Virtual Interview Success Tips
BEFORE YOUR INTERVIEW
Clarify the interview structure with the recruiter:
The time of the virtual conference (and clarify any time zone differences)
The platform that will be used, and access information (including any codes needed to join in)
How long to expect the conference to last
Any specific preparation required for the call
Who will be interviewing you?
Prepare your space:
Pick a location that will be free from distracting background noises — kids, pets, phones ringing.
Turn off the TV, computer, and/or iPad, and silence your phone.
Optimize your background. Carefully consider what is in the background. Make the background interesting, but not distracting. Plain white walls are fine, but boring. Can you frame a desk or bookshelves behind you instead?
Check your lighting. Use natural light when possible in combination with other lights. If the light source is behind you, you may appear as a dark silhouette on the screen. Position a lamp or other light source in front of you and/or to the sides.
Hang a “do not disturb” sign on the door. Let anyone who will be nearby know that you will be on a conference and should not be interrupted. Lock the door if necessary!
Prepare and test your equipment
Test your setup with a friend before the virtual conference starts. Make sure you have Internet connectivity and that your webcam and microphone are working. You may also have to download the software if it is the first time you are using the application.
Positioning is also important. Prop up the computer or screen so that you are not looking down at it and practice where to sit so you are framed correctly by the webcam. Make sure your torso is visible — including your hands — especially if you “talk” with your hands.
If you’re using your phone to call in, use a landline if at all possible. If using a cell phone, make sure the phone is charged (or plugged in) and has a strong cell signal in the area you are taking the call. If you are using a cordless phone, make sure the battery is charged.
Plug your device in or make sure it is fully charged.
Consider purchasing a few inexpensive items to help:
A webcam is a must. There are webcams built in to most laptops. You CAN use the camera on your phone but you will need a tripod and won’t be able to see your interviewer. External webcams can be much higher fidelity than what you may have on your laptop and are not expensive.
Consider a USB-connected headset for an interview instead of using the computer’s speakers. Headsets are inexpensive and can provide a much clearer experience.
If possible, use a wired Internet connection (plug directly into the Ethernet port) instead of using a wireless connection. You may need to purchase an inexpensive long Ethernet cable to do so.
Turn off notifications on your computer and close your other software programs. You do not want to be distracted by beeps every time you receive an email.
Silence your cell phone when you are on a virtual conference.
Avoid using your phone’s speakerphone feature on an audio conference. Not only can a speakerphone create an echo, but it also picks up more background noise (such as shuffling papers). Use a hands-free headset if possible, or your phone’s regular mic.
Choose clothing intentionally. Check how the colors of your clothing appear on camera. Just like TV news anchors avoid some colors and most small patterns, pick colors that will show up well on video. Blues, jewel tones or pastel colors work best. Do not wear white or black. Oranges and yellows can also be problematic.
Dress from head to toe. You may think you do not need to wear pants since the other people on the conference call are only going to see the top half of your outfit. But you should always expect the unexpected. You never know when you might need to stand up. Pajama pants or shorts with a dress shirt, tie, and jacket just do not work.
A bit of makeup can make you appear less washed out.
Go to the bathroom beforehand. Check your teeth for food.
Have a glass of water nearby in case your throat gets too dry.
Consider eating a cough drop (especially one with menthol) before the virtual conference. A medicated cough drop can help your voice and help you avoid coughing during the call. (But make sure you finish the cough drop before you get on the call!)
Be on time
Log in 5 minutes ahead of time (but no more than that). You need time to troubleshoot, but you don’t want to risk overlapping with the previous interview.
DURING YOUR INTERVIEW:
Look at the webcam when you speak, not at your screen. When you look into the camera, it appears to the other participants that you are looking at them directly. You can trick yourself into doing this by printing out a picture of someone, cut out the eyes, and place the picture over the webcam. Or use a sticky note that says "Look here!"
Keep your focus. It is easy to tell on a virtual platform if you are not paying attention.
Don’t be too quick to answer. With virtual platforms, there is sometimes a delay or interference, so make sure you pause before answering a question to avoid over-talking the other participants.
Slow down. When you are nervous, you are likely to talk faster, which makes you more difficult to understand. Speak a bit slower than you normally would in an in-person meeting.
Dial up the enthusiasm a bit! Someone who speaks with normal energy in a one-on-one conversation can come across as flat and monotone on a virtual call.
Use your hands if you like, but don’t gesticulate too actively. Fast-moving hands can create visual trails across the screen.
Keep your answers relatively brief and to the point. One of the biggest mistakes you can make on a virtual conference is not knowing when to stop talking.
When you’re not talking, be aware of your facial expression. Most of the time, when we are listening to someone else, we have a blank expression on our face. But on a virtual conference, a blank expression comes across as a frown. Keep a slight smile on your face: not a huge grin, just show a few teeth and raise your cheeks slightly. Practice this in a mirror ahead of time.
Lean in. You have probably heard that “the camera adds 10 pounds.” One reason for this is that many people lean backwards in their chair, when they should be leaning forward. If you sit back and relax in your chair your head will be further away from the webcam than your stomach. Unfortunately, the camera latches on to whatever is closest…your gut! Plus, when you lean in it shows engagement.
Be mindful of your nervous habits. Just like in a face-to-face interview, the interviewer will notice when you twirl your hair or chew your lip.
Never answer another call. Ignore call waiting (if you have it) — or disable it, if possible.
Never chew gum or eat anything during a virtual conference.
If you take notes, do not take them on your computer. The sound of typing is distracting. Have a pen and paper to take notes. (Or mute yourself if you must use your keyboard to take notes.)