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 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.
Mastering the virtual interview is one of the first steps to an in-person meeting. Here’s how you can increase the likelihood that an employer asks you to come in for round two of an interview.
1. Test Your Technology
Technical savvy is one of the top 10 competencies employers look for in new hires, and one hiring managers can test via a virtual interview.
Avoid a potential technical glitch 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 a webcam or microphone. You should also secure your internet connection. Nothing stifles conversation quite like a call dropped mid-persuasion point.
Don’t give the hiring manager a reason to question your technical know-how.
2. Update Your Login Information
You also don’t want to give the hiring manager a reason to question your professionalism. In today’s virtual world, your email address or Skype username is often your first impression. Meaning, that once-hilarious high school nickname you still virtually go by isn’t as funny to prospective employers.
Keep your email address simple. Try different combinations of your first, middle, and last name, or leverage industry keywords if stuck. Avoid symbols and the numbers one and zero, which look like letters depending on the font and can cause confusion during outreach.
3. Dress for Success
Projecting professionalism goes beyond your email address and username.
Dress as though you’re preparing for an in-person interview and don your best business attire. If you can, stick to jewel tones, which “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. 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 you should wear. 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. Just make sure the space is clean. The messier the background, the harder it is to convince a hiring manager of how detail-oriented and organized you are.
Lastly, check your lighting. Sitting near a window works best. The trick is to keep the light in front of you.
5. Monitor Your Body Language
That firm handshake and enthusiasm you typically greet employers with don’t translate via video. During a virtual interview, the main way to convey confidence is through your body language. Sit up straight, smile, and keep the camera at eye level to avoid looking up or down. It’s been shown that employers are more likely to remember what you said if you maintain eye contact, so stay focused, not on the screen image of the employer, but on the camera itself.
Another trick to maintaining eye contact is writing 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 their own slew of distractions. 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, such as:
- 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, 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 micro-managing 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.
Now, here’s where those Post-Its come in handy. Jot down high-level notes, 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 interview questions of your own.
8. Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Treat the virtual interview as you would an in-person meeting and properly follow up. Within 24 hours of the interview, 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.
If you can master the virtual interview, you’ll be one step closer to joining the team in person.
For additional interview tips, explore our other posts from our career advice archives, including “Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Next Job Interview” and “How to Explain the Gaps on Your Resumé.”