5 Ways to Survive the Hot Seat

This is for you, future on-camera interview subjects of the world. Here’s a list of helpful tips if you ever find yourself in the hot seat:

1) Relax! Unless you were born with the oratorical skills of a Fortune 500 CEO, it’s natural to feel nervous when you step in front of a camera for the first time. The lights are bright. A microphone is either floating above your head or clipped to your shirt. There are people in the background of the shoot, waiting you to say something profound. Don’t mind the distractions! All you need to do is be yourself, and answer from the bottom of your heart. This is your chance to say what you need to say, and it doesn’t need to be perfect—it just needs to be real.

2) Provide context. If possible, repeat part of the question or restate the question in your answer. The vast majority of interview-based videos do not include interviewer questions, and if they do, they’ll likely be in text form. Thus, it’s important to provide context so the viewer will be able to understand your answer and where it fits into your narrative. I’ll let you in on a little secret: There are times when I sit down to cut up an interview where I don’t even listen to the questions being asked. I skip questions because your answer should tell me everything I need to know, and if doesn’t, I won’t use it. Your answer should work by itself. Keep in mind that editors might rearrange your answers in creative ways. Try not to let this weird you out—they’re just trying to make you look good!

3) Unless otherwise specified, don’t look at the camera. Have you ever seen Ted Cruz answer debate questions? Don’t be Ted Cruz. You’re talking to one person—your interviewer—and the audience is an extension of that interviewer. Looking at the camera should be exclusively reserved for politicians and armed robbery suspects caught on tape. Pretend the camera lens is the sun. It’s extraordinarily tempting to look at the sun, but it’s not a bright idea to stare at something that can turn you into a lobster. Looking at the camera won’t blind you, but, you know, don’t look at it. After a while, you won’t notice it.

4) If you talk about something that you care about, the answers will come naturally. Anyone who has ever tried to write a college essay knows that you can’t force yourself into sounding profound. The magic happens when you talk about something you’re passionate about. The good news is that on-camera interviews are relatively low stress situations. On-camera mistakes are irrelevant in the digital age; you can try again until you get it right. The following phrase is universally despised, but if all else fails, we can fix it in post. Editors, after all, are modern-day magicians. We once had an intern who helped edit our videos. He was also a professional magician. Coincidence? No.

5) If you find that you’ve “um” and “like’d” your way to a first draft of the point you’re trying to make, answer the question a second time, with the confidence and knowledge that you can deliver your ideas in the clearest way possible. If your interviewer is patient—and they should be, if they’re a talented interviewer—there will be no problem.

I hope that you’ll keep these tips in mind in case you ever find yourself in front of a camera, and please forgive me if you clicked on this link expecting to find job interview advice.