As technology continues to evolve, the workplace has been quick to follow suit adopting new innovations that save time and increase efficiency. In fact, fifty percent of employers surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management said they use virtual interviews as a way to narrow their applicant pool. Video conferencing software, such as Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts, has helped recruiters reach a more diverse, global group of candidates, and offers a cost-effective way to screen prospective hires.
Due to current events like the Coronavirus pandemic and the sudden need to bring many positions online, virtual interviews have also become a necessity when traditional interviews cannot take place face-to-face. Many professionals are now working from home or pursuing new positions remotely, and the hiring process has become increasingly virtual as a result.
Mastering the virtual interview is often one of the first steps toward a follow-up interview and subsequent employment. Here’s how you can increase the likelihood that an employer asks you to come in for round two of an interview.
What is a Virtual Interview?
A virtual interview, or video interview, is a job interview that leverages video technology to allow the discussion to take place remotely. Rather than meeting face-to-face, the hiring manager and candidate will connect with each other online using video software. The tools required for this kind of meeting typically include a computer with a built-in or external video camera and microphone, a reliable internet connection, and headphones if desired.
A video interview often follows the style of a traditional, in-person interview, although there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. Below are eight tips to help you prepare for your next video interview.
How to Prepare for a Video Interview
1. Test Your Technology
Technical skills are considered one of the top competencies employers look for in new hires, and hiring managers are able to gauge your abilities easily during a virtual interview.
Avoid potential technical glitches by testing your equipment before the call. If your video conferencing software produces grainy visuals or muffled audio, it might be time to invest in an external webcam or microphone. You should also secure your internet connection. Nothing stifles conversation quite like a call dropped mid-persuasion point.
2. Keep Your Virtual Identity Professional
In today’s digital world, your email address or username is often your first impression. Don’t give the hiring manager a reason to question your professionalism before they even meet you by providing a once-hilarious high school email address you still might be using.
Keep your email and usernames simple. Try different combinations of your first, middle, and last name, or leverage industry keywords if you’re stuck. Also, avoid utilizing symbols and the numbers one and zero, which look like letters depending on the font and can cause confusion during outreach.
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3. Dress for Success
Projecting professionalism goes beyond your email address and username.
For virtual meetings, dress as though you’re preparing for an in-person interview. Wear your best business attire and, if you can, stick to jewel tones. These colors “have the right amount of saturation for all skin types and will prevent washing you out under harsh lighting,” according to personal branding consultant Nicole Otchy. Also, avoid any overpowering patterns or flashy accessories so as not to divert the employer’s attention from your expertise. You should be the focus of the interview, not your wardrobe.
4. Create a Set
The color of your backdrop can also help determine what to wear for a virtual interview. If possible, sit in front of a blank background, so that you remain the focal point. If your house is void of empty walls, set up in your home office or living room—whichever area looks the most businesslike.
Always make sure the space is clean before embarking on a video call; the messier the background, the harder it is to convince a hiring manager of how detail-oriented and organized you are as an employee.
Lastly, check your lighting. Sitting near a window works best, as the best way not to appear washed out is to keep the light in front of you.
5. Monitor Your Body Language
Unfortunately, that firm handshake and enthusiasm you typically greet employers with during an in-person interview won’t translate via video. Instead, convey confidence through your body language. Sit up straight, smile, and keep the camera at eye level to avoid looking up or down. Research shows that employers are more likely to remember what you said if you maintain eye contact, so be sure to keep your eyes focused on the camera—not the screen image of the hiring manager—as you converse.
Pro Tip: Write your talking points on Post-it notes. You can then place those notes on your computer screen to avoid shuffling papers or clicking around during the call.
6. Rid Yourself of Distractions
Virtual interviews come with a slew of distractions you wouldn’t normally have to deal with when you travel into an employer’s office. Be sure to do what you can to eliminate these potential interruptions on your end prior to beginning the video call.
Turn off the TV, silence your cell phone, and close the window to muffle any honking horns or blaring sirens. While you can’t plan for every distraction—particularly if you have children—the more prepared you can be, the better.
7. Practice Answers to Common Interview Questions
There’s no way to know exactly what a hiring manager will ask, but there are some common interview questions you can prepare for. Consider prepping answers to the following to ensure you put your best foot forward on camera:
- Why Are You Leaving Your Job? This is not the time to criticize your current employer. Focus instead on where you want to take your career and the positives of the role you’re interviewing for—particularly the skills listed in the job description that you want to acquire.
- What Are Your Salary Requirements? Negotiating your salary requires preparation. Use sites like Glassdoor, PayScale, and Salary.com to find the average wage for the position you’re applying for, and then match that number against your education, experience, and location to determine a salary range you’re comfortable with. It’s always easier to negotiate down, so if asked for your desired pay, respond with the highest number. If the number isn’t feasible, but you really want the job, ask what flexibility there is in terms of benefits, such as healthcare, vacation time, retirement, or professional development opportunities.
- What Are Your Weaknesses? Employers want an authentic answer here, not, “I work too hard.” The key is to share a negative, but explain how you turned it into a positive. For example, perhaps you’re not strong at delegating tasks, opting instead to tackle the work yourself. Say that, but also describe the processes you’ve put in place to make you a more effective leader and help you avoid micromanaging projects.
- Why Should We Hire You? This question is an intimidating one but enables you to summarize your experience and emphasize the unique strengths you bring to the role and the results you’ve already proven you can deliver.
This is another occasion where that Post-It with your notes can come in handy. Jot down high-level ideas so that you feel more prepared if the interviewer does pose any of those questions. Just avoid memorizing your responses; you want the conversation to flow naturally, not feel forced or rehearsed. Lastly, don’t forget to prepare questions of your own to ask the hiring manager.
8. Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Treat the video interview as you would an in-person meeting and properly follow up. Within 24 hours of the meeting, send an email to whomever you chatted with, thanking him or her for taking the time to speak with you. If there’s a question you wish you had answered differently or a point you wanted to elaborate on, here’s your chance. Just keep the email concise.
Mastering the Virtual Interview
Virtual interviews are becoming increasingly popular as workplaces continue to evolve to meet the needs of their employees. Professionals who are or will be navigating the job market are bound to encounter this new type of video meeting and should take the necessary steps to prepare themselves. Follow these eight tips to mastering the virtual interview, and you’ll be one step closer to joining the team.
For additional interview tips, explore our other posts from our career advice archives, including “Job Interview Etiquette,” “Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Next Job Interview,” and “How to Explain the Gaps on Your Resumé.”
This article was originally published in February 2018. It has since been updated for accuracy and relevance.