As if job searching weren’t challenging enough, the growing popularity of the video interview adds a new layer of complexity for job seekers.
Harvard Business Review reports that up to 86% of employers conduct job interviews using some kind of online technology. This is particularly true as the pandemic has forced the hiring process to go virtual, and companies are embracing hiring candidates remotely for what would previously have been in-person roles.
While there are a number of factors involved in the job interview process, the number-one thing that will drive your success is proper preparation. This includes everything from your technical setup, to how you conduct the conversation, and your physical appearance.
Below are 8 key tips to set yourself up for success in the virtual interview, many of which still apply to the in-person interview as well.
1) Organize Your Details in Advance
Make sure you know who you are meeting with, what time, roughly how long you should budget for the interview to last, and what format the interview will be in (online, in-person, phone). If possible, research your interviewer online using LinkedIn to get a sense of their role, and potentially any questions you could ask them about the organization.
Also research the company in advance. Read articles on their latest developments or projects, review LinkedIn to see recent hires, and peruse their social media feeds to get a sense of the culture.
2) Prepare Your Workstation
First and foremost, choose a location where you can confidently conduct the interview without noise or distractions. While we’ve all seen videos of interviews interrupted online, it’s less funny if it happens to you – particularly if it costs you the job opportunity.
Test your equipment MULTIPLE TIMES – make sure your conferencing software is updated and working, your internet connection is reliable, and that your microphone and camera are in working order.
Also test the lighting in the area where you’ll be taking the interview at the approximate time of day that you will be online. Things like backlighting, glasses glare, or shadows can distract from what you are saying and negatively impact your performance.
3) Dress the Part
How you present yourself in a video interview on-camera is just as important as if you were walking into a physical office and meeting your interviewer face-to-face. Consider the company culture and dress slightly more formal than the everyday dress code. If you’re not sure what that is, you can ask a recruiter how to best prepare.
4) Pay Attention to Body Language
It’s easy to forget that your body language and mannerisms are on display when you’re sitting behind a screen. Pay attention to things like eye contact, posture, and facial expressions. Look directly into the camera versus the screen where your eyes are naturally drawn.
You may want to jump on a practice video call with a friend who can critique your performance and provide any pointers. Or go the extra step of working with a trained career and interview coach who will help you put your best foot forward.
5) Treat the Interview Like a Conversation
Because the job interview is formal process, it’s easy to forget that you’re speaking to another human being. We’re not used to conversing in that kind of format day to day, and it can easily throw us off our guard. Instead, treat the job interview like a conversation, which is exactly what it is – keeping in mind the goals and objectives. It’s not about small talk – it’s about talking up your value and selling your qualifications.
Take your time and speak slowly. When we rush to get through a point, it’s easy to lose the thread and get stuck. If you do lose direction, pause to regather your thoughts, and then continue.
Something else that can help in those situations is…
6) Be Prepared to Tell a Story
Interviewers love to ask thought-providing questions that provide deeper context, such as “Tell me about a time where you…”. Once again, when you’re not used to speaking about yourself in this manner (and most of us aren’t), it can be challenging to come up with a clear and intelligent anecdote in the moment.
Instead, prepare 3-5 stories in advance that you can reiterate when asked one of these questions. It’s impossible to know in advance what you will be asked, so think about a few different situations that speak to your skills and accomplishments, such as:
– A time when you overcame a challenge
– An example of how you exercised creativity
– A time when your work was positively recognized
– An example of how you went above and beyond your role
– How you diffused a difficult situation
– An example of a win-win solution you proposed
Having examples prepared in advance will not only give you confidence, but you’ll come off more polished and be able to make your point more clearly and succinctly.
7) Prepare a List of Questions
You never want to leave a job interview without asking thoughtful questions that reinforce your interest in the role. Use this as an opportunity to creatively source information about the company, the culture, and anything else that may help you determine whether it’s a fit.
Some examples might include:
“Can you tell me more about the company’s culture?”
“How many people are on the team?”
“Is this a new position for the company?”
“Who would I be interacting with day to day?”
“Are there additional skills or training that would be valuable for this role?”
“Does the company offer any kind of mental health or wellness programs for employees?”
“How do team members stay connected with one another when working remotely?”
“What is the general range of compensation for this role?”
“Does the company offer flexible work arrangements?”
“What are the opportunities for advancement in the company?”
8) Follow Up with Your Interviewer(s)
Just because the interview is virtual doesn’t negate the necessity for following up with a thank you note to your interviewer. Instead of sending a physical note, ask for the interviewer’s contact information at the end of the interviewer and follow up with a thank you email within 24 hours.
Use this as an opportunity to reiterate your interest in the role, and perhaps add 1-2 key points form the interview that reinforce your qualification for the role.
Hi Tom – I wanted to thank you again for your time yesterday. After speaking with you and Alan, I feel even more confident that this position is a good fit, and that Company XYZ offers the kind of culture and work environment where I would thrive.
I particularly appreciated what you said about how the daily team meetings have helped to keep everyone on task and provide an opportunity to connect with your coworkers. That’s very similar to the team dynamic in my last company.
I look forward to discussing next steps. Please reach out if I can provide any additional information.
- Preparation and planning is critical to setting yourself up for a successful online interview. The more you prepare, the more confident you will be in the interview process, and the better impression you will leave with your interviewer.
- Organize your details in advance – know who you are speaking with, what their role is at the company, and research the company in advance.
- Prepare your workstation, find a quiet environment to take the interview, and ensure all of your equipment (microphone, lighting, software, camera) are in working order.
- Present yourself in a good light by dressing the part and being mindful of your body language. It’s easy to forget to look at the camera when you’re sitting in front of a screen.
- Treat it like a conversation – speak slow, think about your answers, and pause if you lose your thread.
- Come prepared with 3-5 success stories you can pull from, as well as a list of questions about the role or company.
- Ask for your interviewer’s contact info and follow up with a thank you email within 24 hours.
This post is part of a multi-part series on navigating the job search process in a digitally-driven market. Get more tips on How to Write a Resume that Stands Out and How to Write Your Best Cover Letter.
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