Best Practices for Conducting Professional Video Interviews

By Gabe Gerzon

In today’s visual and digital world, a video interview is a key strategy used by companies to get their messages across to their audience. These interviews are used on homepages, landing pages, social media pages, and often played at large scale meetings or events. However, to be most effective in reaching and engaging a target audience, these video interviews need to tell compelling stories. Here are some of our favorite tips to help you get from the research phase to the filming stage as smooth as possible, and conduct a conversation that results in captivating interview content.

Tips for Question Development

The first part of the interview process is to develop the questions. You should never walk into an interview unprepared and you need to be ready for anything that can come your way. Follow these tips when working on question development:

  1. Thoroughly research your subjects. Find out as much as you can about your subject(s) from Google and LinkedIn, so you can demonstrate you’ve done your homework and develop rapport more easily and quickly on-site. 
  2. Order matters. Begin the interview with “softball” questions and questions about the subject can answer about themselves to warm them up. You don’t want to jump right in with the hardball questions.
  3. Keep the story front and center when creating your interview questions. Allow for the spontaneity that produces unexpected gold while making sure you get the storytelling scaffolding you’ll need to bridge everything together. You should either be setting your subject up to tell an interesting, emotional story with your question, or setting them up for a clear and succinct answer you know the answer to in advance.
  4. Ask questions that begin with “Tell me about…,” and “Paint a picture of…” Use words like how, why, where and what to avoid simple answers and to get the subject speaking in story.
  5. Don’t neglect the problem of the story. You don’t have a story if you don’t have conflict, so make sure you’re asking plenty of questions like, “What was the frustration with the old way?” or “What were these issues costing you?” Sometimes people are reticent to go into this, as they don’t want to seem incapable, so phrase those questions delicately.
  6. The shorter and simpler your interview questions are, the better. Instead of asking long winded questions, ask follow up questions such as: “What do you mean by that?” “What did you learn from that?” “Why is that important?” “Why?”…  “Why?” … “Why?” (until you get to the underlying point).
  7. Your questions are not an instruction manual. You shouldn’t hesitate to drop them (at least temporarily) to go off-script.
  8. Your demeanor/attitude is just as important as your questions. If you’re not invested, energetic, personable and courteous you shouldn’t expect your interviewee to be either. Even if you’re not in the best mood, you can’t let it affect your interviewing. As the interviewer, you’re more of a coach and cheerleader than anything else. Help them find a relaxed comfort, or even a sense of pleasure, in talking to you.
  9. Always close by asking if they have anything to add that you didn’t ask about. Often some of the best material comes from these open-ended moments.

Tips for the Pre-Interview Spiel

As you and your interviewee settle in and the crew is finalizing camera positioning and lighting, we like to deliver a short “pre-interview spiel” that goes over critical context and background to help ensure a smooth and productive conversation. At Matter, we keep it very conversational ensure the talent is relaxed and excited. Here are a few points we find it helpful to include: 

  1. Tell the talent to look directly at you throughout the interview, never at the cameras. Consistent eye contact is one of the best ways to come across as confident in the final video. 
  2. Explain how the interviewer’s voice will not be heard in the final video so the talent will need to provide context when answering a question. 
  3. Assure the talent not to worry about any mistakes and that the video will be edited with the goal to make them appear as credible and confident as possible. 
  4. Encourage the talent to be energetic as it translates positively on camera. What can feel a bit silly or exaggerated in person often feels appropriate for the heightened reality of the final video. 
  5. Ask if there are any questions or clarification needed before beginning, and always provide them with a glass of water to avoid dry mouth.

Tips for Common Interview Challenges

Even if you are well prepared, the interviewee is prepped, and the cameras are rolling, things can still go wrong along the way. Here are a few tips on dealing with common interview challenges:

  1. If they’re psyching themselves out or getting nervous remind them to relax and tell them they’re doing great. 
  2. If they’re not giving you enough energy to be compelling, try to kindly cajole them out of their shell a bit. If you are excited and interested, then they will be as well.
  3. If they’re rambling, ask if they could be more succinct. This can help them reframe how they approach their answers and is usually an easy ask. 
  4. If they’re speaking too formally and not to the intended audience, ask them to imagine you as whomever is relevant (a prospective client or employee, for example) and use words like “you” and “yourself” rather than “they” and “them.” This is more compelling because it engages the audience more directly. 
  5. If you know the interviewee flubbed on an important point, for example they cleared their throat or slurred their words, make sure to ask them to repeat their answer.

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