7 Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Next Virtual Interview
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We all know the conventional interview prep tips: dress well, use a firm but friendly handshake, make eye contact. But how does all of that work when the interviewer is sitting at home, in another time zone, and staring at you through a computer screen?
Depending on who you ask, virtual interviews now make up between 86% and 23% to 41% of interviews. As a result, there’s a distinct possibility that if you’re in the middle of your job search, you might have a few virtual interviews to do in the not-so-distant future.
Fortunately, while they can feel a bit intimidating, there’s a lot that you can do to set yourself up for success. Here are a few tips that you can use when preparing for your next virtual interview.
Confirm Important Information About Your Interview
The first step to feeling confident and comfortable during your interview is to make sure that you have all the information you need. Are you and your interviewer located in the same time zone? Is the interview happening over Zoom, Google Meet, or another platform? Do you know approximately how long it will take? You don’t want to be partway through your interview when your kids come home from school or sit down for your interview only to discover that it already happened two hours ago. And if something does go wrong as you get ready to set up, you want to make sure that you’re able to notify your interviewer or someone on their team.
Before your interview, make sure you know:
- when the interview will take place (especially if you are in different time zones)
- which platform you’ll be using for the interview
- the name (or names) of the people conducting the interview
- the contact details (email or phone number) of at least one person involved with the interview
- how long the interview will last
Try to verify these details long before your interview so that if you need to ask for further clarification, the interviewer has plenty of time to respond.
Do Your Research
It’s important to do your research before any job interview—whether that interview is in-person or online. You’ll want to double-check the job description, look through the company website to understand its culture, and make sure that you know exactly what it is it’s selling. You can also look up the typical salary of a person in that position so that you enter the interview ready to negotiate.
One useful advantage of virtual interviews is that you can keep tabs open on your computer or notes on your desk, which you can then quickly check during your interview. You can keep the job listing open or write down the precise names of the company’s different products. You can also write down things about yourself or questions you want to ask the interviewer so that you don’t forget them. Be careful, though. You definitely don’t want your interviewer to see you reading from your computer screen!
Set Up a Comfortable and Quiet Space
When it comes to setting up for your virtual interview, there are some things that you will be able to control and some that you can’t. That’s okay. A good hiring manager will understand if your neighbour suddenly decides to mow their lawn or an airplane passes overhead. We’re all allowed to be human, and awkward moments shouldn’t work against you. That said, disruptions can break your concentration or make you feel even more nervous.
Try to make sure that your environment has the following:
- a clear space behind you that will look professional on your webcam
- a door that you can close to keep out pets, kids, and noise
- a water bottle in case you get thirsty during the interview
- a box of tissues in case you need to blow your nose (which you can do offscreen with your microphone on mute)
- a pen, backup pen, and paper for writing down important information
- closed windows to keep outside noise to a minimum
- an outlet so that you can keep your computer charged and plugged in
If you have young kids or pets that might sit outside your office and bang on the door or make noise, consider seeing if your partner or a family member would be able to look after them during your interview.
Test Your Technology Beforehand
Sometimes, even the most advanced software can experience the occasional glitch. Both visual and audio glitches can not only be distracting during an interview but can also interrupt communication between both parties. Again, some small glitches will be beyond your control and should not negatively impact how the hiring manager evaluates you. However, you do want to feel prepared to handle bigger technical problems. Some of the most common problems people face during video calls are:
- lost internet connection
- audio problems
- unclear visuals
- not keeping software up-to-date
Before your interview, log onto the video platform you’ll be using to test both your microphone and speakers. This will also help you determine if you’ve downloaded the latest updates you need for your computer (and if there are any updates you need, you’ll be able to download them without feeling stressed). During your interview, you can also consider keeping your phone nearby (and on silent) just in case you need to switch to using your phone and its data if your internet connection fails.
Be Aware of Your Body Language
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, studied non-verbal communication and found that:
- 7% of messages communicated are conveyed through words
- 38% of messages communicated are conveyed through vocal elements
- 55% of messages communicated are conveyed through nonverbal elements
Nonverbal communication consists of nonverbal behaviours or cues such as facial expressions, body language, gestures, touch, and eye contact. These cues will still be important during a virtual interview, so you want to be aware of them.
Of course, body language looks a little different online than it does in person. With online interviews, your interviewers aren’t going to see as much of your body, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. For example, it might be harder for them to see your enthusiasm for the position, so make sure to smile and nod. Eye contact can also be a bit more difficult to do. During your interview, you’ll need to look directly at your camera to look like you’re making eye contact. Fortunately, there are also some benefits to look forward to as well. If you naturally fidget a lot, you can still do this off camera if it helps you concentrate (just make sure that it isn’t noisy—try a test run on a call with a friend if you aren’t sure).
Dress the Part
Even if interviewers likely won’t see much of your outfit, it’s still important to choose something that feels comfortable and looks professional. Hiring managers still often consider how a candidate appears when making a decision.
Wearing a professional outfit isn’t just about impressing someone else, though. It can also give you a confidence boost. According to a Randstad survey, “Most (63%) workers aged 18-35 say they prefer dressing up for work as it boosts their confidence and performance”. If you suffer from impostor syndrome or feel nervous about your interview, wearing a professional outfit could help you feel a little better.
A button-down shirt and dark pants can often be enough to look professional. You might be tempted to wear shorts or pyjama pants since no one will notice, but it’s still a good idea for your entire outfit to be interview-appropriate—just in case you need to get up from your desk to close the door or grab a pen.
Prepare Questions to Ask
Most hiring managers will give you some time at the end of the interview to ask questions. This isn’t meant as an afterthought: They genuinely want to hear what you have to say. Asking a few well-thought-out questions can:
- demonstrate your interest in the position and the company
- show that you’ve researched the company
- give you a better sense of their work culture
- help you understand if the position would be a good fit
There are plenty of different questions you can ask to achieve these goals.
“What does work/life balance look like at your company?”
“What do you love most about working here?”
“How would you describe your work culture?”
“How would you describe your management style?”
Are all great questions that can help you understand what the work environment is really like. While you want to impress the employer and get the job, you also want to make sure that they’re a good place to work at and that you’ll genuinely enjoy being there.
The candidate experience is changing, but you can make the most of it. If you feel nervous about your next virtual interview, set yourself up for success by:
- making sure that you have the correct time (in the correct time zone)
- doing your research on the role and the company
- setting up a distraction-free space for your interview
- finding a professional outfit to wear for the interview
- preparing questions to ask the interviewer
And just remember, you have a lot to offer. There are plenty of companies out there that would love to have a candidate just like you.
Once you’ve landed the position, what can you expect next? If you’re asked to do a background check and want to know what that will include, take a look at our blog “What is on a background check?“