Michele Rapp

Ace the virtual interview

By Michele Rapp

Under the current quarantine, chances are that your next interview will likely be by videoconference. Hiring rules have not changed—the interview is still your only opportunity to make a great impression. So, how can you nail your next virtual interview? Here are some tips to enhance your presence and success.

Do your homework

Request the schedule for your interview and have a list of participants by name, job title and email. Do your research on them to ask directed questions. During live interviews, you can look directly at someone while talking to them. Virtually, that may not come across (see more tips below), but make sure to still have specific questions for people, use their names, and clearly address them. This is especially important if you have a group interview.

Bonus tip: Have the phone number of your interviewer or coordinator in case you need to reach them due to unforeseen technical issues.

Set the stage

Assess your background to ensure a professional image. If possible, a plain white wall is recommended; avoid lights that create glare or shadows. Many videoconference platforms allow you to blur your background or choose a background image. Be careful with the latter – keep images simple and non-distracting. You might personally want to be at a beach, but that’s not a good choice for a background image during the interview! Make sure images are not too crowded or have too much happening in them. Experiment to find the most flattering camera height, distance and lighting. Also make sure that you can interview in a quiet location of your home and alert others in your household.

Bonus tip: Simply placing a few books under your laptop can help level the camera at your eyes, and present a more professional look!

Figure out the technology beforehand

Get to know the features of the platform, test them before the meeting and make sure your device is fully charged. Check your internet connection and consider using an ethernet cable as a back-up (if possible). Turn off unnecessary software as well as distracting notifications, including your email and work chat features. You can prepare by using online tutorials and videos from the platform’s creators. Common services are Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, HireVue and Google Hangouts. Conduct a trial run with another person to get feedback about how you look and sound.

Nail the interview

Connect with the interviewer by looking at your camera, rather than at your screen. This might not be intuitive, so try to practice before your interview call. While virtual interviews make it possible to have some notes in front of you, keep this information to a minimum as you want to keep your eyes on the camera. If you have notes, try placing them at the height of your screen so you don’t have to look down. Have paper and pen handy, but keep notetaking to a minimum so that you keep your focus on the interviewer(s). Try not to type during the interview, as the mic might pick up the sound of typing, which can be distracting for the interviewer.

May 1, 2020

Be preared for pre-recorded interviews

Some employers screen candidates by having you record your responses to a set of questions, rather than having a real time interview. Read the instructions carefully so that you understand what’s expected, the time you’re given for each response and whether you can rerecord. Prepare and practice your answers in advance; you can even record yourself and review your answers or practice with a friend. When making the actual recording, try to imagine that you’re talking to a real person. Think of your responses as mini presentations, where you are making a few points point and having a clear ending to your answer.

Most of the strategies for in-person interviews apply to virtual ones. Remember to smile, hold a confident posture, avoid fidgeting and show enthusiasm. Dress as you would for an in-person interview. Prepare for behavioral questions and be ready with examples of your accomplishments and projects. Ask questions about the position, strive to create a natural conversation with the interviewer(s) and follow up with thank you emails.

With practice and preparation, you can grow your skills and confidence in virtual interviewing and transform these interviews into offers.