienting. How do you know if your message is being heard and understood?

There may be a few of us who would be comfortable in that situation. But to rest of us, it’s not appealing, and super uncomfortable. We want and need immediate in-person feedback, especially during something as important as an interview. But I’ll talk about that in a second.

Talking to Yourself:

Believe it or not, talking to yourself is how some companies are planning to interview you.  

Okay great. Wait, what?

Allow me to describe the pre-recorded interview. As part of some companies interview process, candidates are asked to record themselves answering a number or prescreening questions, in a designated amount of time, and the recorded answers will be sent to a recruiter – or hiring manager – for review. Based on your answers you’re either selected for the next step or rejected.

For my theater majors out there, this sounds like a dream job interview. For the rest of us, there could be nothing more intimidating.  In fact, I’ve talked to candidates who have opted out of the interview process altogether when they learn they must do a prerecorded interview.

Practice Makes Better: 

You aren’t going to be perfect. So don’t try to be. Recruiters don’t expect perfection. We get it, this is a weird thing. It’s uncomfortable. And it sure as heck isn’t going to be a part of your normal day to day job if you’re hired. Part of the reason companies do this is to see how you handle an uncomfortable situation.

So that being said, how do you prepare for this weird and uncomfortable experience?  It might be helpful if you knew what we (recruiters) are looking for.

Three things to Consider:

First. Location. Location. Location. Where are you recording yourself? Home? Office? Subway? Bathroom? Be conscious of your environment. Pick a time after the kids are in bed. Have your neighbor watch the dog so Fido doesn’t bark through the entire thing. I’ve watched a cat walk across the screen during one of my interviews. That was funny. I’ve also seen one guy’s fire alarm go off in his apartment as he was recording his answer and he kept recording! Now that’s dedication.

Second. I’ll mention these but they should be common sense: Make sure the lighting is good and the camera angle is flattering. Check for food in your teeth. Spit out your gum. Brush your hair. Basically, prepare the same way you would for an in-person interview.

Third. Show your personality. If you’re interviewing with a recognizable brand, it’s cool to have a poster of their product in the background, or wear a shirt with the company logo. In a sea of candidates, you want to be memorable, but not infamous. Be creative, but not distracting. I’d probably opt out on the David Puddy face painting (that’s a Seinfeld reference for my GenZ readers). But don’t be afraid to smile and don’t take yourself too seriously.  

Lastly, don’t overthink it. I’ve seen some good ones recorded on an iphone in a car. Parked of course. We are listening to the content of your answers, not how perfectly you present yourself.

The fire alarm guy got a call back by the way.



Leah Fitzgerald
Director of Talent Acquisition & Employer Branding, HGTV


About Leah Fitzgerald:

Leah is a seasoned Talent Acquisition professional who loves to geek out on any technology that helps recruiters do their jobs better. She has a passion for employer branding, candidate experience, and loves to educate business leaders on how to leverage their brands to hire and retain great people. Previously working for fortune 500 companies like Under Armour as well as startups, she currently serves as the Director of Talent Acquisition and Employer Branding for HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel. Her heart for empowering young women has afforded her the opportunity to speak at incoming college freshman orientations as well as mentor female MBA students around the country. Follow her on LinkedIn & Twitter - @LFitzzz.