It’s not uncommon for applicants to undergo pre-screening before being scheduled for an interview. Sure, that involves reviewing your resume. However, many companies are switching to more automated pre-screening methods. A skills test or a personality test are the most common.
And while phone pre-screens are not uncommon, they require a human from the company to conduct the phone call. Enter the one-way video interview, a different type of pre-screening tool companies use that doesn’t require someone from HR to directly reach out to a candidate.
While they can be confusing to crack, knowing how to navigate a one-way interview is important. As technology continues to play a more significant role in recruiting and hiring, job seekers are more likely than ever to face a one-way interview long before making it to the in-person interview.
What Is a One-Way Video Interview?
Sometimes called an asynchronous interview, a one-way interview is a pre-screening tool employers use to determine if you should move forward to the next round of interviews. These interviews usually ask three to five basic questions about who you are, why you applied for the job, strengths and weaknesses, as well as other high-level items.
What makes this step of the interview process unique is that you aren’t talking to a person, per se. Instead, you’ll see written questions on your computer screen. Then, using your computer camera (or mobile device), you’ll record your answers and submit your answers to the employer. Later, your “interviewer” reviews your submission and decides if they want to schedule you for an interview.
Why do Employer Use One-Way Video Interviews?
Companies turn to one-way video interviews because they offer distinct advantages over two-way interviews of any format.
The company can screen 20 interviewees at the same time without having to worry about who is available when. The HR department, supervisor, and other team members can look over the candidate submission at their leisure. And, in most cases, the candidate can complete the video portion of their interview at a time that’s most convenient for them.
Widens the Candidate Pool
Candidates that live in far-flung locations don’t have to travel to the main office for an interview. One-way video interviews open companies up to finding and hiring the best candidates no matter where they live.
Assess Technological Skills
Especially for remote jobs, the ability to participate in video calls is an essential skill. If an applicant says they want to work remotely but doesn’t have a webcam of any sort, they likely aren’t the right fit for the organization.
How Does a One-Way Video Interview Work?
In general, you’ll record your one-way video interview as part of your initial application. If completing one is not specifically mentioned in the job posting, it’s usually mentioned somewhere on the website when you apply.
Most applications let you complete the one-way video portion at a later date (like when you’re having a good hair day). However, there is usually a limited amount of time to come back and complete it (as little as one week or as much as 30 days).
The Practice Round
While every one-way interview is different, they generally follow this format.
First, you’ll log into the application and follow the instructions for setting up your one-way interview. You may have to download software, but not always. Then, you’ll have a test run with your equipment to make sure everything works properly.
This practice run lets you work out any bugs with your equipment. It may not involve a real question, but the practice session will run you through what the actual interview will be like. Don’t skip this step. Take the time to really work through the program and to record a response. Even if it’s just you saying the alphabet, spend at least 30 seconds recording an answer.
Then, play it back to see what the interviewers will see and hear. Is the sound loud enough? Is there background noise? Are you sitting up straight? Fidgeting? Is the lighting OK? Don’t overthink it—this isn’t a cover shoot for a magazine. But, make sure you take a few moments to review how you look and sound in the recording. The best practices for body language for a video interview can be applied here.
See if you need to adjust where the camera is, or if you sound timid or soft. Adjust yourself and your equipment as necessary, then practice again until you’re satisfied with how everything looks and sounds.
Once you’re satisfied with your set-up, you start the real interview. These are the questions and answers your interviewer will review. In some cases, you’re allowed to review then re-record your answer, but not always. In other cases, you can re-record your answer, but only once. Make sure you know how the process works before you start. And, if you have any questions, there’s usually a way to get help and ask questions via a contact form.
When the interview starts, you’ll see a question on your screen. Again, each program is different. Sometimes you can take as much time as you need before you answer, and other times you only get a few moments to think about your answer before the recording starts (like a real interview).
In either case, Toni Frana, Career Coach at FlexJobs, advises interviewees to take advantage of this time. “It gives you time to compose your thoughts before speaking. In an interview with a live person, sometimes people start talking because of the fear of silence.” Sfo use that “pause” wisely to compose a well-thought-out answer.
As you answer, be aware of the time. In most cases, you’ve got a limited amount of time to answer the question, say, 60 seconds. Sometimes, but rarely, you can talk for as long as you want. If the time is limited, there should be a timer on screen so you can see how much longer you have. If you want to stop early (or have an unlimited amount of talk time and are done), there’s usually a button to click to end the recording.
Then you can either review it, or you have to move on to the next question. When you’ve answered all the questions, that’s that! Hit submit, and your application is complete.
How to Prepare for a One-Way Video Interview
In some respects, a one-way video interview is no different than a two-way video interview, or even an in-person interview. So, treat it like any other interview! Review your resume, practice your answers, and prepare yourself as if you were going to an in-person interview. But to really shine in your one-way video interview, remember these tips.
Maintain Eye Contact
Like any other interview, you should maintain eye contact during your recordings. That sounds a little weird, though. There’s no one to maintain eye contact with, so how (and why) should you do that?
If you’re looking down the whole time (because it feels weird to stare at the camera or to watch yourself on screen), all the interviewer sees is the top of your head. Worse, the interviewer may think you somehow got the questions in advance and are reading a script, and you don’t want that either.
Staring at the screen means you’re looking away from the camera. While not a huge deal, it could mean that it looks like you’re looking somewhere else as if you were distracted by something going on “off-camera.” That’s not a good look during an interview.
Instead, look directly at your camera. This will help you maintain “eye contact” with the interviewer and help you look confident and engaged in the process, just like you would in an in-person interview.
If it feels weird to stare right at a camera, or you find you have a hard time maintaining “eye contact,” stick something up underneath your camera to remind you to “look here!” The interviewer will never know it’s there. It can be a sticky note with words, a picture of an eye, or a picture of a loved one. Whatever will keep you looking at that camera.
That said, it’s OK to look away occasionally like you would in any other conversation. Don’t feel that you need to stare directly at the camera the whole time. Looking away during a conversation is normal, so feel free to break “eye contact” from time to time and whenever it feels natural.
Dress the Part
Because this is an interview, you know that you need to dress for success. However, just because it’s a one-way video interview, don’t only dress the top half of you for success. Make sure you dress up all of you—including shoes—for two reasons.
First, dressing the part will help you get into “interview mode.” Not only can this help you feel more confident about the interview, it signals to the interviewer that you are a professional candidate that takes the interview and the job seriously. Dressing “casually” may send the message that you aren’t professional and don’t take work or the job seriously.
Second, you never know what’s going to happen during the video interview. What if you need to stand up and grab something? Or your camera accidentally falls? While there’s nothing wrong with your fuzzy bunny slippers, they don’t send the most professional message (and it could be plain embarrassing).
Look Behind You
Check your background out before you hit record. Is it tidy and professional-looking? Is there a bunch of clutter and dirty dishes behind you? Slightly disorganized may be your preferred office decor, but it’s not a good look for any video interview.
While you’re at it, check out your lighting, too. You want lighting from both sides, and not from behind or one side. The shadows will make you look weird, and while that shouldn’t matter, you want to look your best.
How a One-Way Interview is Different
While a one-way video interview is, in many respects, the same as any other interview, a one-way video interview has some peculiarities you should prepare for.
In a two-way interview, you’re interacting with your interviewer. You’re watching that person, maintaining eye contact, reading their body language, and watching for visual cues. It doesn’t matter if it’s an in-person interview or a two-way video interview. This real-time visual interaction helps you behave more naturally (even if you are nervous), and allows for natural ebbs and flows in the conversation, helping you to connect with the interviewer.
However, in a one-way interview, you’re the only person on-screen, and you’re doing all the talking. The lack of visual cues and body language from the interviewer means you don’t have any insight if you’re on the right track or not. More importantly, you might be distracted watching yourself on screen.
Make sure you focus your gaze on the camera, not you, as you record. Not only does this help with the “eye contact,” you’re less likely to get distracted by how you look.
But Don’t Ignore Yourself
At the same time, though, don’t be completely unaware of what you’re doing while you record your answers. Just like any other interview, sit up straight, don’t swivel in your chair, and don’t anxiously tap your feet. It doesn’t matter that this is a one-way interview. Eventually, the interviewer will see your recording and could interpret your nervousness as boredom, anxiety, or even disinterest.
Take advantage of the practice question and make sure you aren’t engaging in any distracting behaviors. If you catch yourself doing that, practice again until it’s gone. And, if you’re having trouble with a behavior, say, swiveling in your chair, place a note somewhere on your screen (preferably by your camera) to remind you to sit still!
Acing Your Asynchronous Interview
Practice makes perfect. But it’s hard to practice and prepare for a one-way video interview. Fortunately, you’ve got options.
If you want feedback, schedule a personalized session with one of our Career Coaches. Whether it’s a video interview, a phone interview, or an in-person interview, they can coach and prepare you for any format.