Five Tips to Prepare for a Virtual Interview
by Bob Barry, Career Coach
April 8, 2022
Virtual interviews came into prominence during the pandemic. The benefits and convenience of online access have perpetuated the practice. While some companies have moved back to the traditional face-to-face, onsite interview, many continue to rely on the virtual form, taking full advantage of the technology that makes them possible.
From the perspective of the candidate, the first time you experience a virtual interview it may feel a little awkward and surreal, but with the proper preparation, you too may see advantages to going virtual.
What’s important to keep in mind, is that the preparation for a virtual interview is not much different than preparing for a live, face-to-face interview. There are a few additional considerations involved with virtual, and we’ll address those, but let’s first examine five tips that will help with any type of interview.
Tip #1 – Do Your Homework
When an interview is scheduled, be sure to learn the names and titles of all the interviewer(s).. Check LinkedIn to find out more about the person(s) who will be interviewing you to get a better understanding of whom you’ll be speaking with.
It is also important to do your research on the organization. The corporate website is a good place to start. Look for mission statements, a declaration of values, and information to use during the interview.
The more information you know about the organization and your interviewer(s), the better prepared you will be to demonstrate that you have solid knowledge of the organization, and you will be better equipped to ask thoughtful questions.
Part of your homework should also be to anticipate interview questions. You can find a list of commonly asked questions on the TampaBay-Job-Links Resource Library here. These questions can be helpful to you as you can compose your responses ahead of time. Using the job description can also help you to anticipate any job-specific questions that may be asked about your skills or experience as a measure of your fitness for the job.
Tip #2 – Dress for Success
With the exception of a phone interview, usually used for screening purposes, your appearance will have a direct impact on how you are perceived as a candidate. Live or virtual, you want to make the right impression. That doesn’t mean a jacket and tie for men, or a suit for women; it is knowing how to dress based on the culture of the organization. You want to come across as a “professional” that would fit into the organization with which you are interviewing. If the culture is banking, healthcare, or insurance then dress the way you see those professionals dressing. If it is a casual business culture, then dress business casual. It’s good to try to dress one notch above how you perceive others dress in the culture, and don’t overdo it. Be sure you have a tailored look – hair neatly styled and facial hair well-groomed. The first thing people will notice about you is your overall appearance. Make it count!
Tip #3 – Be Punctual
Live or virtual, you want to be on time for your interview. That means, being early for the appointment. For a live interview, arrive 10 minutes before the interview is scheduled to begin. For a virtual interview, be sure to have the access link ahead of time and join the meeting 5 minutes before it is scheduled to begin.
Tip #4 – Be Aware of Facial Expression and Body Language
We communicate more with our facial expressions and body language than we do with our words. So, while we practice the words we will use in an interview, it is just as important to be sure that our facial expressions or body language do not tell a different story. Be conscious of your eye contact and how you look when you are sitting and listening – your resting countenance. Maintaining eye contact, not staring, will convey that you are listening and interested. Try to use active signs of listening, such as a head-nod in agreement with what is being said. Using a mirror, see how your face looks when you are at rest, in listening mode. When the muscles in the face relax, they can sometimes create a look of sternness or even anger, without intending to. Be aware of this and other unwanted looks and do your best to control them through a conscious effort during the interview.
Likewise, your posture and body movements can work either for or against you during an interview. Be aware of nervous habits such as finger tapping, fidgeting, and other unconscious movements. They can be distracting and can create a negative vibe. Sitting up straight in your chair and leaning slightly forward is the best position to maintain. Natural movements and gestures are okay. If you naturally talk with your hands, control your gestures, and keep them small. Make them intentional for emphasis and not done unconsciously.
Tip #5 – Be Accountable for Playing to the Camera
The big difference between the live, face-to-face interview and a virtual one is the technology and the camera that enables it to happen. All the tips provided so far pertain to any form of an interview in which there is a visual element. Now, let’s focus on what makes the virtual interview a unique experience.
Remember from the moment you appear; you are being evaluated as a candidate for the job at hand. In a virtual interview, that means you will be evaluated on everything the camera captures and gets displayed on the screen. The interviewer(s) sees you, how you appear on the screen and whatever else can be seen around and behind you. That means that extra care is required for you to compose the total image that will appear on screen.
On-screen eye contact now means you are looking into the camera as you speak, NOT looking at the image you see on the screen. Remember to look at the camera as you speak to your interviewer(s). If you can, manipulate the display on your screen and move the image of the interviewer(s) placing it below the green camera light or the webcam on your computer. That way, you can look at the image of the interviewer(s) while looking at the camera. The net effect is that to the interviewer(s), you will be maintaining eye contact.
Lighting is an important aspect of your on-screen appearance. Be sure that your face is well illuminated, and your room lighting is flattering on-screen. It is important to practice ahead of time with lighting to ensure the best on-screen image.
Camera angle is just as important as lighting. When the camera on your computer is lower than your face, the camera catches you at an unflattering angle and also captures the upper wall and ceiling behind you. The best camera angle comes from raising the height of your camera so that it is level with, or slightly above, your eye level. You will then be seen as any network news broadcaster is seen on the nightly news – a straight-on shot that looks professional.
Arrange what is directly behind you. It will be seen on camera, so be sure what is seen is neat and tidy. Do not allow anything that you do not choose to be seen to remain in the field of view. Again, the best advice is to practice ahead of time with your camera on and to “stage the scene,” just like in the movies.
Armed with these tips on preparing for virtual or in-person interviews combined with practice, you can ace your next interview. You have the power to control the visual image that your interviewer(s) will see, so be sure to give yourself every advantage. Remember to practice ahead of time with the camera angle, lighting, room set up and double-checking connectivity.
TampaBay-Job-Links can help you hone your interview skills. We offer free live Career Success Workshops providing up-to date job-search and career guidance, including interview preparation workshops with real-time feedback. Check out our current program calendar at tbjl.org/program-calendar/. And if you’re interested in one-on-one coaching, we offer individualized sessions with a professional career coach. For more information, contact us at email@example.com or 813.344.0200, or visit us at tbjl.org.
You don’t have to go through your job search or career transition alone, TampaBay-Job-Links is here to help you!
Gulf Coast JFCS
< Back to list