Virtual interviews are becoming more common, particularly since they were a must during the national lockdowns of 2020 and early 2021. Although we are still big believers in the importance of meeting a candidate in person, we understand that for busy business owners this may not always be possible (particularly in the early stages of the interview process). We’ve put together a few tips for employers (and interviewees) to help them feel confident with this new style of interview method.
How do I prepare for a virtual interview?
Prepping for a virtual interview remains the same as if you were having it in person. The interviewee will still need to research the company and the role they are interviewing for, as well as prepare answers to frequently asked interview questions. They’ll also need to think of a few questions to ask your interviewer too. Likewise, an employer will need to research the candidate and prepare their questions accordingly. Ensuring you have a fast, reliable internet connection probably goes without saying. But here are a few other things you should consider before you enter an online interview:
- Set up your space. Make sure your setting makes a good impression i.e. clear the clutter, choose a quiet area with minimal distractions and get the light right (behind your screen is better than behind you. If you have to use a phone for the interview, make sure you are not holding it in your hand, prop it up securely or invest in a stand.
- Don’t sit too close to the screen. When considering chair positioning, make sure you are well proportioned on the screen. A bit of empty space on the screen above your head with visible shoulders and upper chest should do the trick. All participants need to see each other clearly, but you don’t want to feel like you are sitting on each other’s lap!
- Optimal eye contact. Eye contact is tricky in a video setting, but it’s important to optimise eye engagement to show the other person that you are actively listening to them. Once you’ve got your chair positioned at a comfortable distance that allows you to look straight ahead rather than down at the camera, set up the window where the interviewee will appear, as close to your screen camera as possible. This means that when you look at them to converse, you’re also looking at the camera.
- Practice with a friend in a mock video interview and record it. Watching yourself back will help you notice things that you might want to improve (fiddling, slouching etc) and adjust accordingly.
- Try not to have notes to hand. We know it’s tempting to have lots of notes and information to hand but try not to. It will be obvious that you are reading from something, and it can prove a distraction. Keep the conversation flowing by keeping eye contact and trying to talk naturally.
- Turn off notifications and avoid interruptions. Obviously, you will want to minimise the chances of being interrupted as best you can – silence your phone and computer notifications and settle the dog with a juicy bone. However, we know that best-laid plans are not always 100% effective! If you are interrupted unexpectedly, nip it in the bud as quickly and as professionally as you can. If you know there is a high chance of being interrupted by something outside your control, brief the interviewee at the start to show them you are proactive and that it is important to you that the interview goes well.
- Show up! Better still, be a bit early! You wouldn’t walk into a 9am interview at exactly 9am, so the same rule applies virtually. Open your video conferencing facility for a few minutes. Most video interview software will give you a chance to check your shot before you fully enter the meeting, so ensure you are all ready to go a few minutes early so when you click on ‘join the call’ you are completely prepared and ready to go.
Manners are still important
Formal dress is still required, even if you are interviewing in your kitchen. Making an effort with your appearance portrays to your potential employer that you are taking things seriously and reinforces that it is a professional environment.
During an interview, whether virtual or in person, there will always be a little ‘settling in’ time where the interview has started but you will be exchanging pleasantries and a little small talk. If you were meeting in person, you would likely start off your meeting with a handshake, this is an important initial connection. As this isn’t possible to do in a virtual interview, we always suggest looking directly into the camera after you have said hello and do a small head nod and smile. This will help create a warm and open start to the exchange that is about to take place between you. It’s a proactive and confident move that will be appreciated.
Other basic manners are important too, such as letting the other person finish speaking before you begin and making it clear when you have finished your answer. This is particularly important when speaking over video as internet lag can make it tricky to decipher if someone is pausing or finished speaking. If you find it hard not to jump in, mute yourself while you listen and then unmute when it’s your time to talk!
Most importantly…don’t forget to smile! Have fun, smile lots, laugh appropriately and use your facial expressions to show you are engaged. All signs that you are enjoying the discussion will go down a treat!