The COVID-19 pandemic has been a game changer in hiring. While many hiring processes are on hold, some companies are moving forward with virtual interviews. You might already know how to make a good impression during an in-person interview, but do you know how to prepare for and excel in a phone or video interview? These tips will help you shine during your virtual interviews.
“START ME UP”
Confirm the following:
whether the interview will be conducted by telephone or video conference;
how you will connect to the conference (e.g., name of application or software, if needed);
names and titles of everyone who will participate; and
expected duration of the interview.
Then, the real preparation begins:
Technology. Use a wired computer if at all possible. Download the software/application you need for the interview. If the application requires a username, use your first and last name (or something equally as professional) not a nickname or yahoo account name. Confirm that your tablet or computer is compatible with the application and has a functioning camera and microphone. Conduct a trial run with a family member or friend to test the technology, including the microphone. The trial run is also a great opportunity to test out staging and wardrobe (both discussed below). Add an extra 10 minutes to your calendar immediately before the interview time in order to do one last check of your internet connection, log in, and ensure everything is running properly.
Staging. Choose a location that is free of distractions, noise, and interruptions. The space and wall behind you should be free of clutter, bright colors, or lights shining directly into the camera. Rather, place lighting behind the camera so it shines on your face. Use natural light if possible or a lamp. Try to avoid overhead lights. Confirm that your camera is aimed at your face (not your neck). It may be helpful to elevate the computer or tablet on a few books. If using a phone or tablet, place it on a stationary, flat surface that will not move or shake during the interview. If you are at home with other family members, remind them to be quiet during your interview and place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door to your room. If you have pets, keep them in another part of the house or outside to avoid unexpected noise or interruptions.
Wardrobe. Dress for an interview! This is not a Facetime call with your mother. Even though your bottom half may not show on camera, wearing full professional attire will help with your interview mindset. Avoid bright, flashy colors or distracting prints. Make sure that you will feel comfortable and that your attire will look neat when you are seated. For a phone interview, business attire is still a good idea because it will help you communicate with confidence and professionalism.
Props. Print and have on your desk your resume, the job description, and a list of key points that you hope to communicate during the interview.
“HIT [‘EM] WITH YOUR BEST SHOT”
Opener. Call in or log in at least five minutes before your interview time. This will allow time to deal with any technology snafus and to become calm and focused. Turn off all notifications on your computer, and close your email inbox and other applications to avoid distractions. Silence or power down your cell phone in case you receive a phone call or text.
Main Set. Remember that you are in an interview not a casual phone call or video call. Treat a virtual interview as formally as you would an in-person interview.
For a phone interview, speak directly into the phone, enunciate, and talk at a slightly slower than typical conversation pace. For video interviews, maintain eye contact throughout your interview. Look directly at the camera, not at the image of yourself on your screen. When you look into the camera, your interviewer will see you looking directly at them. Do check your own image at the beginning of the call to confirm that your face is centered. Maintain an upright posture with your arms in your lap or resting on the desk. Don’t fidget or use your hands frequently while talking. Reducing extra movement helps the interviewer concentrate on what you are saying.
In any virtual interview, remember to allow your interviewer to complete each question before you answer (wait an extra second after they finish to be safe), and remember to smile. Even over the phone, a smiling person sounds more upbeat and engaged. Smiling also will help you stay relaxed.
Finale/Encore. Like you would in an in-person interview, be sure to close the interview on a positive note. Briefly reiterate your interest in the position, ask about the hiring process timeline or next steps, ask if there is any additional information that you can provide to them as a follow-up, and thank the interviewer(s) for their time. Remember to properly close the software/application to end the interview before sighing in relief or otherwise reacting. Follow-up with a thank you email within 24 hours. Use this email to reinforce succinctly why you are a great fit for the position and why the position and company are of interest to you.