Virtual interviews have become a crucial part of the interview process. According to an Indeed report, 82 percent of employers have used virtual interviews and 93 percent plan to continue the practice. While this shift removes in-person interactions, candidates can still make a positive impression by knowing how to balance the unique demands of virtual interviews.
“It’s marrying the content you’re going to talk about with the interviewer with them getting to know you, your personality, your mannerisms, and your communications skills through a video meeting,” said B.J. Engelhardt, senior director of career services at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
To excel in a digital hiring landscape, consider these virtual interview tips for getting off on the right foot with interviewers and increasing your chances of advancing to the next round.
1. Prepare Ahead of Time
Create a list of interview questions you think you’ll need to answer in the job interview and brainstorm your responses. Remember to use the STAR method if you get stuck while trying to come up with specific examples.
Some common questions that may come up during the video interview include:
- Tell me about yourself.
- How would you describe yourself?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What do you consider to be your biggest weakness?
- Why should we hire you?
Next, practice answering questions with a virtual mock interview tool or with a friend over a video conferencing platform. Ask for their honest feedback. Were your responses complete and succinct? Did you appear confident? Could they clearly see and hear you? Did your background and lighting look professional? These are helpful questions to know the answers to in advance of your remote interview.
2. Set Up Your Background
Seek a quiet setting for the video interview, ideally with a blank corner with nothing on the walls to distract your interviewer, said Josh Elmore, global head of talent acquisition at Zoom Video Communications. If your only option is a messy or cluttered room, consider using a virtual or blurred background.
Station yourself in front of a window where the sunlight is falling on your face, or place a lamp or light in front of you. Avoid having the light source behind you, because it will cast a shadow across your face.
3. Dress Professionally
When selecting an outfit for your remote interview, leave the soft clothes in the closet.
“A suit and tie probably aren’t appropriate for a lot of these tech roles and many may wear super casual clothing, but that doesn’t mean as a candidate you should wear that,” said Sarah Sikowitz, director of career education and coaching for Harvard University’s Harvard Business School. “I think you can never go wrong with business casual or something neutral.”
4. Eliminate Distractions
Carve out a few minutes before your video interview to turn off Slack notifications and switch your cell phone to silent mode. Close out your email application too. You don’t want a symphony of pings to sound off while you or your interviewer are talking — it may come across as unprofessional.
And to avoid looking distracted, try minimizing as many windows on your screen as possible. Even a silently delivered incoming message can pull your eye contact away from the camera in a noticeable way.
If you have roommates or pets, try to keep them out of sight — and out of earshot — during your remote interview, if possible.
Better yet: Check the virtual interviewing platform you will be using for audio suppression features. If the interview will be on Zoom, click on the audio settings and review your background noise suppression options, which go from low to high. That way, even the sound of a neighbor’s leaf blower can be kept from the interviewer’s ears.
Virtual Interview Tips
- Prepare ahead of time.
- Set up your background.
- Dress professionally.
- Eliminate distractions.
- Keep your resume and notes in front of you.
- Log on early.
- Maintain eye contact.
- Don’t overthink the interviewer’s body language.
- Send a follow-up thank-you email within 24 hours.
5. Keep Your Resume and Notes in Front of You
Interviewers will typically refer to your resume, so have a copy in front of you for reference. The beauty of virtual interviews is you can have it close at hand without it being visible to the interviewer, Choudhury said.
Also, keep a pen and piece of paper handy to jot down questions you’ll want to ask at the end of the interview as they come up, he added.
6. Log On Early
Launch your own test meeting on the interview platform 15 minutes before it starts. Use this time to run system checks on your computer, webcam and audio.
7. Maintain Eye Contact
Improve eye contact with your interviewer by raising the height of your laptop or sitting on additional pillows if you’re at a desktop so the webcam is at a similar height as your eyes. If you are using Zoom, move your video conferencing window directly below your webcam, so you don’t appear to be looking off to the side during the interview, Elmore said.
Inform the interviewer ahead of time you may be jotting down notes and also referring to notes during the interview, so they will understand when you break eye contact to look down.
You may also want to hide your image from the screen to avoid distraction.
8. Don’t Overthink the Interviewer’s Body Language
The interviewer’s visual cues and body language can be hard to read during a virtual interview, so it’s important not to jump to conclusions.
“If the interviewer appears like someone else is distracting them off-screen, you could take that like, ‘they’re not paying attention to me. They’re uninterested in me. I’m not doing a good job in this interview. Oh, no, I’m having a panic attack.’ You could start spinning things over in your head that aren’t true at all because you have so little context,” Sikowitz said.
Just as candidates may take notes or look at their resumes during a virtual interview, interviewers may also be taking notes or referencing online materials. Give interviewers the benefit of the doubt and remain focused on the task at hand.
9. Send a Follow-Up Thank-You Email Within 24 Hours
After your virtual interview, give yourself a high five. Then, draft a thank-you email that expresses your appreciation for the interviewer’s time and consideration, and make a plan to send it to them within 24 hours (the earlier the better). Hopefully you hear back from them relatively soon — with an invitation to the next round of interviews.