How To Prepare For A Virtual Job Interview

Virtual job interviews. We originally published this article in 2012. Virtual interviewing was a novelty back then. Today, it is a common practice, and this was true even before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was far past time for us to update the tips in this article. Read on to learn the latest about virtual job interviews and how you can prepare as a jobseeker.

Traditionally, virtual job interviews (which could be either phone interviews or video interviews using a technology such as Skype or Zoom) were used to conduct a pre-screening for an in-person interview and to answer any questions not addressed in the resume. But, today, virtual job interviews are also replacing many in-person “first interviews.” You will likely be asked the same questions in your virtual interview that you might have expected to be asked in a face-to-face interview. The bottom line: You must prepare like you would for an in-person interview.

In-depth virtual interviews are more common in management and executive positions — especially when relocation is required. For these positions, multiple virtual job interviews may be conducted before an invitation is made for a face-to-face interview.

Virtual interviews can save you time — and they can also save you money because you do not have to drive to an interview (or travel, if relocation is required).

As with a face-to-face interview, there are three possible outcomes from a virtual interview. You will be offered the job, advance to another interview (either by phone or face-to-face), or you will be eliminated from consideration.

The most important advice for any type of interview also applies to virtual interviews: Practice really does make perfect.

The 2 Types of Video Interviews You Must Know About

There are two types of virtual interviews conducted via video — live interviews (using Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, or similar technologies) and recorded Question-and-Answer interviews, also called “time-shifted” video interviews.

In a recorded interview, the jobseeker is directed on a website to answer questions on video, using their computer’s webcam. Video interviews provide an apples-to-apples approach to assessing candidates. All applicants are asked the same questions, and the hiring manager can review and rate the responses. These interviews can be easily set up by the company’s HR staff and the recording forwarded to the hiring manager for selection for the next round of interviews.

More common, however, are live video interviews which are simply a traditional job interview conducted virtually.

How To Prepare for a Virtual Interview

A video interview has many benefits for the job seeker.  No travel required, easy to fit into a schedule, no nerve-wracking waiting in the reception area or, worse, conference room.  Easy, right?  Log in at the appointed hour, answer questions, ask some of your own questions, and boom, you’re done, right?  Well, not exactly.

Notwithstanding the fact that you don’t have to worry about sweaty palms (or worse if you were running late!), there are some things you need to consider when preparing for a video interview. Here are some tips:

Virtual Interviewing Tips

  • Ensure that your profile photo is professional. This is your first impression from a physical standpoint in a video conference.

  • Positioning is also important. Prop up the computer so that you are not looking down at it and practice where to sit so you are framed correctly by the webcam. Make sure your torso is visible — including your hands — especially if you “talk” with your hands.

  • Look at the webcam when you speak, not at the interviewer’s face on your screen. When you look into the camera, it appears to the interviewer that you are looking at them directly.

  • One “pro” tip is to use a USB-connected headset for an interview instead of using the computer’s speakers. Headsets are inexpensive and can provide a much clearer interview experience.

  • If possible, use a wired Internet connection (plug directly into the Ethernet port) instead of using a wireless connection.

  • If you are using a laptop for the session, plug it in so you have plenty of “juice” (battery life) for the call. You do not want to have to dig for a cord to keep the computer from shutting down.

  • Turn off your cell phone, notifications on your computer, and close your other software programs. You do not want to be distracted by texts or beeps every time you receive an email.

  • Speaking of distractions, it is easy to tell on a video interview if you are not paying attention, so keep your focus on the interviewer.

  • Dial up the enthusiasm! Someone who speaks with normal energy in a one-on-one conversation can come across as flat and monotone on a video interview. It is important to be a little more enthusiastic in a video interview than normal.

  • Smiling is an important strategy for video interviews. Most of the time, when we are listening to someone else, we have a blank expression on our face. But on a video interview, a blank expression comes across as a frown. Keep a slight smile on your face: not a huge grin, just show a few teeth and raise your cheeks slightly. Practice this in a mirror ahead of time.

  • Lean in. You have probably heard that “the camera adds 10 pounds.” The reason for this is that many people lean backwards in their chair, when they should be leaning forward. If you sit back and relax in your chair your head will be further away from the webcam than your stomach. Unfortunately, the camera latches on to whatever is closest…your gut!

  • For women, pay careful attention to your hair and makeup in video interviews. A practice Zoom session can help you assess this.

  • Be mindful of your nervous habits. Just like in a face-to-face interview, the interviewer will notice when you twirl your hair or chew your lip.

  • You can take notes during a video interview, but do not take too many, or you will come off looking distracted. Take notes with a pen and paper, not on your computer.

  • If you have an online portfolio, such as a Linkedin profile that you’ve built out with multimedia, keep the link handy. You may want to share it with your interviewer.

What To Do Next

As with an in-person interview, be sure to inquire about what the next step will be. And write a handwritten thank you note or email as soon as you are off the call. Follow-up is key after a virtual job interview, similar to an in-person interview.

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How To Prepare For A Virtual Job Interview