More and more law firms are choosing to interview training contract candidates initially using Skype or video chat services – DWF, Irwin Mitchell and Hill Dickinson among them. From working with candidates we have a lot of experience of how to come across well on video. Here’s the information you need.
What’s in it for law firms?
For one, video interviews allow firms to see more candidates in less time. They don’t need to escort you in and out, give you a tour of the building, lay on refreshments or have you hanging around reception waiting for your allotted time.
Secondly, firms can (and usually do) record video interviews, either to allow the interviewer to clarify something they didn’t quite catch the first time, or to give them to chance to evaluate your interview performance by re-playing some parts of the call. Unlike a phone interview, they can see your body language and reactions to questions. Sound alarming? It doesn’t have to be.
What’s in it for you?
You’re literally on home ground. No travel costs, no getting lost on your way out after a particularly brutal grilling from an interviewer, and some of the jitters and anxieties that arise from being in an unfamiliar office (or city) with other TC hopefuls are eliminated.
How to use video interviews to your advantage
Ever wished you could take your notes into an interview, to help with how you structure answers or what you learnt during a particular bit of work experience? Now you can! Notes should never be to the side of you so that you need to turn your head noticeably to read them. Nor should you be rifling through pages and pages while your interviewer waits. We recommend a handful of large Post-It notes on the wall behind your computer (or on the frame of your laptop), so you can look up from time to time to jog your memory. These notes might remind you to slow down, to ask a particular question or to answer competency questions in an appropriate way.
Use your ‘home advantage’. Practice sitting comfortably but without slouching at your computer, get a glass of water or mug of tea to hand, and make sure you have paper and a pen nearby to jot down any questions.
Make sure you appear professional. Do a technical check at least thirty minutes before your scheduled start time – does Skype (or whatever software you’re using) work as it should? Are the microphone and speaker picking up sound correctly? While you’re at it, if you’re using Skype make sure your Skype username is in a firstname.surname format, not foxxybunnyparis3000 (yes, really).
Whenever we discuss video interviews, someone invariably pipes up about doing the whole thing in your pyjama bottoms. Very subversive. Just make sure that any parts of you visible on screen are suitably dressed, including a tie and jacket if appropriate. Avoid jewellery that will rattle loudly when you move, since the microphone will likely transmit it.
Remember to make eye contact, as you probably know how to do during an in-person interview. Look into the camera, not the screen. Use your hands to gesture as you normally would.
Potential pitfalls to avoid
A dodgy internet connection. This is the obvious one, given the nature of the interview. Make sure your service provider isn’t planning some routine maintenance in your area during the relevant time, and make sure that anyone you live with knows not to hog the bandwidth during your call (for example, by getting on a video call themselves or downloading a large file), or unplug the router to vacuum. Yes, it really happens.
Background noise. Again, this is mostly just a common sense warning to the people around you not to shout or disturb you during your call, and to keep any music/noise down. Tell them you’ll come out / open your door / let them know as soon as you’re done. On a related note, make sure your phone is on silent.
Activity. A white/light-coloured wall is an ideal background. Make sure that no switched-on TVs, posters or other distractions are visible behind you, and don’t sit somewhere where pets or people are likely to wander past. Your laptop / computer should be on a desk, not your knees, otherwise the picture will be visibly wobbly.
Poor lighting. Don’t sit in front of a window (another common mistake) – the light behind you distorts the camera and can make your face appear very dark. Light behind your computer is ideal since it will illuminate you, but most normal room lighting will do. Test it out before you go live.
Interrupting the interviewer. You’re not the only one who’s in an unusual situation. Allow a few seconds after the interviewer has finished asking their question before you launch into your answer, so you avoid the risk of interrupting them.
Dying laptop batteries. It’s an obvious point, but do make sure your laptop is fully charged (and ideally plugged in) before your interview.
Do you have an interview coming up? See how we can help.