Are you facing a virtual interview with a potential employer? It’s becoming standard operating procedure these days. As COVID-19 has made it necessary for many of us to transition to remote work, we’ve all had to adjust to new ways of interacting. For candidates, that means meeting employers via phone or video interviews rather than driving to their office building.
While many aspects of a remote interview are the same as an in-person interview (you’ll still need to demonstrate your knowledge and credentials, market yourself effectively, and highlight relevant soft skills like self-motivation and communication), they also differ in several key ways.
Here’s how you can make the best possible impression.
Set Up Your Space
Setting up a delegated space for your interview is important for two reasons:
- You want to minimize distractions during the interview itself.
- You want to demonstrate to the interviewer that you will be working in a productive environment.
The second point is especially important if you will be doing any type of customer care or phone work. Even if interactions will be limited to colleagues and managers, you still need a place where you can focus on work, conduct Zoom meetings and phone calls and stay productive.
- Choose a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. If you have kids, roommates, or pets, it’s best to find a room where you can shut and lock the door. Be aware of ambient noises as well, such as traffic driving by outside, the sound of the dishwasher running, or anything else that might make it difficult to hear.
- Look around and behind you. What is in the background of your video? Maybe your office is neat, but it opens into the living room where you have laundry piled on the couch. Maybe you have a cluttered desk piled high with last week’s mail. Whatever it is, move it out of sight during your interview.
- Check your tech. Before the call (preferably several days before), check to make sure all your technology is working. Test your WiFi connection, audio, video and lighting. If possible, do a test run with a friend or family member so they can let you know of any problems.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
On the day of the interview, be sure you present yourself professionally. Think through your appearance, prep work, and anything you might need on hand during your interview.
- Dress appropriately. Dress professionally from head to toe, including shoes. Getting dressed for work puts you in a different frame of mind, so don’t cheat by looking nice only from the waist up. Also, consider what colors look best on screen. Avoid white and bright colors or busy patterns, since these don’t usually render well.
- Have a copy of your resume handy. Of course, you won’t want to read from it, but it may help to have any relevant information available in case you need it. Keep a pad of paper and a pen ready to take notes as well.
- Be prepared for technology blips. Have a backup plan in case your audio won’t work or the video cuts out. Be sure you have a phone number or email address for the interviewer, so you can contact them if necessary.
- Silence notifications. Be sure you won’t be interrupted with notifications or phone calls, either on your phone or on your laptop.
Ace the Virtual Interview
Speaking to someone through a camera may feel awkward, but it’s important for the interviewer to get a sense of who you are and how you interact with people. Take time to practice beforehand and get feedback from a friend on how you can improve.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Place your camera at eye level. If your laptop is sitting on your desk, you may need to put a couple of books under it so the camera isn’t angled up at you. Laptop should be no more than arm’s length in distance.
- Look directly at the camera, not at the person’s image on screen. This creates the effect of eye contact and projects confidence to the person watching you.
- Be aware of your body language. Use good posture and confident hand gestures as appropriate and avoid fidgeting with anything on your desk. Nod and smile when the interviewer is speaking to show that you are engaged.
- For phone interviews: If your interview does not include video, take special note of how you sound when you speak. Stand in front of a mirror, smile, and sit up straight so your posture doesn’t disrupt your voice. Remember, people can hear a smile or a grumpy attitude in your tone, so practice sounding pleasant.
- For pre-recorded interviews: If the employer has sent you a pre-recorded interview, you may have a time limit for your answers. Be sure you know the parameters for each question and find out whether you can record an answer more than once.
COVID-19 has created unique experiences for the remote workforce, but the techniques required for remote interviews and interactions will serve you well throughout your career. Once the crisis has passed, most of us will still be interacting with remote colleagues and working from home ourselves to some extent. As you prepare for the reality of work in the future, strong video and phone skills will help you build connections and serve both your colleagues and customers well.