The best ways to flunk a video interview

Don’t make ‘eye contact’

This sounds stupid, but you need to look at the camera while you speak. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and distracting…but you need to do it. That way when the grad. recruiters watch it, it looks as though you are looking at them, rather than the corners of the room. It’s also a good idea to have your laptop camera at eye level, so you’re not looming over them. Put that pile of textbooks to good use.

Audibly groan/ swear under your breath after giving a dodgy answer.

Ok. Confession. I have done this. And I attempted to cover it up with an unconvincing cough. I don’t know if this slip was audible as I couldn’t bear to listen to it back. But. I do not recommend.*

Expect to be given unlimited time.

At some firms you have a set amount of time for everything. For example, you have one minute to read the question and prepare an answer, and one minute to present the answer. Once you’ve given your answer, the next question will come up on screen immediately. However, some firms are more flexible with timings. While they will still time your answer, they might give you unlimited time to prepare and/or the ability to pause between questions. Do not assume this is the case. Prepare for the worst and then be relieved when you see the ‘pause’ button.

Sit perfectly motionless

Imagine watching 100 video interviews. It must be excruciatingly boring. Particularly so when candidates don’t gesticulate. I’m not saying you should add interpretive dance to your answers, but a bit of “natural” gesturing would be nice. Natural in inverted commas, as I suggest practising it with your answers in front of the mirror. No. Really.

assessment day training contract vacation scheme video interview tips help
This is the insincerity you’re trying to avoid

Look at your notes

It is very obvious when you are glancing around at your notes. So I recommend drawing a big spider diagram of your key achievements and any firm stats you’re struggling to remember, and pin it directly behind the camera of your laptop. That way if you do need to glance at your notes, it’s very subtle.

Wing it

It is pretty easy to guess what is going to be on a video interview:

  • Why law?
  • Why this firm?
  • Why you? / Greatest achievement.
  • Competencies. Probably team work, working under pressure and problem solving.
  • Something you have found interesting in the news.

If you have done a couple of video interviews, you will start to see a pattern emerging. But don’t think that because the questions are semi-predictable you don’t have to prepare. You have zero time to waffle. Your STARs need to be spot on and perfectly within time.

Forget to answer in a STAR structure

I sound like a broken record sometimes. If you are answering a competency question, you need need need to structure it. Otherwise you’ll just be rambling. (I put a sign up with ‘S.T.A.R’ written on it above the spider-diagram on my wall). If you’ve accidentally gone off on a tangent, catch yourself and just quickly go over Action and Result. ‘I did A, B and C, which lead to a dramatic increase in D. This saved the society £x.’ You’ve probably already told them about the Situation and Task, and Action and Result are the most important parts anyway.

Talk when you really should stop talking

Look I get it, you’re nervous and you want to give them as much information as possible. But please. Stop. Talking. If you’ve answered the question, worked through the STAR technique, stop. Don’t ruin it by rambling. And if you’re like me and can never find the ‘stop recording’ button, just sit there. It might feel like an eternity but there is a good chance the recruiter watching will just skip to the next question, rather than watch you sit motionless. Give yourself a moment to calm down.

Get interrupted by someone

Your friends and family. They’ve always been there for you. They love you. You wouldn’t be who you are today without them. And that’s going to make it all the harder when you have to tell them to do-one. I would even recommend going so far as getting them to leave the building.  As Billy Connolly said, there are some incredibly nosey people who simply refuse to leave you alone (I would link the video but it is completely inappropriate).

Turn off your phone and evict your dog.


assessment day training contract vacation scheme video interview tips help
Don’t look at me like that. You can wait outside for an hour- it won’t kill you. 

Have something distracting and/ or weird in the background

Take down those posters you teenage dirtbag. Try to avoid anything at all that might take attention away from you and your answers. Aim to sit in a well-lit room, with a plain wall in the background. And stick to wearing a suit. A full suit. Imagine how embarrassing it’d be if the fire alarm went off and the recruiters got to see your pajama-bottoms as you evacuated. And try not to do anything distracting or strange, like changing outfits between each question (it happens).

*I like to think that by admitting these things to you, it makes you feel like a Training Contract is within reach. Like, if that accident-prone mess can get one, so can I.


Are you ready to practise some video interviews? Great! Here’s three I made just for you. 

2 thoughts on “The best ways to flunk a video interview

  1. The last point you mentioned did happen to me. Fire alarm goes off when I am doing a video interview. I did wear a full suit though so no shame there.


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