Top tips to ace a virtual interview
Given the current climate, it’s likely to be a while before in-person activities return to pre-pandemic levels and it seems that in the future virtual interviews are not just the “new normal” but the “only normal”.
So what’s a virtual interview? If you’ve never experienced a virtual interview before, it’s an interview that takes place remotely, often using technology like video conferencing. If you’re currently on the job hunt or moving to the next step of the hiring process, here are some best practices to help you ace your virtual interview and to get you set up for success.
Where you position your camera is about as important as what you say. Your surroundings don’t have to be mega fancy either, but you can add books and a plant in the background, or use a plain wall as a more natural backdrop. Also, please don’t snack or drink anything other than water if you really need it.
When it comes to minimizing distractions, it may not be entirely possible, but I’ve found people are relieved when you say, “If you hear any sudden noises…” It lets them know you’re able to communicate openly and it oddly seems to create a sense of familiarity as the person interviewing is probably also mindful of unintended interruptions.
Dress for success!
As they say dress for the job you want not the one you have. It would be unprofessional to come dressed in anything other than business casual. When you put your best foot forward by dressing professionally, it will show the interviewer that you are serious about the position. Still, there are personal benefits as well – people tend to feel more comfortable, confident, and competent when wearing business attire.
Establishing rapport is important in any business relationship because it allows you to separate yourself from other candidates by building a personal connection with the interviewer. When you interview in person, your enthusiasm, body language, handshake, and early small talk all help you build that connection with your potential employer.
When communicating virtually, it’s still necessary to find ways to establish rapport. You can do this by being prepared to talk about a common interest, asking how your interviewer’s experience has been with virtual interviews or by finding some other neutral topic with which to learn more about your interviewer.
Familiarize Yourself With Frequently Asked Questions
The worst thing you can do is go into an interview blindly without any preparation for the questions you could be asked. Most companies rely heavily on two types of interview questions: situational and behavioural.
Behavioural interview questions focus on past experiences, while situational questions present hypothetical situations then ask candidates how they would handle them. Some examples of behavioural and situational questions are:
- Describe a time in which you had many competing priorities. How did you prioritize and complete them?
- Tell me about a time when you had to collaborate with a colleague who was difficult to work with?
- What would you do if you were working on a project that was almost at completion but the goals or priorities changed?
- How would you handle it if you were unsatisfied with your job?
In addition to being prepared for common interview questions, have your resume and other documents ready so that you can refer back to them when needed. Furthermore, if you have any verifiable data or hard numbers to back up what you’ve done in previous roles, make sure to include them in your answers.
Be authentically yourself
Let your personality shine through. In addition to showing your knowledge of the company and role, it’s crucial to open up and give the interviewer some insight into who you are as a person. Interviewers are trying to assess if you are the right person for the role and an excellent cultural addition for the organization. Leverage soft skills like body language, interpersonal skills, deft communication, and adaptability to convey your confidence and personality. And don’t forget to ask the interviewer some questions about the interview.
Never forget: you are in charge of the interview process as much as the interviewer is. Be sure you have well-thought-out questions to ask. The more specific your questions are, the better. For example, don’t hesitate to ask the recruiter or your potential manager how they handle constructive feedback during the first three months of the job. This gives you an insight into how the manager communicates and the kind of language they use. Be on the lookout for potential red flags, and if you notice them, address them. Other specific questions to ask are:
- What are the expectations in the first three months, six months and the first year, if I were to be offered the role?
- What are some of the challenges of the role and how will you and the team support me through these?
- What are the next steps in the interview process?
I can’t stress enough the importance of this last question. As best as you can, ask the person interviewing you for the next steps in the process if they don’t tell you first. A great indicator of how seriously interested they are is how upfront the interviewer is with you. If you have to ask more than once for the next steps, or the interviewer doesn’t seem to know, take this as your cue that you’re not the top candidate.
It can also be a small red flag, as it gives you an insight into how the company works as well. Your time is as important as theirs and if you can ascertain whether or not the company is a good fit for you, then you’ll be saving everyone’s time.
Just like at the end of an in-person interview, it is essential to follow up after your interview. Don’t be shy, typical hiring processes take several rounds of interviewing before a candidate is offered the position. Remind your interviewer of your ongoing interest in obtaining the position at their company with a follow-up message no later than 24 hours after your interview is completed.
Follow up by writing a personalised thank you note to each member of the interviewing committee. If a handwritten note isn’t your style, following up by email is far better than not following up at all. It’s also good practice to message the team on LinkedIn with a thoughtful thank you note.
Don’t worry: while all these tips might help you in the interview they don’t guarantee you the job. Worrying about it won’t be productive either. My most important advice would be to learn from, then move on from each interview, understanding what could have been improved and what you did well, because your first interview probably won’t be your last.