PSA: Here’s How To Nail A Virtual Job Interview

The expert scoop on how to succeed, despite the odds.

2020 has been the year of pivoting. Doing Ross from Friends proud, we’ve pivoted almost every aspect of our lives and lifestyles to create a safe environment for both ourselves and those around us. Adapting our homes to become schools and offices and cancelling celebrations for major life milestones are only the tip of the iceberg in regards to the list of sacrifices we’ve made this year.

So when it comes to learning the correct etiquette for virtual meetings and job interviews, we’re simply all pivoted out. It’s no secret that applying for a new job can be difficult even in the most mundane of climates, so throw in a pandemic whose very nature requires most fave-to-face meetings to move online and you’ve got a perfect recipe for anxiety.

If our few months of Zoom quizzes (RIP that lockdown era) taught us anything, it’s that technology is, at its root, unreliable. This unpredictability can hinder some people’s success, career coach Ronan Kennedy tells STELLAR, with the social cues we’ve been conditioned to read often lost.

“People find virtual interviews trickier because they feel it’s difficult to get a sense of the interviewers. Body language may be harder to read, and there’s always an element if anxiety over whether the technical setup will work well,” Ronan says.

With that being said, this doesn’t mean that all is lost, and throwing in the towel before you even begin isn’t an option. There are many things you can do to improve your virtual interview skills and boost your chances of getting that role. Ronan is an expert in helping his clients land their ideal jobs, and has shared his top tips for nailing virtual interviews – so here’s how you too can go forth and conquer.

Before The Interview

Just like an IRL interview, the key to acing your virtual interview is preparation. While it’s always advisable to research the company and the role you’re applying for beforehand, the temperamental nature of technology means that carrying out a virtual interview will take even more preparation than we’re used to. So avoid being a last-minute Larry and give yourself plenty of time to prepare everything that you need in the days leading up to the interview.

“It’s important to test your technical setup – login, WIFI, audio and video – with a friend first,” Ronan says. “Have a backup computer (or phone) in case something goes wrong at the last minute. Of course, have the app downloaded in advance on your phone, just in case. If the audio fails on your computer, get ready to use your phone for a phone call while keeping the video going. And of course, make sure it’s charged up.”

Machinery aside, a virtual interview bring about the unusual situation where we’re essentially inviting our potential employers into our homes.

For this reason, Ronan recommends being choosy with which room you do the interview in. “Make sure to have a nice background, or a neutral one at least – avoid a messy bed or anything that could distract the interviewer or take away from you as a professional.”

It’s also important to do some research on the role and the company you’re applying to, and practice speaking about such things out loud. “Make sure you understand the job description, you know about the company, and that you can answer all the standard interview questions like ‘tell me about yourself.’ You could practice answering all of the questions out loud first, or do a practice interview with a friend or professional to be as prepared as possible.”

During The Interview

What happens before and after the interview is irrelevant once you’re in the moment and chatting with your interviewers. Like we were thought at school, dressing appropriately is just as important for a Zoom interview as it is for one that you have to leave the house for.

This means packing away the loungewear and wiping off the Sudocrem for an hour or so. Ronan believes that dressing the part is essential not only to make a good impression on your potential employers, but to make yourself feel good, and therefore be on top of your game too. Next, Ronan says that building rapport is key to standing out from the crowd.

Since we can’t solidify our authenticity with a handshake, maintaining good body language and filling in conversation gaps with something you can both relate to should do the job instead.

“Remember to look at the camera if possible, and sit a good distance from the screen – personally, I like if people can see head, shoulders and hands, much like if we were sitting at a table in front of each other. Maintain eye contact throughout and smile. Then you can go on to make a good first impression by building rapport and finding common ground.

“This may seem a bit more difficult over a video call, but remember that everyone is adapting to this new way of working, so you can be sure that it’s on their mind too. For example, ‘Thanks for giving me the opportunity to meet over a video call, it would be nice to meet in person, but still, it’s great to be able to connect considering everything that’s going on.’

“Hopefully, this will give them a chance to relate to the Covid situation, and you can share common ground.”

Ending The Interview

It’s common practice with most interviews to allow time for the interviewee to ask any questions they may have at the end of the chat. It’s always best to have a number of questions prepared beforehand so that you’re never stuck for wrapping up the interview and leave a positive, lasting impression on the interviewer. If you’re not sure about what kind of questions you should be asking, however, Ronan has you covered.

“It’s a nice idea to have a couple of questions prepared that you’d like to ask them. For example, ‘What’s the best thing about working here?’ Or ‘What’s the culture like?’, or even ‘What’s the objective of the company over the next six months?’

It’s important to remind yourself that a job is a two-way thing, and as important as it is for you to give what you can to your company, it’s important that the business’s plan and ethos line up with your personal objectives and goals too.”

Once you have question time out of the way, Ronan advises you to hold on until the interviewer decides that the interview is over – never end it yourself. Once your interviewer gives you the sign that the chat is finished, you should thank them for their time, which will reaffirm your interest in the role. If you like, you could even take this ‘thank you’ one step further and send a well-timed follow-up email, thanking them for their interest in you, and letting them know that you’re available for any further questions they may have.

Reminding your possible employer that you really want the job and are happy and willing to continue on to any other rounds post-interview will only leave a good taste in their mouths, making you more likely to beat out any competitors vying for the same role.

Dos And Dont’s Of Virtual Interviewing

Do: 

  • Test your IT setup with a friend beforehand
  • Have a backup ready – like your mobile phone with the app installed
  • Dress professionally
  • Smile and build rapport to start
  • Thank them for their time

Don’t:

  • Sit too close to the camera
  • Look down at the camera/computer
  • Read from a script on your screen (they’ll know!)
  • Have any distraction or interruptions if possible (pets, housemates or family members) and apologise if they happen – don’t act like you didn’t notice!
  • Dress casually
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