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How to prepare for a video job interview

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Todd Haselton | CNBC

It's unnerving to talk into a webcam. Doubly so when you're doing it for a job interview.

Talking to an actual person during an interview may soon seem like an artifact of the past with the rise of "on-demand" interviews used by companies to rapidly screen candidates and quickly determine the best fit for a job.

In these interviews, candidates record video responses to questions instead of coming into the office or getting on the phone with a live interviewer. These answers, shot on the candidate's webcam or smartphone, are submitted to the employer, who can review at their leisure.

It's a process that means candidates not only need to meet the demands of a regular interview — good energy, talking points, a winning smile — they also need to consider factors like lighting and camera quality. And there's no person on the other end to help gauge if a response is striking a chord, or horribly off-key.

Columbia University uses on-demand interviews to screen senior business executives for teaching roles. So do companies like Heineken, Adidas and Virgin Atlantic, which uses video interviews for hiring flight attendants and cabin crew. Goldman Sachs uses A.I. to analyze candidates' facial expressions, intonation and word usage.

Prepare — and then some

The key to acing the on-demand interview is to simply reframe it: Don't think of it as a conversation, but as a speech, Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of human resources at Indeed, tells CNBC Make It.

Keep it short and simple. "Interviews like this force the candidate to be succinct in their responses — it's easy to go off track," says Wolfe.

"This kind of asynchronous communication, it's difficult because it's so foreign to people," says Paul J. Bailo, author of several books on interviewing.

"It may seem awkward but that's why you practice in front of the mirror or record yourself," he says. "It's like being a good actor. It may be really good for some people, who understand lighting and cameras, someone who can emotionally get across emotionally through video."

Balio also suggests finding the staffer most likely to review the recordings, printing out a picture of their headshot from Linkedin, and positioning their picture near the webcam. "It becomes much more humanized because you're looking at someone instead of looking directly at the camera."

Prepare as if it were a live interview — research the company, dress appropriately — and be sure to follow instructions to avoid technological difficulties.

"Younger generations had more problems with the technology than older ones," said Imo Udom, co-founder and CEO of video interview platform Wepow. "Older demographics who were not familiar with the technology actually looked at the instructions, followed them."

Above all else, experts suggest practice. "You can't just flip open your laptop and expect to do a great job," said Bailo. "You really need to think like a Hollywood producer."

Remember, it's still a job interview

Candidates may be tempted to use the on-demand interview format to demonstrate quirks or creativity, but on-demand interviews aren't meant to replace traditional methods. Employers can compare candidates based on their responses to the same question, so interviewees are still being evaluated against a traditional set of metrics.

"We've now leveled the playing field," said Udom. "Every candidate gets the same question, every candidate can have the same time to respond."

But video interviews may not be the ideal format for every candidate, and some career experts caution against companies relying too heavily on this method.

"It reminds me of really bright people who are not good test takers," says Wolfe. "It's not always a reflection of someone's potential."

Candidates, he notes, may have a stellar resume and a so-so video interview, and may still be worth bringing in for a second round.

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