If you've ever been invited to a virtual or video conference interview, you probably are not sure what to expect. Although the technology has been around for a while to conduct this style of interview, they are still pretty out of the ordinary. Because we are not accustomed to them, should you get scheduled for one, it's good to know what to do to prepare for it and how to conduct yourself so that you make as good of an impression as possible.
What is a Virtual Interview Exactly?
These types of interviews are typically used for the purposes of convenience: either for the employer, the candidate, or both. For instance, if the employer is in different part of the country or world than the candidate, this is significantly less expensive and comes with much less scheduling hassle than trying to arrange a candidate to fly in for an in-person meeting.
The virtual interview can take the form of a one-on-one or group interview in real-time over a video conferencing program (e.g., Zoom, Skype, Go-to-Meeting, etc.), or the employer could be using a software in which questions are pre-loaded and you film yourself with your answers (e.g., HireVue, vidRecruiter, etc.) for screening purposes.
The great part about this type of interview is that they are extremely flexible. You can basically conduct your interview from anywhere with modern technology. However, because of this, candidates make many mistakes when doing one.
How Do I Prepare for One?
Make sure you give yourself at least a day or two when you schedule this kind of interview. This will give you time to make sure that the environment in which you plan to conduct the interview will be ready.
What do you need to do to get your surroundings ready, you ask?
First of all, clear out the junk in the room that's going to show up on the screen when the interviewer connects with you. Take down the questionable poster in the bedroom. Pick up the dirty laundry on the couch. Put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. In other words, pretend your mother is going to be there with the interviewer. What's she going to nag you about when she's online? That's what you need to remove.
Next, make sure that you minimize distractions and noises. Turn off the radio or TV in the background. If you have children or pets (that you call your children) living with you, put them in another room or ask a neighbor to watch them for an hour or so. You might also want to let your significant other or roommate know that you need a quiet space during that time. To prevent the delivery guy from ringing the doorbell, write a note above the doorbell for them to have them deliver their package to a neighbor that you've arranged this with or to simply leave it at the front door without knocking or ringing.
Then make sure your sound, lighting, and camera angle are good beforehand. You don't want to rely on a non-functioning mic on the day of the interview. You want your beautiful voice to come in loud and clear. Likewise, try to place yourself in an area with natural lighting if possible. Shining a desk lamp on yourself will bleach you out. That being said, don't have your back towards a window either, otherwise you'll just look like a black silhouette to the interviewer. As far as camera angle, we always advise that you sit at a desk or table. Even though they call them a lap top because they can sit on the top of your lap, the camera angle is awful. The interviewer will be spending 30 minutes to an hour looking up your nose! The other benefit of sitting up at a table or desk is that your posture is much better. You'll look and sound more confident.
Also, just because you might be interviewing from home, does NOT mean that you can dress differently than you would for the traditional interview. Yes. You have to wear pants. But more seriously, for men, that means wearing a shirt and tie (a suit preferably) and be well-groomed. Women, should where a conservative blouse (with a jacket preferably) and slacks or skirt. For both, you should wear shoes too. I see you rolling your eyes and thinking, "Why, they can't see my feet?" Do it because the more formal you are the more serious you take this. When you dress casual, you act casual, and that comes through in the interview.
Finally, don't show your frustration on the day of the interview if the technology doesn't cooperate. It's like a law of nature, when something important is supposed to happen, that's when stuff inevitably doesn't work. Be calm and try to troubleshoot or help the interviewer troubleshoot on his or her end. The worst thing that can happen is that the audio, which was out a moment before, suddenly starts working again and the interviewer catches you cursing like a sailor at your computer!
What Can I Do to Make Sure I Do Well?
Your strategy for a winning virtual interview is exactly the same as an in-person interview. You want to win the interviewer over and get them to like you.
Well, for a start, do your research on their company and understand as much as possible about the job. I can assure you that two of the first questions in the interview will be, "What do you know about our company?" and "What made you interested in this job?" If you give them a blank stare followed by several umms, your interview is off to a rocky start. Scour the internet and talk to people who are in the same company or industry or to someone who has a similar job. Because the information is so readily available in today's age, there's really no excuse for not having something to say when you're asked these standard questions.
From there, try to steer things from an interview format to a conversation format. When it starts to feel more like you're just sharing stories between the two of you rather than being in an interrogation, the interviewer will start feeling like they know you and like you. Try to discover common interests in the ice-breaker part of the interview so that you can connect on some level. Mimic the interviewer's body language and use similar phrasings and speech patterns. Sprinkle in a few compliments (don't go overboard with this, but if they are wearing something nice, tell them about it). Emphasize common values and attitudes. Smile and use open body language. All these strategies are proven to work in getting a person to like you more. To seal the deal, demonstrate your competence by providing examples of successes you've had and challenges you've overcome.
If you've done your job well, and your virtual interview goes flawlessly, you'll be heads and shoulders above most others who didn't go through all the efforts you did to nail your virtual interview. Be confident, you're ready!