The shift to a more remote-friendly workplace has created a larger need for virtual job interviews, as more companies’ hiring methods start to rely on video conferencing. While the kinds of questions that an interviewer is likely to ask may not be as affected, your understanding of and control over the technology helping to showcase your talents can make or break your virtual interview experience.
What’s worse than getting a chance with a dream company only to have your interview botched because your internet connection was bad or your portfolio video didn’t load? This article will offer tips on how to ace your next virtual interview and supply troubleshooting ideas to prevent worst-case technology scenarios from raining on your job prospects.
Six Ways to Prep for Your Virtual Job Interview
Some of the most important pieces to your virtual interview practice will occur before you even meet your interviewer. Taking the time to set the stage properly can ensure fewer problems on the big day and can reduce your stress regarding the whole affair. For maximum virtual job interview success, complete the following steps as early as possible:
1. Choose a Suitable Location
Lighting is key, and silence is golden. You may choose to conduct your virtual interview at a public cafe or library, but make sure that you will have your chosen space to yourself and that the noise or movements of others will not interfere with your digital space. Some people opt for a specialized background of a pretty picture or setting. If you do not set a background, make sure what’s visible to your interviewer is clean, organized, and appropriate.
2. Test Your Connection
Everything from the internet speed and microphone quality to the video camera needs to be tested multiple times. Make sure that you can see a clear picture of yourself, your voice is not breaking up, and your Wi-Fi or web applications are running at optimal speed. Make it a part of your job interview practice to check all of this on the morning of your actual interview, too. That way, if there is a problem, you can find out and potentially reschedule beforehand.
3. Clear the Clutter
Close out all other web tabs and programs running in the background of your device so that your computer is operating optimally. Videos and sound bites take up a lot of bandwidth, so you want to make sure that your interview is not hindered by too many other things going on with your computer.
4. Pick Out Your Best Professional Outfit
Yes, your attire still matters, and contrary to current at-home trends, pants are not optional. You want to choose something colored in a way that complements your features but does not clash with your background or come across differently on screen. For example, you may look great in a neon yellow blazer in real life, but if you are shooting your video conference in front of a yellow or green background, this may not be your best look. Stick to neutrals where possible and avoid prints, as they tend to look “busy” on screen and can distract the eye. Your outfit should help your overall interview presence — not hinder it in any way.
5. Research the Company
Another useful rule of thumb regarding virtual job interviews is to make sure you do your homework on the company that you’ll be interviewing with. Be sure you are familiar with and can talk about their company policies, mottos, and general culture. Have things to say about why you would be a good fit and what attracted you to this job in the first place.
6. Avoid Conducting the Interview on a Smartphone
If possible, conduct your interaction with the hiring personnel on a laptop or desktop computer, rather than a smartphone. There are two reasons for this. The first is that your picture quality will generally be much better on a laptop or desktop. Some mobile video conferencing apps do not place the same emphasis on pixelation.
Secondly, many common features of web-based platforms do not extend to their mobile counterparts or do not do so with the same level of quality. For instance, screen sharing is much easier to guide and make use of between users on a full-size device. You definitely want to get the most out of your virtual job interview!
What to Do During Your Virtual Job Interview
The best practices for traditional interviews apply in the same way as virtual interviews. It is not a different set of rules; it is a sharpening of basic etiquette. The human connection that can help blur oversights or mistakes is gone in this setting, and you have to rely solely on what you can project to your potential employer with just your face on a screen
Don’t forget to do the following:
Forego fidgeting: Take care of all bathroom breaks ahead of time and take a few deep breaths before connecting. Continuously bouncing around or tugging at a thread on your sweater will make you come across as disinterested or even juvenile on screen. Keeping still conveys focus and poise to your potential employer.
Smile big: You don’t have to be cheesy or phony with it, but keeping a natural smile and open eyes transfer a sense of curiosity and warmth to your interviewer. You need all the help you can get in humanizing yourself in this digital environment. A smile lets your future employer know that you are a welcoming person.
Ask and listen: Besides preparing a list of potential questions from your research on the company, be sure you listen closely to what your interviewer tells you. Ask relevant questions based on this information. For example, if he or she has just told you about how this company handles sick leave and holidays, you might follow up with asking about parental leave or whether unused sick leave can be rolled over to the next calendar year. Staying engaged shows that you are a respectful and intelligent interviewee.
Good virtual interview practice also dictates a “no visible distractions” policy. Put your phone and other possible interruptions away before you log in for the interview. If you are interviewing at home, secure your pets in an area where they cannot walk into the video, or disrupt it by making noise. Arrange for children to enjoy an activity with a relative outside the household during your allotted interview time, or make sure they’re occupied in another room. Have no food, drink, or gum while your video conference is ongoing.
Do be sure to have a copy of your resume, cover letter, references, and portfolio handy to reference it, or even screen-share it if needed during the interview process.
Additional Virtual Interview Tips
While no digital interaction can ever be fully predicted due to the many things that can go wrong with technology, even when it is new, a little virtual job interview practice can go a long way toward helping you resolve problems if they arise.
For example, it’s a good idea to have an extra set of headphones available just in case something goes wrong with the first pair. Having a backup is a relatively inexpensive way to protect yourself from a common culprit in failed virtual interviews: dead headsets. The same advice goes for connectivity and cables. Even if you are using Wi-Fi at home, have a wired way to connect to your internet router just in case service is spotty the day of your interview. If you are using public Wi-Fi, be sure you also have your smartphone set up as a wireless “hot spot” in case the coffee shop loses power or suffers an outage.
It can be easy in all of your preparations to overlook the simplest preventatives. For instance, make sure that your interviewer has a reliable phone number and proper email address on file for you in case you lose conferencing connection. You can then resume via phone or an email-based app if needed.
We’re Here to Help
Your job interview may take place virtually, but it has all been in the service of getting a very real job governed by very real people. This means you need to treat the exchange the same way you would with a human interaction of the same kind. If your interviewer asks you for any additional pieces of documentation during your chat, make certain that you send those immediately upon exiting the video conference. Your potential employer is more likely to see you as a sound candidate if he or she does not have to wait for responses from you or remind you of things.
Send a follow-up email or note of thanks after a few days. Don’t be overly solicitous, but state how much you enjoyed connecting with your interviewer and hope to speak with the company again in the future. If you do not hear back from this employer, bear in mind that there are many other jobs out there worth applying to.
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