It’s the new reality of the job world: working virtually. And that doesn’t just go for the day-to-day jobs either. Interviews are being conducted online more frequently.
For some, that can be daunting, and something you might not be prepared for.
As someone who conducts interviews, attends meetings and does their work online, I entirely understand. The digital world can feel more uncontrollable than an in-person discussion. Whether it’s figuring out how to access a meeting’s link, work your webcam or make sure the audio is in check, there are lots of things to think about to ensure your interview connection is functional, well-framed, doesn’t cause distraction and gives you the best opportunity for success.
Here are a few tips to make your video calls as seamless as possible:
THINGS YOU WILL NEED FOR A VIRTUAL INTERVIEW
I am a firm believer in a good to-do list, or in this case a checklist of items you will need to ensure your interview can get off the ground. The basics for a virtual interview are:
- A computer with a webcam
- A strong, private internet connection
- A quiet, well-lit room with a neutral background
- A notebook and pen
- A copy of your resume and references
- Any notes you have taken for the interview
- The list of questions you have for the interviewer(s)
- A glass of water, cup of tea or whatever your chosen refreshment is!
PRE-VIRTUAL INTERVIEW PREPARATION
Now that you have all of the necessary items checked off on your list above, it’s time to think about the actual virtual experience you are portraying for interviewers.
The hiring manager(s) should have let you know what platform you will be using for your interview. Whatever that platform is, ensure you can access the platform. Test it out with some friends or family beforehand, so you are certain you know how to access a meeting on that program.
Common platforms include: Skype, Zoom, Google Meet and GoToMeeting. But there are lots of others!
Whatever the platform, ensure that your username is professional when testing it’s functionality, so you are prepared on interview day. The platform may use your email address and name associated with that account (like Gmail), or you may have a designated username (like on Zoom). Whatever the platform, use your first name and last name where possible.
ON THE DAY OF YOUR INTERVIEW
On the day of your interview, there are a few final things you will want to ensure before you enter the meeting:
Whether you live alone, with a roommate or with family, there are inherently distractions and noises in any surrounding. So, try to minimize the chances of an interruption. Examples:
- Put a sign on the door to let co-habitants know you are busy. Even better: let them know the day beforehand what time you need some quiet in the apartment, so that they don’t blast music or the TV while you are interviewing.
- Close windows in the room, and turn off any fans or loud heaters.
- If there is construction in your neighborhood, or on your street, pick a location in your home where the noise is the least distracting.
- Delay laundry machines or your dishwasher so it isn’t running while you are interviewing.
- If you have a pet, find them some entertainment outside of your chosen meeting room, so they are unlikely to want attention while you are interviewing.
- Set your phone to silent.
- Close any windows or tabs on your computer, particularly those that send you notifications to your desktop!
Maximizing your Surroundings
Now, it’s time to consider the space you are presenting to your interviewers, and the space you need on your desk to access notes quickly and efficiently. Have your desk set up for success
Clear things off your desk that you don’t need for your interview, or could cause distraction. For myself, I only have my meeting notes, resume and references, a notebook and pen, and my computer on the desk.
Set up your desk to suit your needs
Everyone has their preferences for a desk set up that means you can access documents and notes quickly. Play around with placing your notes and notebook around your computer and find a layout that works for you.
For myself, as I am right-handed, I place the notes I already have and my resume to the left of my laptop, and then the notebook and pen to the right.What your webcam can see
Check that your background is neutral and clutter-free
What can the interviewers see in the background? If they can see your unmade bed, a pile of laundry, stacks of paper or perhaps a poster you don’t want them to see, either move the items or move your set up.
Check the lighting of your interview space
Can your face be seen easily in the webcam? If you wear glasses, is there any kind of glare that you can reduce? And for those of us with blue light lenses, is there an angle that works better to minimize that blue reflection?
Check the camera position
Align the camera so you are looking slightly up at it, and you are centred in the frame.
What to Wear for a Virtual Interview
Rule of thumb: what you wear for a virtual interview should be the same as what you would wear for an in-person interview. But, there are a few other considerations for virtual interviews too:
- Opt for block colours over patterns, particularly smaller, intricate patterns. Patterns can get distorted on camera, and be distracting for those on the other end of your call.
- As mentioned above, ensure that the lighting in your space is glasses friendly for those of us glasses-wearers! Find an angle and lighting level that minimizes glare.
- As you will be sitting down at a desk, you may feel like you just have to look professional from the waist, up. Avoid that temptation, and wear professional pants or a skirt. Expect the unexpected, in this case some kind of scenario where you need to stand up — it will seem more professional if you are wearing work attire, rather than your pyjama bottoms.
SOME TIPS FOR DURING THE INTERVIEW
When doing an in-person interview, we are all used to using small talk, body language and conversation to build rapport and ease any anxieties or tension. Virtually, that can tend to feel a bit forced if you aren’t prepared and comfortable. Think about the following to make an interview more comfortable, and to come across at ease, confident and invested.
Just like an in-person interview, you want to appear engaged and interested. Body language is a great way to convey that.
When listening to your interviewer(s), nod and smile while listening. When responding to questions, sit up straight and do your best to convey optimism and confidence. Look into your webcam, instead of at the screen with all of the camera views, so it comes across that you are looking at the interviewers. And, as with an in-person interview, minimize your fidgeting and use hand movements sparingly.
Managing Technical Difficulties
It’s not uncommon for video calls to lag or glitch. So don’t worry! Wait out the glitch, apologize once the cameras realign, and either begin your sentence again or ask the interviewer to make their statement again. If the call drops entirely, rejoin the call if possible and again, apologize and wait for their next cue.
Whatever happens, just remember technology isn’t perfect and it’s no reason to worry. Convey confidence and calmness, and keep moving through the conversation.
In the end, a virtual interview may come with it’s own new challenges, but you are actually in an empowering position. You are in your own space, with time to prepare an interview space that is conducive to your success. With preparation, and comfort using the technology, virtual interviews can actually be enjoyable and relaxed compared to an in-person conversation.
~ written by Lucy Fox
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