Tips for University Video Interviews

video interview

Typically, there have been a lot of graduate degrees that required live in-person, online or even recorded video interviews. However, this is now moving to undergraduate degrees as well with universities such as University of Toronto and Western University both requiring some sort of video interview for some programs. has compiled a list of tips for university video interviews in order to assist you with your application.

10. Know the logistics

This is so simple but too often people don’t take the necessary steps to ensure they know the logistics. Be sure to be ready early and to have tried out the technology way before to avoid any hiccups. Some specific tips:
-Do some practice video calls with a friend to ensure your video and audio quality is good.
-Hard wire into your modem/router to maximize internet quality.
-Use whatever software or online tool ahead of time to ensure it is working correctly
-Block off time before and after in case of delay or overflow
-Turn off all other applications on your computer to maximize internet quality and to not be interrupted (skype, facebook, etc)

9. Familiarize yourself with relevant current events/news

It is possible that a question may pertain to something in the news or a recent event. In such cases, you will have to probably break tip #7 to answer the question unless you follow this tip. Although there are no applications as of now that require this question, it is possible in the future it may pop up. Moreover, incorporating some current events into your answers could really show you are keen on the topic and can really differentiate you.

For instance, if you are applying to a business school and they ask you about your interest in business, you may want to include something in the news  like a merger/acquisition, IPO, etc, that exemplifies your passion or interests.

8. Look good

Just because it is over a webcam doesn’t mean it isn’t a real interview. As such, dress as though you would if it was in person. You don’t need to wear a suit, but something smart casual or better yet, business casual. Additionally, make sure your hair isn’t a complete mess or else it gives the impression that this interview doesn’t mean a lot to you. As well, don’t wear a hat – hats are still considered to be impolite.  Finally, make sure you have good posture – it can be difficult on the computer but body language is highly critiqued in video interviews and therefore, maintaining good posture is essential.

Your looks don’t just pertain to your body, but also your surroundings. Make sure you are positioned in a well lighted area that isn’t too casual. For instance, don’t do this on a couch, bed, or worse yet on the can. Ideally, you’ll want to be sitting at a desk with minimal distractions behind you.  Worst case scenario, you can use a kitchen table but this is not advised as it is a little too casual – also make sure nobody is going to be walking into the feed or making noise in the background.

7. Don’t MSU (Make Stuff Up)

Just like Jane Lynch in the movie ‘Role Models’, admissions committee members can smell BS. It is essential that you only speak to what you know – do not outstretch yourself. The more you talk about content you don’t know, the poorer your quality of speech, the worse the construction of your sentences, and the poorer you body language is. Therefore, it is very important you are well prepared to minimize this.

6. Prepare questions

For live video interviews, it is good to prepare some questions for the interviewers. Not only does it show keenness, but also allows you an opportunity to show off some of your knowledge. Don’t forget, you may want to get into that school, but if you’re a good candidate, they’ll want you. Too often we think that universities bless us with their acceptance, but in reality it is a two way street and as such, prospective students need to be sold and convinced that that program is the best for them.

Make sure the questions are relevant, well constructed and delivered, and will assist you in deciding which university to go to.

5. Research the school/program

This is so absolutely important. You need to know about the program and school not just because you may be directly asked about such details, but also because it will give you more ammo to answer other questions and look very keen and subsequently differentiate yourself.

-Know the program structure, any specializations/majors available, content, and teaching methods – this is the most important thing as it will show them that you know what you want and why you’re applying to this school. Also, there is definitely going to be a question(s) about this.
-Be aware of the history and current state of the university itself – this will show that you did your research and can assist with conclusions.
-Reference some rankings of programs or universities – this will show that you thoroughly researched the school and can assist with some questions.
-Highlight other forms of research – if you contacted alumni, certain professors, or talked with admissions consultants, bring this up in questions as it further shows you are proactive and interested in the program.

4. Practice sample questions

This is a no brainer, but it is imperative you do this.

As part of this, do some research on yourself and have good examples available to back up your answers. When answering the questions, be sure to remember the following points:
-stay on point – do not drift away from the actual question
-be concise – don’t repeat the same points over and over and over again. You don’t want to say the same things numerous times. Avoid being redundant. (get it?)
-directly answer the question right away – just like with writing an essay, answer the question directly, then elaborate.
-relate back to the program – in almost all instances, you’ll want to relate your answer back to the program to show that you are a good fit. This is where point #5 will come in handy.
-use formal language – do not speak as if you were out with friends. Not only will speaking formally possibly show off your vocabulary, it will show that this is a serious, formal matter for you.

3. Look into the camera

Consider the camera to be somebody’s eyes. You are always told it is vital to make good eye contact in every day conversations, but especially in interviews. As such, make as much camera-eye contact as possible, this way the recipients will see it as eye contact. Moreover, it shows focus and good form. If you are continually looking away it could give the impression you don’t care or that you are distracted. Another possibility if you are looking away is that looking away is a common body language sign indicating lies and nervousness, both things you want to avoid.

It’s a relatively simple point, but make sure you do it. If you have notes, put your notes on your computer so that you are looking close to the camera rather than breaking contacting and looking down on a sheet of paper.

2. Don’t over rehearse

It is very important that you practice some questions, but you don’t want to over rehearse your answers. Normally if you over rehearse, it is painfully obvious and in the process, you fail #8 by looking like a robot. By doing this, the interviewers are not as impressed with you since you have essentially just memorized essays and therefore the whole point of the video interview is voided.

The trick is to know the material, rehearse it so you know the content, but NOT word for word. Once you know it word for word, you will sound rehearsed and then stumble if you mess up one word even though the content would have been otherwise fine. As such, you may actually make your delivery worse. Know the content, the points, but not the words.

1. Relax

Relax. Not only will you look better when you’re relaxed, your delivery will be tremendously better and you’ll be more able to think critically and on the spot. Make sure you are well hydrated beforehand, had a good night sleep, and have followed these tips for university interviews and you’ll have no reason to not be relaxed.

Think about during an exam – when you’re calm and prepared, the ideas just flow out of you whereas if you are nervous, you’re more likely to second guess yourself and make more mistakes.

Alex Dorward

Alex Dorward

Alex is the co-founder of UniversityHub (now CampusRankings) and current Technical Director for CampusRankings. Alex grew up in Ottawa before attending St FX in Antigonish, NS. After graduating, he joined Accenture and is currently a Manager in Accenture Digital.

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