By Lin Burton
April 27th, 2020
You applied for the job and got a call to set up a virtual interview. Hold on, it is not a face-to-face interview? What is a virtual interview, and what do I do now?
Virtual interviews allow you and employers to meet and discuss the specifics of the job opening using video and web-conferencing services. As with a person-to-person interview, your goal is to get the job.
Here are some tips to help you navigate virtual interviews.
Make sure you have the proper technology and that you know how to operate it. Check out your system, including camera and speakers at least a few days prior to the interview. This will give you time to make any necessary adjustments before the scheduled meeting.
During the interview, if you cannot see or hear the conversation, let the person know. If you are in the middle of the meeting and you lose the connection, do not panic. It is okay to re-initiate contact with the interviewer. This happens more than you think. With so many users currently on the internet, service providers are having a hard time meeting the demand.
During a virtual video chat, the proper lighting is crucial. Ensure the light source in your office is directed on the front of your face, so that you are clearly visible. Do not set up the light source behind you, for example, having your back directly in front of a window. Doing so will have your face appear dark, and according to the time of day, bright light could cast a glow behind you which could be a distraction for the interviewer.
Not all of us have the luxury of a room at home that can be solely designated as an office. Find a quiet place free from interruptions, with no screaming children or barking dogs. I know this may be a tall order, but it will save you from embarrassment later.
Take a look around your space with a critical eye. What would you not want to see if you were the interviewer? The ideal professional environment would be a blank wall behind you. Turn on your computer’s camera, making sure it is set on frontal view, and see what the camera is picking up in your space. Get rid of anything not appropriate. Let me define inappropriate – beds; lewd/obscene books, photos and posters; personal pictures; stuffed animals; children’s books or laundry.
Prior to the interview, silence your phone. Do not set it on vibrate. Turn off the TV and close any open windows. This will reduce any distractions.
You will benefit greatly by rehearsing like you would for a face-to-face interview. As with any interview, you do not want to memorize answers, since doing so will make you appear robotic and insincere. Practicing is even more important now that few candidates are used to speaking to a computer screen. Beware of the possible sound/voice delays which can result with some technology. You do not want to talk over your interviewer. Doing so would come across as rude and ill-mannered. That is not the impression you want to make during an interview.
Prior to the scheduled time, remove all items from your work area. On the desk, you should have your resume, the job posting, and pen and paper. The resume and job posting will assist you when you are asked specifics about your employment history and the job for which you are applying. Pen and paper will come in handy to write down the name and title of your interviewer(s).
Also, you will want to make notes about what may have interested the interviewer about you, for example, the interviewer smiled or showed enthusiasm regarding a special skill you shared. By capturing these details, you will have interest points to mention in the thank you email message that I recommend you send after the virtual meeting.
Remember, it is an interview and just because you are at home, it does not mean pjs and sweatpants are okay. Dress like you would if you were meeting in person. Yes, that means shoes, too, since it will make you feel more put together – a complete package. Make sure your hair is combed and do not wear a ballcap. Do not wear bright colors or flashy jewelry. By dressing professionally, you will feel more confident, put together and ready, which will give the interviewer a favorable first impression.
Body language is so important, especially since you are not meeting face-to-face. Be sure to sit up straight – no slouching. Maintain eye contact by looking directly at the webcam/camera, not the image on your screen. This may take quite a bit of practice. If you look at the image rather than the webcam, it may appear to the interviewer that you are looking down instead of making eye contact.
Whatever you do, do not fiddle with your computer, keyboard, paperwork, or your phone. Some employers may record the interview, allowing the company’s representatives to play back the interview on demand. If they choose to record the interview, they should tell you upfront. If they fail to let you know in advance, you do not want them to repeatedly watch your unprofessional behavior.
If you do not remember anything else, remember to SMILE during the interview. Many of us, when in front of a computer screen, have a scowl on our face. While it is not usually intentional for us to frown, it may be that we are so focused on the computer screen that we forget about how we appear to individuals on the other end.
Interview questions are not just for Human Resources professionals. With any type of interview, please have questions prepared to ask the interviewer. One of the worst interview mistakes you can make is to respond to “Do you have any questions for me?” with “No, I’m good.” If that is your response, your chances of getting the job diminish substantially. You are showing the employer that you have not checked out their website or put any thought into what the job entails. Do your homework before the interview and come up with at least two to three questions to ask. I cannot repeat it enough – thoughtful questions impress hiring managers.
At times, technology makes it difficult to read the other person’s verbal cues. As the meeting progresses, pay special attention to the body language and verbal suggestions that indicate the meeting is coming to a close. Ensure the interview is officially over before you end the meeting. You do not want to be the one to leave the meeting before the interviewer has indicated the meeting is over. How do you feel about someone hanging up the phone on you? That is what ending a virtual interview, before its time, feels like. You do not want the interviewer to remember you as the person who hung up on her, do you?
Also, remember to thank the interviewer(s) for their time.
Do not forget to send a thank you email message, preferably no later than 24 hours after the interview.
In the present time, virtual interviews are becoming more relevant and necessary. Companies are shifting more towards virtual interviews as opposed to face-to-face in order to keep up with social distancing. While it seems as though virtual interviews may be a temporary solution to hiring during the current pandemic, the convenience and far-reaching potential may shift it towards a standard practice in business.
Virtual interviews should be treated the same as a face-to-face interview, but the approach is quite different. We hope that these tips will help you succeed in your next virtual interview.