The hours you spent fine-tuning every inch of your résumé have finally paid off and you landed an interview. Congratulations! But, instead of the usual in-person interview you’re used to, your potential employer may be requesting a virtual interview (especially in light of COVID-19). Virtual or video interviews are a great way for companies to connect with candidates from afar, all while gaining insight about the job seeker’s personality and nonverbal ques.
You may be asking yourself, “How do I prepare for a virtual interview?” or “What do I even wear?” Rest assured, there is no need to panic. With the right tools, tips, and resources, you’ll be ready to handle your virtual interview like a pro.
Here are a few virtual interview tips:
1. Do your research
Like any interview format, you need to spend time researching employers prior to your interview. Have you checked out recent news about the company yet? Have they made any recent announcements? What are some common themes the company uses on its website?
Discover what you can about the company’s culture, mission, and values. Do you have any friends or family that currently work at the company? If so, ask them a few questions like, “What’s your work-life balance?” or “What do employees wear to work on a day-to-day basis?” If the company has social media accounts, give them a follow. Their social channels will sometimes give you an inside look about the company’s culture.
2. Double check your surroundings
A job recruiter might not enjoy that giant poster of your favorite football team on your wall as much as you do. And, while we all love our family, they probably don’t want to see your partner or children during your interview, either. Personally, I know my three-year-old Lab will most likely bark uncontrollably at my neighbors walking by, so I need to prioritize finding a space that is quiet and bark-free. Also, look for surroundings that have sufficient lighting, and are free from distractions. Most importantly, make sure your spot is neat and tidy. You want to show how organized you are, not how long you’ve ignored your household chores.
If for some reason there’s no place in your house or apartment that works, try scoping out your apartment building’s common area, your local library, or favorite coffee shop. As long as those places are quiet, and have Wi-Fi, you should be able to make them work.
3. Dress to impress
Yes, that includes everything below the waist, too. Treat your virtual interview as you would an in-person interview. I know what you’re thinking, “Why can’t I wear my sweatpants if the interviewer can’t see them?” Well, take it from me — you never know when your computer or phone might malfunction, and you’ll be forced to stand up!
By doing the research I mentioned, you can get a sense of how you should dress for your interview (and we have some more tips).
Pro tip: keep your clothing and how it’ll look in your surroundings in mind. If you plan on sitting in front of a white wall, you probably want to stay away from a white shirt.
4. Come prepared
Remember when you went full Sherlock Holmes mode and gathered background information on the company and the position you applied for? Have that ready for your interview. It’s also helpful to have quick access to things like your résumé, a folder with examples of your previous work, or a calendar to schedule a (hopeful) follow-up interview. Just make sure this information is easy to reference so you’re not stuck scrambling in front of your screen.
You want to prepare for the unknown, too. What happens if the interviewer can’t hear you properly? Make sure you have earbuds or headphones nearby in case you need them. Sometimes your headphones may have a better microphone than your computer. Also, be sure to keep a phone nearby if the video conference isn’t working and you need to pivot to a phone interview.
Lastly, make sure to have a pencil/pen and paper nearby. You’ll want to take notes — and may want to avoid doing so on your computer (where your typing could be distracting to the interviewer).
5. Be aware of your body language
This is when I can hear my Mom say, “Sit up straight, Connor!” And, as much as you may not want to admit it, Mom is right. Good posture is essential for a virtual interview, where the interviewer will look for cues based on your body language. By sitting up straight, you show that you’re alert, interested, and engaged.
Another key component to having good body language is maintaining eye contact. In fact, according to CareerBuilder.com, two thirds of hiring managers (67%) said that failing to make eye contact is one of the biggest body language mistakes job candidates make.
Also, remember to smile! If you’re excited about this potential new job, and the opportunity to interview for it, don’t be afraid to show it.
6. Practice, practice, practice
Whether you’re practicing by yourself in front of your screen, or you want to “phone a friend” and run through a few of your key points with them, it’s important to practice beforehand. By going over your materials prior to your interview, you’ll be able to nail those common interview questions like, “Tell me about yourself.” or “What’s your biggest accomplishment?”
This is also a perfect time to test out your virtual or video capabilities. You want to make sure your camera, microphone, and speakers work to avoid a “Can you hear me now?” situation. If you want, dress exactly how you would for your interview and use this time to see how you appear on camera. Pay attention to lighting in the room. Make sure your major light source is either in front of you or diagonal to you to avoid any glare on the screen.
Last, but certainly not least, follow-up. All your hard work has just paid off and you nailed your virtual interview. But just because the interview was virtual, doesn’t mean your follow-up needs to be. Instead of sending a general “Thank You” email, use this as another opportunity to be unique and send a handwritten note to your potential employer thanking them.
Virtual interviews are a little nerve wracking, mostly because we don’t all have a ton of experience with them. But, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” It’s okay to feel nervous and stressed about job interviews. But these are great opportunities for you to grow as a person, and as a professional. I believe in you!