Posted September 8, 2020

Essential Tips to Prepare for a Virtual Interview

Essential Tips to Prepare for a Virtual Interview
By Sarah Mehlert

Over the last several months, Covid-19 has undoubtedly shaken up life as we knew it. If you are job searching, you may find that the interviewing and hiring process is very different from what it once was. This year has seen a significant increase in virtual interviews as businesses adapt to the new protocols set in place to keep their employees safe. Even as businesses slowly start to re-open and hiring freezes end, it seems as though virtual interviews may be the norm for the foreseeable future. While they can be completed from their comfort of your own home, virtual interviews should be treated and prepared for just as they would be if they were taking place in an office. In order to make a great first impression on your future employer, mind the details like your surroundings and your outfit choice as well as the platform on which the interview will be conducted. Most importantly, always come prepared. By following the tips below, you are sure to ace your virtual interview.

Test your equipment beforehand

The first crucial step in preparing for your virtual interview is to test your equipment well ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is wait until the last minute and only then realize that you need to download a lengthy update or that your camera isn't working, and consequently be late or even worse, miss the interview. Just as showing up late to an in-person interview creates a negative impression, so does showing up late to a virtual interview. In fact, it can be even worse since you don't have the excuse of being stuck in traffic or having difficulty finding parking. As soon as you know that you will be interviewing virtually, check the details of what platform will be used, your internet connection, and any equipment you will need to use, such as headphones, a microphone and a camera. Test the platform and familiarize yourself with it so that you don't run into any technical issues during the interview. Make sure your camera and microphone are functioning properly and that you have a stable internet connection wherever you plan on completing the interview. On the day of the interview, re-test everything to make sure it is still working properly. These preparations can save you the stress of trying to figure it all out right before the interview and in turn, present you as knowledgeable and organized to your future employer.

Be mindful of your surroundings and set yourself up for success

Plan for where you want to conduct the interview. When testing out your camera, be mindful of how much of your background will be visible in the frame. Whether it is your bedroom, living room or somewhere else, make sure that your surroundings are clean, neat, and presentable. Leaving an un-made bed or dirty dishes in the frame is a surefire way to show that you may not be as detail oriented as your resume claims. Make sure to also remove any d├ęcor or items that could be considered inappropriate or unprofessional. If you wouldn't display it in the workplace, you shouldn't display it in your interview! Also take into consideration the lighting situation in the area where you will be conducting the interview. Try to find a place that has good natural light or place some lamps on either side of your screen so that the interviewers can clearly see your face. When it comes time for the interview, minimize any and all distractions; turn your cell phone to silent and ensure that there won't be any background noises that will disrupt the interview.

Dress to impress

Even though you are completing the interview from home, dress just as you would for an in-person interview. Typically, it is best to stick to business casual attire unless you are told otherwise. A good example for both men and women is a button up shirt, blazer and slacks. Dressing the part and looking professional will show the employer that you are taking the interview seriously. Even if your frame only shows the top half of your outfit, putting on an entire business casual ensemble, shoes included, will help to put you in the right headspace and will also make you feel more confident. Dress for the job you want!

Research the company

Do your homework on the company you are applying with. This is a great way to set yourself apart from other candidates that may be interviewing for the role. By going above and beyond to research things such as the culture of the company, reviews from employees, their social media accounts, etc., you are showing that you are excited about the opportunity and you will be able to sell yourself as the best fit. This will also prepare you for the common interview question, "Why do you want to work for us?" If you know who will be interviewing you, spend some time looking at their LinkedIn profile as well and try to identify anything that you can use as a connection or conversation starter. If employers are interviewing many people for the same role, your interview will be all the more memorable if you can make a personal connection. Candidates who don't spend the time researching the company are at a disadvantage, employers want to see you take that initiative and come into the interview with some background knowledge.

Familiarize yourself with common interview questions

When you are preparing for your virtual interview, try to familiarize yourself with some common interview questions. Don't memorize your answers, as this can come across rehearsed and inauthentic, but rather try and think of some main talking points and work experiences that you can reference. Even though you have your computer in front of you, avoid looking up questions online as they are asked. You don't want the employer to view you as unprepared or caught off guard. If you want to take some notes or write down your main talking points, you can jot them down on sticky notes and leave them nearby so that you can refer to them, just remember to keep them concise and high-level, and to not read them off word-for-word like a script.

Some common interview questions include:

  • Why are you interested in this role?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Tell us about a challenge or conflict you have faced in the workplace and how you overcame it.
  • Why do you want to leave your current role?

You should also come prepared with some questions of your own, as you will likely be asked, "What questions do you have for us?" Your company research will come in handy here. Be authentic and ask questions you genuinely want to know, and ones that will help you decide if the company and the role is a good fit for you.

Be yourself and know your selling points

The fact that you landed an interview means that the hiring managers determined from your resume that you are qualified for the role. The interview is your chance to show why you are the best candidate, so try and focus on the company culture aspect and relating your experience to the company and role specifically. It's perfectly normal to feel nervous, but try to relax, be yourself and engage with the interviewer. Interviewing virtually can make it difficult for the hiring managers to get a sense of your enthusiasm for the role, as things like body language and handshakes are taken out of the equation, so make sure to be communicative and expressive, maintain eye contact and smile. Don't be afraid to show your personality, that is what sets you apart and can make or break their decision on whether or not you would fit in well with the team and the company overall.

If you have been asked to interview virtually for the first time, you don't have to be intimidated. With the right preparation, the interview can be a success and have you on your way to a new and rewarding career. Although you are in the comfort of your own home, in many aspects it will be similar to an in-person interview, except you will be in a familiar environment and can truly focus on showing the employer who you are and why you are the most suitable candidate. From testing your equipment to researching the company and cultivating the right atmosphere, preparation is key and will go a long way to make you appear and feel poised and knowledgeable. By following these essential tips, you can set yourself apart from other applicants and make a great impression on your future employer.