The past few years so many things in our work and personal lives have been shaken up and tested. For instance, virtual interviews and remote work are new “normals” today.
For many of us, our work and personal lives now intersect in ways we wouldn’t have imagined before the pandemic.
With remote work, your commute may go from however many miles by car or other transport, to however many feet to your home office or workspace.
Virtual interviews are here to stay because they’re a more cost effective and efficient way to conduct interviews.
Many unforeseen challenges come with today’s world of work. You need to adapt, adjust expectations, cope, and learn new skills. What choice do you have?
Remote work is offered by many companies.
More and more companies allow for (or even prefer) remote employees, which means that things like virtual meetings will likely be part of your work life, beyond the virtual interviews you attended to get your new job.
You’ll need to be up-to-snuff on using various newer technologies for your job.
For lots more information, check out my post How to Find Remote Work and Do It Well.
Things You Need to Know, Do and Master for Virtual Interviews
Click on any of the links below to go directly to that section:
Virtual Interviews vs. In-Person Interviews
Preparation for a virtual interview is much the same as for an in-person one.
The following prep work is important for both in-person and virtual interviews:
- Company and industry research (including getting background on your interviewers)
- Practicing the answers to common interview questions
- Putting together the questions YOU will ask
- Working your personal brand into the conversation
All of these things will position you as an informed candidate who is truly interested in working for that employer.
Because your face and upper body are so up-close in virtual interviews, every movement of yours is more magnified than when you’re sitting in an in-person interview, further away from interviewers.
This can take some getting used to, and requires an understanding of the technology involved and a fair amount of prep, so you’ll perform professionally and appear comfortable.
Being savvy with this kind of technology will also help position you as savvy with the new world of work. Once hired, you’ll probably be dealing with virtual meetings for some time to come.
Although virtual interviews come with some particular challenges, there is an upside compared to in-person interviews: No travel time, or the hassle of finding parking and paying for it.
The Types of Virtual Interviews
Career Directors International offered advice from several members on virtual interviewing in a helpful tip sheet, starting with the types of virtual interviews you can expect to navigate:
The Videoconferencing Interview
Videoconferencing interviews have received the most notoriety over the past few years, with Zoom leading the pack. Other video conferencing software include Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. Be prepared to maintain eye contact with the camera!
One-Way Video or Virtual Interviews
In the one-way video interview, you will answer preset questions which are recorded for the employer to see later. Usually, this interview happens at the beginning of the interviewing process in place of the phone interview. It’s possible that recruiters will use one-way interviews in place of phone screens for the first round of interviews.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Virtual Job Interview
Mya (short for My Assistant), is one of these technologies. These AI recruiters evaluate resumes, schedule and conduct job screenings, and can even congratulate you when you accept your new job. Many of the big US recruiters have incorporated Mya and likely many others are currently, or will soon be, using similar technologies. Approach these as you would any other virtual interviews.
According to Mya Systems,
“Mya is cloud-based and integrates directly into a company’s applicant-tracking software. Her responses are so realistic that, even when applicants are told they’re talking to a bot, 72% of interviewees still thought they were chatting with a human.”
Texting is becoming an increasingly popular method for virtual interviewing. Use this method to sell your qualifications as best as possible. Double check that auto correct hasn’t changed what you were trying to write. A spelling error or auto correct could eliminate you from the next round. There are two added bonuses of text-based interviews:
- If you are in front of a computer, you can augment your answers.
- You’ll have a record of the chat which will help you to compose a strong follow up email or letter to sell yourself for the position.
Phone interviews have been, and still are, a common practice. Remember to stay positive and have a notepad, the resume/letter you sent, and the job description at hand throughout the call.
You May Want To Try Virtual Hiring Events
These events are being used by employers more often these days.
Indeed describes what a virtual hiring event is in their guide:
“A virtual hiring event is a group interview where employers accept job applications and conduct virtual interviews in group and individual formats. Many employers are moving in the direction of virtual hiring events as new developments arise with COVID-19, and this is a unique opportunity to meet them without leaving your home. They may also lead to job offers on the spot, significantly reducing the waiting time in your job search.”
Technology for these events include virtual waiting rooms, where you wait your turn to be interviewed.
Beware. Just as spending too many hours on job boards, responding to postings, is not the best way to land a good-fit job, virtual hiring events are not the best way to job search.
Stick to the tried and true method of targeting and networking your way into jobs with employers who will be a mutual good fit.
How To Prepare For and Ace Your Virtual Interviews
The following tips were compiled from these sources:
- The Career Directors International tip sheet noted above
- Indeed’s virtual hiring event guide noted above
- The Muse’s 20 Video Interview Tips to Help You Dazzle the Hiring Manager and Get the Job
Test your technology.
Always test out your technical capabilities with a friend or family member in a mock trial. Begin your interview “setup” 15 minutes before start time so that you can check your appearance on the screen and ensure that sound is working properly. Of course, you’ll want to charge your laptop or smartphone (if applicable) the night before.
Check your WiFi.
Be sure that your WiFi connection is stable, and if it’s not, move closer to the hotspot or router. The more wireless devices using the network, the less bandwidth is available for each device to use. Bad weather can also affect WiFi in some areas. Plug into the Ethernet port instead. Check that your camera and microphone are working properly.
Confidence in your tone and body language is critical. Answer with confidence as if someone’s standing right in front of you.
Listen to your voice.
Practice hearing your own voice and content by recording yourself answering a question on your smartphone.
- Do you sound cordial or aloof, articulate or fumbling, interested or gloomy?
- Does your pitch fade so that you sound like you’re asking a question instead of making a statement?
- Do you drop the end of a phrase or sentence, thus ‘fade away’ to the listener?
Whether you are going to be on camera or not, your voice can truly reinforce and represent your personality. You can’t sound bored or uninterested if you have a smile on your face. Smiling will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice.
Video record yourself to see how your energy comes across.
- Do you do a good job of making eye contact?
- Do you seem distracted?
- Are you being engaging?
Understand that for video you need to amp up your normal demeanor as video seems to dampen enthusiasm. You will only know how much to over-project by taping yourself in advance and playing it back.
Don’t sit too far or too close to the camera.
You’d probably be sitting, say, 2-3 feet from someone in an in-person interview. Keep this in mind when you adjust your chair’s distance from the camera. Don’t move in too close to the camera.
“To be well proportioned, make sure there’s a bit of empty space on the screen above your head and check that your shoulders and upper chest are visible.”
Show up a few minutes early.
Log on to the call a few minutes early and use the interview software to check your shot. Take the extra time to relax and get ready for the call.
Beforehand, close any other open tabs or windows on your computer and make sure you have easy access to your portfolio, web page, resume or any digital document you may want to screen share during the call.
Start off with a “digital handshake”.
“After you say hello, ‘look right into the camera to forge a connection, do a small head nod as if to say ‘yes!,’ and add a smile, which translates warmth and openness.'”
Keep water by your side.
Keep a glass of water handy during virtual interviews, in case you get a case of dry mouth.
Watch the time.
Have a clock that’s not on your smartphone within easy view. You’ll need to be aware of the passage of time, and allow time to share any pertinent information you’ve planned to discuss.
Tell the interviewer when you’re pausing.
When you pause to think, offer cues to the interviewer. If you pause in speech, you may need to provide a verbal cue, such as “please allow me a moment to gather my thoughts,” or “please allow me to consider your question.” This may sound more formal than your usual manner of speech, but this a formal appointment. Giving a verbal cue will make a better impression than “um” or “hmm,” or silence, which could make the employer wonder if the call was lost.
“Tell them if you’re pausing to write down a few notes, pull up some information for them, or even just formulate your answer to a question. This shows that you’re aware of their experience while also reassuring them that no technical glitches have occurred.”
Look at the camera, not the screen.
Sit up straight, maintain the illusion of eye contact by looking at the webcam and not at the image on your computer screen. Avoid looking at your reflected image as well. Tip: Add a picture of someone right above the camera lens on your computer to ensure you’re maintaining proper eye contact into that camera lens!
Maintain good posture. Don’t slouch, yawn, or fidget.
“Pull your chair away from the table, sit on the edge of the seat, plant your feet on the ground, and place your hands on the table. This will let you use your body without blocking the camera.”
Be aware that some virtual interview software programs allow the employer to rewind, meaning bad moments can be viewed over and over again.
Stage your office or workspace.
Set your office “stage” with a bookcase, a tall plant, or appropriate wall décor. You also want to ensure you are positioned properly on the webcam, so that you will be centered on their monitors. What does the visual background say about you? Messy or neat? Too bare? Check to ensure that the background or anything on the wall does not give a misleading impression.
Check the lighting.
Make sure there are no bright lights or windows creating a glare behind you. Even with shades drawn you may be cast in sunlight that makes it hard for viewers to look at for very long. If you wear glasses, be sure there’s no glare on them, and that your interviewer will be able to see your eyes clearly.
Avoid using only overhead lights that cast very unflattering shadows. Instead, purchase a studio light (you can find one on Amazon for approximately $30) or position yourself where natural light is in front of you and can help brighten or illuminate your face.
Check your on-screen appearance.
Are there unflattering shadows on your face? If it is daylight, you can use the reflected light of a window. Sit facing the window, not to the side. You can reduce the blue screen skin tone by adding an incandescent lamp behind the camera. If there is no window, or it’s dark out, place an adjustable lamp behind the camera that shines just above your eyes.
Avoid visual and noise distractions.
Plan for potential interruptions. Prepare your kids and any others in the house in advance and provide them with something to occupy their time. Some say a post-it-note with a color code system helps. Close your pets out of the room. Accept that there might be a situation that you will need to address, but do it calmly so as to provide a positive impression.
If unexpected noises interrupt your call, apologize and ask for a few moments to let the noise subside. Mute your mic if the noise is loud.
If someone suddenly enters the room, apologize, mute the mic, turn off your camera, and step away to deal with it.
Just because you are at home, doesn’t mean you should look like you’re at home. Maintain the expected standard of dress for a professional interview. Specifically, your clothes should be professional (from head to toe) and on-target for the company culture. They should not distract attention from you, with loud prints or designs. It should go without saying, but wearing shorts or sweat pants is a bad idea. What if you have to stand up for some reason?
Troubleshoot technology problems.
In case your video or audio stops working, get the interviewer’s phone number in advance so you can call them at the moment.
What to do if you don’t have the necessary technology.
Consider the following:
- Explore the resources available at the public library in your area. Some libraries have private rooms you can reserve and may be able to loan you the equipment you need.
- Ask friends if you can borrow equipment.
- Rent equipment.
Nervousness and unease come across even more on camera than in person, because there are fewer things for the interviewer to focus their eyes on. If you need to, meditate before the interview or practice deep, calm breathing. If you have a mantra that helps to calm you, now is the time to use it.
Have your story/pitch ready.
Focus on the challenges you faced, the actions you took, and the results you attained. Have a copy of the job description and your resume or application available to reference. If you’ve networked your way into the interview, and have no job description, refer to your notes about the company.
End virtual interviews on a positive note.
Let the last thing they see at the end of your virtual interview be your warm, gracious smile, not the top of your head or a puzzled, serious, relieved look on your face while you search for a way to end the call. Know your software and how to quickly access the “End Call” button, without viewers seeing you do it.
Mac Prichard, founder of MacsList, offered tips to ace your virtual interviews, including one that many people overlook:
Don’t forget to send a thank you!
“After your interview, the best way to stand out as a memorable candidate is to send a gracious, sincere, and professional thank you email to each person involved in the interview process.
There’s nothing like a handwritten thank-you note, but with so many workplaces shifting to remote work models, an emailed thank you is the timeliest way to reach your hiring manager. Ideally, you should send your thank-you note within 24 hours.”
An Upside To Virtual Interviews Over In-Person Ones
Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search partner Cheryl Hyatt, noted one of the upsides to virtual or video interviews:
Create a cheat sheet.
You can easily create and refer to a cheat sheet during these interviews. This is something you can’t realistically do at an in-person interview. She suggests writing down short points you want to cover in the interview, along with questions YOU want to ask:
“Don’t do it on the fly. A lot of candidates wait to see if something comes up during the interview. Having a prepared list communicates intentionality and thoughtfulness to your interviewers.”
Write your points on sticky notes and place them around the camera, to keep your eyes as close to the camera as possible, as you refer to the notes.
“Also, make sure you know which note is where. Looking around the room or your desk to find the correct points can make you look scattered. It doesn’t matter what position you’re interviewing for—organizational skills matter.”
And be sure you don’t let your notes distract you from engaging in the conversation during the interview. If you’re focusing on your sticky notes, you’re probably not focusing on or paying attention to the interviewer.
Learn from the Employer’s Approach to Virtual Interviews
Just as job seekers are learning new technologies and best practices for remote interviewing, so are employers.
According to Harvard Business Review:
“Bad hiring decisions cost money and drain morale. Without the multitude of data points available only in person — the feel of a handshake, the way the energy in a room changes when a candidate walks in — employers need to develop new strategies for gauging whether someone is a good fit.”
Job seekers can benefit from understanding the way employers are using virtual interviewing technology.
Here are some things the article advises employers to do, to “crack the code” on remote interviewing:
Focus on emotional intelligence (EQ).
“At a time of enormous uncertainty, when workplaces are announcing grand reopening plans one day and abruptly reversing them the next, EQ is arguably more important than ever. EQ determines a person’s ability to relate to others, roll with the punches, navigate difficult situations with grace, and ‘read the room’ (which is especially difficult when it’s a Zoom room).”
Although it can be tempting for interviewers not to bother with emotional intelligence because it can be so hard to assess virtually, there are ways for them to get a feel for EQ.
They suggest employers ask candidates questions like the following. Likewise, you should be ready to answer the same kind of EQ questions in your own virtual interviews:
- If you were starting a company tomorrow, what would be its top three values?
- Tell me about a workplace conflict you were involved in, either with your peers or someone else in the company. How did you manage that conflict, and were you able to resolve it?
- If you’ve previously reported to multiple supervisors at the same time, how did you get to know each person’s preferences and juggle conflicting priorities?
- Tell me about a time when you received feedback on your performance and you disagreed with the feedback. How did you handle the situation?
- What inspires you?
Get real about the challenges of the pandemic.
“It’s possible to learn a great deal about someone by exploring how they’ve navigated the turbulence of the pandemic. Ask a question like, ‘What was the greatest challenge you faced during Covid, and how did you overcome it?’ Then look for signs that the answer you’re getting is authentic.”
Notice reactions to distractions.
When something on the candidate’s side disrupts or distracts the conversation, employers can assess how these things are handled.
“Did they get flustered and lose focus? Did they handle the disruption gracefully, as you’d want them to in front of a client or colleague? If no such distraction arises during the interview, consider asking: ‘Tell me about your worst Zoom nightmare. What happened, and how did you respond?'”