Virtual interviews have been around for quite a while, but the commonality has grown significantly with the advance of technology and our current challenge of social distancing. If you have gotten comfortable with jumping on a video call, you may have become accepting of your cat walking by your camera or your dirty dishes sitting in the background. These things, however, are not acceptable if you are interviewing for a job. It is important to revisit what is important when you are interviewing virtually.
Some of our tips may seem obvious but don’t overlook them. Review these recommendations and put them into action on your next virtual interview:
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A Day Before the Interview
Practice. If you don’t use video conferencing software often, do a practice run with a friend or family member a day before. Get comfortable with the software settings so that you know how to mute and unmute yourself and turn your camera on and off. You may not use all these functions, but it is better to be prepared then caught off guard. During your practice use all the same equipment, in the same space that you will be using for your actual interview.
Have a back-up plan. Do you have a phone number or email address for the person you are interviewing with? If you have technology issues, be sure you can contact the right people to continue with the interview if necessary.
Plan what you are going to wear. Your choice of clothes should be at the same level of professionalism that you would wear if the interview were in person. Your whole outfit should be acceptable, not just the top half, just in case you need to stand up to grab something.
An Hour Before the Interview
Check the background. What will the interviewer see? Be certain it looks tidy and acceptable.
Get your audio ready. A headset or earbuds will keep your conversation private.
No virtual background. We recommend that you do not use a virtual background as it can be distracting and can come across as unauthentic. The exception? If there is a virtual background that resembles a room. More virtual platforms are offering these.
Check the lighting. The best lighting should be in front of you. If possible, position the light to be on your face and not behind you. Put a table lamp on your desk to illuminate your face.
Turn off your computer notifications. You do not want beeps and various sounds interrupting your interview.
Turn off your phone. Even having your phone on vibrate can be distracting. The buzz of the vibration may be picked up by your microphone. Also, if you have texts coming in, it will be hard to concentrate on the interview.
Be sure you are operating with the best internet connection that you can. You are at the mercy of your internet connection for a smooth, glitch-free interview. Not all of that is in your control, but what is in your control ought to be leveraged.
- Ask other people in your house to refrain from heavy internet use during your interview.
- Another option (if your wifi has this function) is to assign your computer priority over other people in the house.
- Research other ways you can boost your wifi. Here’s one article with great tips.
Check the angle of the camera. You will want to have the camera set up in such a way that your head and shoulders are in the view. Too close and the interviewers will only see part of you. Too far and you will seem distant and less engaged.
Get a glass of water ready in case your throat gets dry. Be ready for a tickle in your throat or a dry mouth by having water nearby. You will be doing a good bit of talking, so be prepared.
Go to the bathroom. This one seems obvious, but do not forget it. You don’t want to find yourself in an uncomfortable position, especially if the interview runs longer than expected.
Check your appearance in the mirror. It may have been many hours since you got yourself ready. Take a look in the mirror to see if anything is out of place. Is anything stuck in your teeth? Do you have mismatched earrings?
Take pets to another area of your home. If you have a pet that makes noise (barking dog) kennel it or put it in another area of your home, so you are not worried about them interrupting the call. This will help you be more relaxed.
During the Interview
“Arrive” a few minutes early. Like an in-person interview, it is better to be early than late. This also allows a little buffer if your computer decides now is the time to do a software upgrade just as you log on.
Sit still. Stay focused and present. Do not fidget and send signals that you are bored with the interview. If you are an energetic person, you will need to take extra measures to watch your level of movement.
Look at the camera. Be mindful of where the people show up on your screen versus where your camera is. If you have their faces displayed far from your camera, it will be natural to look at their faces, which will look like your eyes are elsewhere. Remember to look at your camera when you are talking so that the interviewers feel you are looking at them.
Post sticky notes around the computer monitor. If there are key points you do not want to forget, post them around your computer screen. It will be a quick reminder to you and still allow you to stay engaged.
Ask if you can take notes. The interviewers may assume you are taking notes if you look down a lot, but it is best to remove the uncertainty by asking at the beginning of the interview. Then there is clarity about why you may be looking away regularly.
Best Practices for Any Interview
Ask questions. Even if you think you know everything you want to know about the position, ask questions. This shows your interest and emotional intelligence.
Compliment the interviewers on their organization. If you are impressed with certain aspects of the company you are interviewing with, compliment the interviewers on those specific areas. Let them know that you are impressed with what they have achieved.
Treat it as a conversation, not an interview. Virtual interviews are often more direct, making it tough to establish rapport. Remember, “conversation” can be synonymous with “interview.” Those with you on the call are trying to determine if they can picture themselves working with you. Don’t build it up too much in your head. You might come off in a way you do not intend. Be you!
Smile. Another seemingly obvious tip is to smile. You may feel nervous and afraid you might say something stupid, so you may naturally forget to smile. Show that you are friendly and happy to be there with a smile.
Express your enthusiasm for the opportunity. Do not let the interviewers wonder if you are interested. If you think the job could be a great opportunity, share your enthusiasm with them. Let them know that you would be thrilled to move forward in the process.
Virtual interviews take the drive time out of the equation, but they don’t take the professionalism out. Remember to prepare appropriately. Be ready to present yourself in the best way possible by putting our tips into practice.
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