Best practices for virtual interviews

“Hello, we have reviewed your resume and cover letter, and would like to hold a virtual interview this coming week–”

Wait, what? A virtual interview? You may have never done one before. How is it different from a face-to-face interview? What is applicable to both in-person and virtual interviews?

Today, virtual interviews are becoming more and more frequent, but it can be tough to know how to go about interviewing from your home. Here are some things to keep in mind for your next virtual interview.

Project Professionalism

Your body language, speech, facial expressions, and attire are all extremely important aspects to think about in an interview. When engaging with a prospective employer, you want to give a good first impression. Keep in mind that although your experiences and expertise are important in landing a job, your outside appearance sends a strong message.

A good way to show your interviewer that you are serious about this interview and that you want the job, is to dress in formal business attire. Coincidentally, looking professional can help you embody the best, most professional version of yourself. Though your interviewer may not see your whole outfit, it is important to also wear something that makes you feel powerful and confident.

“In regards to body language, speech, and facial expressions, these things do not change from in-person interviews to virtual interviews,” says Violeta Lara, a career counselor at St. Kate’s. “It will still be important to project your voice, which can also help if you are feeling anxious. Show animation in your facial expressions that display genuine interest or excitement in what you are sharing with the interviewer.”

Lara also notes to be mindful of how you sit. If you are in a swivel chair, try to sit still, but be natural about it. If you feel yourself slouching, find a more comfortable seat, or adjust the height of your laptop. Where are your hands? Your interviewer may not be able to see everything, but they are still able to pick up on body language and nervous mannerisms.

 

 

Plan & Prepare

The process of preparing for a virtual interview versus an in-person interview is the same. Do your research and practice interview questions with a friend. Not only does preparing make you more knowledgeable about your prospective employer, but it helps you feel more comfortable and confident with the process.

“Prospective employers will select a candidate based on several factors,” says Lara. “ [These include] how closely aligned the candidate’s skills and abilities are to the job in need, their ability to draw connections between themselves and the company/organization’s orientation, and the networking done within their organization.”

 Knowing this information, one should start by researching the company’s website and any news surrounding the company, such as recent accomplishments or new initiatives. This allows you (as the interviewee) to demonstrate your knowledge, show your interest as well as spark questions to ask them. Glassdoor.com is another resource for you to find accurate company information, such as reviews, salaries, and common company questions. 

“I encourage candidates to not practice interview questions in their head,” Lara suggests a specific way to practice interview questions. “Instead, have a list of common interview questions, then write in shorthand a few notes regarding strengths or examples that come to mind in response to the initial question, and script out an ideal response. Do not use the script as a form of memorization but as a reference to begin internalizing the overall theme.”

With these responses, Lara wants you to ask yourself what the point is you are trying to convey, and if you answered the question to its fullest. Once you have your ideal answers, practice with a friend, family member, mentor, or career counselor. Practicing with a wide range of people will allow you to receive feedback from several people with different perspectives.

Set the Scene

In a virtual interview, your background can send a positive or negative message to your prospective employer. It is important to come across as professional in this stage of the job search process, because it may be the first time your prospective employer is engaging with you.

To set the scene, find a quiet space for your interview. If you are at home and live with family or roommates, let them know that you need quiet for the time that you are interviewing. Lara suggests, “If you have small children, this may look different [for each person], regardless, check your options regarding noise and interruptions.”

Once you have found the spot to interview in, turn on the video camera and take a look at what the camera catches in the background. Is everything clean and picked up? Platforms such as Zoom have capabilities to add a virtual background if necessary. How is the lighting? Check out your options with natural and artificial lighting. The biggest point to remember is to keep your face clearly and evenly visible and lit.

Remember, try to have as plain a background as possible! You do not want the interviewer to be distracted by moving objects or multi-colored backgrounds, so if you can, try to find a blank wall to sit by.

 

Test your Tech

“Virtual interviews can feel like a whole different ball game,” says Lara. “Practice using different video conferencing tools. It is important that you become comfortable speaking to the screen and understanding the capabilities of the software….Practice responding to interview questions and reviewing your recorded answers. It is important to visibly see and hear your engagement.”

The St. Kate’s Career Development office also recommends a free tool called InterviewStream. InterviewStream is an accessible online software aiding in the development or enhancement of important soft skills and continued preparation for job interviews. This flexible tool allows Katies to practice mock interviews anytime and anywhere. InterviewStream provides a database of thousands of pre-recorded questions or has options to record custom questions to create personalized mock interviews for the student.

Once you have practiced your interviews, check out what kind of platform you will be using for the interview. Remember that the interviewer usually sets up the interview, so asking ahead of time what type of virtual platform they use can be helpful so you can practice ahead of time with that system. You should check it at least twice in order to feel comfortable manipulating it, and so that you know where to turn on your camera and microphone. Common systems are Skype, Zoom, Google Meets.

An obvious but sometimes looked over point is to make sure to test the device you will be using to video chat. Select a reliable laptop or tablet that you know how to troubleshoot, so when the day comes, you don’t have any technical difficulties. Also, make sure you have a good internet connection.

Be Yourself

“Preparation is key to feeling less anxious and more confident in how you engage during an interview,” says Lara. “However, it is also important to avoid coming across as robotic in your responses. The intent behind thorough preparation is to allow for your personality to flourish. Your genuine self will matter greatly [in an interview].” So, remember to practice and be professional, but it is also just as important to be yourself.

Anything can be scary when you just don’t know what to expect. But by using these tips and tricks, you can ease some of the anxiety and tension you feel before a virtual interview.

By Mandy Hay
Mandy Hay Career Assistant Mandy Hay