David has over 15 years supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge in how to handle personnel issues across many areas.
Virtual job interviews have always been a thing. One of the first interviews I had was over the phone. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual job interviews are becoming more commonplace. Even after the pandemic subsides, it's still expected to be a thing since so many people are growing comfortable with the thought of doing such things virtually instead of in-person.
This articles covers what you should do to prepare for a virtual job interview. It's just like every other interview, but really, there are more steps and problems you need to be aware of before you sit down in front of a camera to take part in a job interview.
My Experience With a Bad Virtual Job Interview
I was conducting some job interviews. Most were in person, which was the method we preferred, but one person had to conduct their job interview over the phone, because they couldn't travel just for a job interview.
However, there were a lot of missteps the person took during the phone interview. While the person seemed confident in their responses, the phone connection between me and them was horrible. I couldn't hear much, and I know it wasn't my phone. Additionally, the first time I tried to call, the person didn't pick up. So I had to try again. That was a strike right there.
Needless to say the person did not get the job. While their answers to questions were evaluated, so was the person's preparedness and ability to participate in a virtual job interview. That's a mistake you don't want to make.
Prior to the Interview
Before you have your virtual job interview, you need to prepare for it. These tips apply if you have to have a face-to-face interview through Zoom, Skype, etc.; basically, you'll be on camera. The tips here that aren't visual can apply to phone interviews as well. Some of these are things that need to be done either hours before your interview or just before it.
- Prepare your outfit. This isn't just the top half of your body either. You need to prepare your entire outfit, all the way down to the shoes. You never know if you have to stand up in front of the camera. You want to look professional from the top down. Pick an outfit you would wear in a job interview to. Just because you are doing it from home, doesn't mean you can wear casual clothing.
- Prepare your interview area. If you are at a desk, ensure your desk is free and clear of any distractions. Allow yourself to have enough room to take notes, review your resume, or have other material that may help you.
- Be prepared to share your desktop. You never know if you'll be asked to share your desktop for some impromptu work for the interview. In that case, choose a desktop background that is appropriate, clean up the icons on your desktop, and clear your internet history. Your interviewer will look at these things.
- Test your audio. Conduct multiple tests with your audio. Test sound levels, do test calls, and ensure you can hear audio coming in. You don't want to blow out the eardrums of your interviewer or have them ask "what" after each thing you say.
- Test your camera. Turn on your camera and see what is behind you, then adjust the background accordingly. See how you look on camera. I have an issue with the camera reflecting the monitor off of my glasses, so I have to adjust the brightness of my monitor to minimize that.
- Pick your background. In the end you may want to block the area behind you while on camera. If you need to, pick a background to obscure what is behind you. My choice is just simply blurring the background. Try to avoid backgrounds that are flashy or inappropriate.
- Talk to your family. Let your family know, especially your children, that you are having a job interview and should not be disturbed unless it's an emergency. Good interviewers will understand if an emergency happens, but try to avoid it if you can.
- Get the pets out. Lock out pets so you can focus on the job interview. Again, interviewers should understand if a pet wanders in, but you don't want the possibility that it could ruin your job interview.
- Close all computer applications. Close your e-mail, web browser, chat applications, or anything else that my distract you during the job interviews.
- Shut off everything else. This would include your phone, or anything you don't need. The phone may want to wait until the interview starts just in case the interviewer needs to call you, but other distracting or noisy items should be shut off. The exception might a fan or heater if you need it to stay comfortable.
During the Interview
Now you need to focus on how to conduct yourself during the virtual job interview. For the most part it's the same as in-person interviews, but there are variations that you need to be aware of.
- Assume you're being recorded. You could ask up front or offer to have it recorded, but just assume you are. This ensures you are on your best behavior and allows the interviewer to review the interview after the fact. They should ask permission ahead of time, but they may not.
- Don't shy away from the camera. Look at the screen and maintain eye contact as you would in an in-person job interview. Keep in mind cultural differences where that may not be preferred. Don't get too close or too far away from the camera either. Maintain a consistent distance.
- Ask if you look and sound okay. This will allow the interviewer to give you instant feedback on if something needs to be adjusted before the interview starts. Don't feel shy about asking them to adjust something. It will show you want to have a comfortable interview as well.
- Talk with your hands. If you do talk with your hands, then keep doing so. Don't block the camera though. Just talk as you normally would with the hand motions. You can also clasp your hands in front of you if you want to avoid talking with your hands.
- Watch for visual cues. If the interviewer looks bored or confused, or acts like he or she wishes to talk, then take those cues and take the appropriate action. Take pauses if needed, or wrap up what you are talking about.
- Don't touch your mouse. You could could click on something by mistake or cause a distraction. The worst thing you could do might be to close the window in the middle of the interview.
- Keep focused while the interviewer is talking. Don't browse the web, check your e-mail, or be busy in other applications. There should be little to no movement on your end while the interviewer is speaking.
- Focus on the details. Look at the background of the interviewer. Focus on what is behind them and make a comment about something. That shows you are observant and you are looking at all of the details, not just what is in front of you.
- Avoid fast movement. While you can talk with your hands or adjust yourself in your chair, don't conduct fast movements as that may not translate great on the camera on the end of the interviewer.
- Make sure to shut off everything when the interview is done. Don't get up or say anything until you know everything is off. You don't want the interviewer picking up anything you say after the interview is complete.
There are two elements to nailing a job interview: form and substance. 'Form' describes the outer layer of your character - your manners, your demeanor, your social skills. 'Substance' describes the inner core of your character - your intellect, your empathy, your creativity.
— Neil Blumenthal
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2020 David Livermore
FlourishAnyway from USA on July 23, 2020:
This is excellent. Definitely make arrangements with other occupants in the house (two-legged and four-legged) so that they leave you alone). And dress as you would for a regular interview.
Nilza Marie Santana-Castillo from Atlanta on July 22, 2020:
"Talk to your family" is a great callout for interview prep. Essentially, give a heads up to anyone who resides in the home with you (if it happens to be roommates instead of family), so they can be mindful of noise levels and not to disturb you.
Sp Greaney from Ireland on July 18, 2020:
This is really good advice. I think sometimes people things it's easier than an in person interview. But it also requires the same level of preparedness. Here you now need to supply your skype contact details for all jobs applications.