5 Virtual Interview Tips That Will Help You Land the Job

Spotty Wi-Fi and camera issues make virtual interviews feel like a chore — but they have benefits too.
Sunny Betz
April 27, 2021
Updated: July 8, 2021
Sunny Betz
April 27, 2021
Updated: July 8, 2021

Every interview is different, but with enough preparation you can get a sense of what to expect. For Emma Tilden, a software engineer who applied to a role at Fidelity Investments while the company was fully remote, the virtual interview process felt like an entirely new game. “I really learned that conveying that I was engaged and excited about the job over Zoom was different than communicating those same things in person,” she said. She succeeded though — and got the job in July.

Tilden’s virtual interview experience isn’t unusual — many HR teams operate remotely and the process introduces distinct challenges. On top of the stress involved with job searching, there’s the risk of technical difficulties and showing off your personality can be harder on screen. Even if a company isn’t fully remote, some operate using a hybrid model where employees are in the office and work from home. Considering that more than half of U.S. workers clock in remotely part of the time, it looks like virtual interviews are sticking around.

Tips and Strategies for Your Next Virtual Interview

  • Be an effective communicator.
  • Show off problem-solving skills.
  • Practice ahead of time.
  • Take time with your answers.

Ultimately, it was beneficial for Tilden because she was able to broaden her search. “I live in Chicago, but the role that I ended up getting is based in Boston,” she said. “If I’d had to get to Boston to interview in person for that role, I probably wouldn’t have applied.”

Despite the challenges, virtual interviews provide more flexibility. It opens up a bigger range of potential jobs and scheduling is easier. Plus, it makes interviewing more accessible for people with disabilities and international candidates. Just remember the key to tackling this format: preparation.

More Interview TipsHere’s How to Answer ‘Why Should We Hire You?’

 

Be an Effective Communicator

Interviewing on a video call means that there’s less to communicate visually. Physical cues, such as gestures and posture, are far more difficult to read on screen. This is a pinch point during virtual interviews for Jefferson Duggan, head of data at the e-commerce company Fetch Rewards.

“Over a video call, things can get lost in translation,” Duggan said. “So being an effective communicator became even more valuable, because you have to do it with less resources.” It’s hard for body language to complement your message when you’re just a head on a screen, so you’ll have to rely on articulating in a clear and lively manner.

“Over a video call, things can get lost in translation, so being an effective communicator became even more valuable, because you have to do it with less resources.”

Ioanna Proestaki, HR operations specialist at the e-learning company Epignosis, emphasized that virtual interviews don’t replace in-person interviews. They serve their own distinct purpose.

“Interviews conducted via phone are always less biased, since the recruiter assesses a candidate without being influenced by the image,” she said. “The in-person ones, on the other hand, give the recruiter more information about the candidate’s personality, how they behave and interact with people and the environment.”

Virtual interviews land somewhere between these two options. They provide interviewers the chance to assess their candidate’s tech savvy. Fumbling with audio connections or asking how to connect audio for Zoom will earn you a strike, Proestaki said. So don’t wait until the last minute to practice, a full rundown will ensure the technical aspects go smoothly.

 

Show Off Problem-Solving Skills

Virtual interviews provide insight into how someone will actually perform in a position, more so than an in-person interview, Duggan said. “There have been times when I’ve been doing an interview and somebody asked me to whiteboard a problem on the spot. I enjoyed doing that, but thats not a good assessment of what someone is actually going to be doing in the job.”

Duggan explained that, in such cases, virtual interviews work more like open book tests. “If you talk to anybody who writes code, they’ll tell you one of the first things they do when they’re approaching a problem is to research what other people have done. I think that in in-person interviews, that is often left out of the mix,” he said. “To me, a virtual interview is a better simulation of an actual work environment than standing at a whiteboard for an hour.”

More Career AdviceHere’s How You Should Follow Up After a Job Interview

 

Practice Ahead of Time

Most of the etiquette and principles followed during in-person interviews apply to virtual interviews as well. Make sure to research the company’s leadership and familiarize yourself with the tech that they use. Doing so will help you ace the interview and prepare you better for the role if you land it. “The fact that it is virtual does not mean that it is a less important step in the recruiting process,” Proestaki said. “Learn about the company and the job position and be prepared to answer all the tough questions.”

Learn about the company and the job position and be prepared to answer all the tough questions.”

A highly valuable step in the interview process is the rehearsal — actually practicing out loud what you’re going to say. “I think a lot of people struggle with interviews because talking about ourselves is very egocentric. And it’s very uncomfortable for a lot of people,” he said. One of the best ways to get over that discomfort is by talking about yourself, telling the story of your career, and where you want to go. If this is difficult, find a friend to do a mock interview with or try recording yourself to see how sound.

 

Take Time With Your Answers

Uncomfortable with the silence while you’re thinking of an answer? Is there an awkward transition? A rush to fill the silence? Nerves can hijack the natural flow of a conversation. However, the pressure can be less intense during a virtual interview, Duggan said.

“An advantage of virtual interviews that people are a little bit more comfortable pausing and reflecting on a question than they might be in person,” he said. “Asking for personal time when you’re physically with other people can be a little bit weird or nerve wracking, whereas it may feel more comfortable on video for some folks.” Asking for a moment to reflect when you encounter a tough question not only helps with your answer, but also shows your interviewer that you’re intentional about your words.

Another bonus of virtual interviews is that you can have a cheat sheet. Prepare notes ahead of time with a list of skills that you want to highlight or data points that showcase your impact. Of course, write down questions to ask your interviewer — it will keep them fresh in your mind.

More Interview TipsTackling The ‘How Would You Describe Yourself?’ Interview Question

 

Prepare for Virtual Interviews to Become the Norm

Virtual interviews aren’t new, but, with the increasing shift to remote work, more companies have adopted the format as a standard part of their operation. Some of these changes, Duggan said, may be permanent. “With mass vaccination rolling out I think its important that people ask about the work expectations,” Duggan said. Virtual interviews are only one piece of the remote work puzzle and finding out how a company plans to operate in the future is crucial to figuring out if it’s the right fit for you. Be sure to ask questions like: Is there an option to be fully remote? Does the company use a hybrid model? Will that change in the coming year?

“The more you show them that you can build that trust, the better off you’re going to be.”

If virtual interviews don’t feel natural for you yet, just remember to focus on the basics and the value you bring. A working camera, a professional video background and good Wi-Fi are key, but what interviewers want to see most is talent, commitment, and genuine excitement.

“When you’re interviewing for a job, the hiring managers are really trying to figure out whether they can trust you to get something done,” Duggan said. “The way that you do that is by being inquisitive, showing interest, and having some knowledge about the company. The more you show them that you can build that trust, the better off youre going to be.”

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