A hiring manager has reached out and asked to schedule an interview. There’s just one catch: It’s virtual.
For prospective employees, trying to make a pitch via video conferencing software, such as Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts, can feel a bit daunting. Here are nine virtual interview tips to help reduce the stress and help you get the job.
- Test Your Technology
The minute you agree to a virtual interview, test your technology to ensure you’re set up for success. Check your internet connectivity, and confirm your camera and microphone are working. If the picture is grainy or you’re experiencing an echo, you might need to buy a mini webcam with a built-in microphone—which is hard to do five minutes before the interview, so don’t procrastinate.
On the day of, test your equipment and internet connection again. Technical savvy is one of the top 10 traits employers are looking for, and by fumbling around with your audio or lighting during the call, you give the hiring manager a reason to question whether you’re the right candidate for the job.
- Set the Scene and Minimize Distractions
While testing your technology, determine where to take the interview. Find a room with optimal lighting, preferably near a window, or a blank wall to guarantee you’re the focal point of the conversation. Whether you sit on your living room couch or in your home office, tidy up your surroundings. It’s hard to convince employers you’re detail-oriented and organized when there’s laundry visibly piling up in the corner.
Once settled, eliminate all distractions. Turn off the TV, silence your cell phone, and close any nearby windows to muffle neighborhood traffic.
- Sit Down Prepared
Just because you’re on a computer doesn’t mean you can search the web for answers mid-interview, so avoid clicking around. You want to appear focused and ready to answer any questions without the help of the internet. Research the company ahead of time and jot down notes for easy reference. Also print out a copy of your resume, so that you don’t forget key talking points.
It’s also best to come prepared with answers to common interview questions, such as:
Why are you interested in this role?
What do you know about our company?
What are your biggest weaknesses?
What do you consider to be your biggest professional achievement?
Tell me about a challenge at work and how you dealt with it.
What are you looking for in a new position?
Why are you leaving your current role?
Avoid memorizing each response, so you don’t sound overly rehearsed. Instead, write some high-level thoughts down on Post-it Notes that you can stick to your computer.
You should also be prepared to answer, “Do you have any questions for me?” Interview questions you might ask an employer include:
What does a typical day in the life of this role look like?
What are the company’s goals this quarter?
How would you describe the ideal candidate for this position?
Where does this role sit in the organization, and what other groups will I be working with?
Can you walk me through the next steps of the hiring process?
- Practice, Don’t Memorize
You don’t want to sound robotic throughout your interview—whether answering or asking questions, or giving your elevator pitch. It’s easy to tell if you aren’t being genuine, so it’s a good idea to run through a few practice rounds with a friend or family member. This will give you a chance to rehearse with different personalities and answer a variety of different questions. While it may be awkward, you’ll have a safe atmosphere to make mistakes and learn from them, so you’re better prepared for the real thing.
It’s important to keep things simple. Don’t feel like you have to give a long-winded answer if the question doesn’t warrant it. Being clear and concise is one of the most important things in a job interview.
- Monitor Your Body Language
You can’t firmly shake a hiring manager’s hand or as easily exude enthusiasm via video. But what you can do is monitor your body language.
The main way to communicate confidence is to sit up straight, smile, and keep the camera at eye level. Research shows that employers are more likely to remember what you said if you maintain eye contact, so keep your focus on the camera when talking, not on the image of the hiring manager.
- Dress the Part
You might be sitting near your bed, but you shouldn’t look like you just rolled out of it. Dress as you would for an in-person interview. For men, that might mean a button-up shirt, blazer, and chinos, while women should consider a dress or skirt and blouse.
Professional clothing will show you’re serious about the position, but there are personal benefits, as well: Studies show that people feel “most authoritative, trustworthy, and competent when wearing formal business attire.”
- Make a Connection
You never know how many interviews a company may conduct for a position. You might be at the end of a long list of people the hiring manager spoke to that day. This is why it’s important to make a connection. Don’t be afraid to have a short aside about a common interest. The recruiter might enjoy the break from the routine questions they have to get through.
It’s not easy to connect with everyone, but it’s a crucial part of a virtual interview. You want the interviewer to be able to remember a personal story you told or a common interest you share. This is the best way to prevent yourself from blending in with the other applicants.
- Be Yourself
A key task for a recruiter is determining whether you would be a good fit for the company’s culture. This can be challenging during a virtual interview because there is a physical disconnect. It’s more difficult for the interviewer to understand your enthusiasm through the screen, so make sure you’re expressive when answering questions.
Some people will be able to tell if you’re “vibe” fits their company right off the bat. Give them a reason to push you through to the second round of interviews by shining a light on how you can help the organization.
- Immediately Follow Up
Within 24 hours of the interview, send an individual thank you email to everyone you met. Not only will it show you value their time, but it provides you the opportunity to resell yourself and express the unique strengths you bring to the role, or share any talking points you forgot to address.
If there was something specific you bonded over, mention that in the email so you stay top of mind. Or if an interviewer brought up a particular business challenge, use the follow-up as a way to propose potential solutions. Just keep the email concise; you want your note to leave a lasting impression, not immediately end up in the trash.
Preparation Is Key
Ultimately, the key to acing a virtual interview is proper preparation. From ensuring your technology is working to conducting research before the meeting, sitting down at your computer poised and ready for any and all questions will help set you apart from other applicants.