5 tactics to help you impress at a virtual interview
One of the many ways that Covid-19 has changed workplace norms is the way companies are handling the recruitment process. Many candidates are now having virtual interviews rather than meeting a potential employer in person. And in an online forum, you need to do some things differently if you want to succeed. Here are five tactics to help you impress at a virtual interview.
- Give the technology a trial run
Platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams were used for all sorts of reasons during lockdown, from team briefings to family quizzes. But while your mum won’t mind if you fumble with the tech, it’s more important in an interview to look like you know what you’re doing.
So if the interview is taking place on a platform you’ve not used before, do a trial run with a friend or family member. Test your webcam, check your sound is working, see how your wifi copes. If you’re sharing your home with others and struggle for bandwidth, consider asking them to stay off the wifi for the duration of your interview.
- Create a suitable, interruption-free space
If you're working from home, and you have family members around you, it can be hard to find peace and quiet. But if you don’t have a bespoke office space, you at least need to create the impression of one.
So find a space where you can sit comfortably in front of your screen (we’d recommend avoiding beanbags). Have a surface you can lean on to write notes. And think about what’s going on behind you; keep the wall clutter-free to create a more professional image.
On the day, stick up a sign asking not to be interrupted; if you have children, try and put someone else in charge. While your interviewer is unlikely to mind if your family stage a repeat of Professor Robert Kelly’s BBC interview, it won’t help you stay focused.
- Get your body language right for the forum
One of the biggest challenges in a virtual interview is making sure you connect with the interviewer. In person, a firm handshake and cheerful attitude are your friend; online, you need to work harder to create that connection.
Above all, that means maintaining eye contact. It’s counterintuitive, but that doesn’t mean looking at your interviewer’s image; it means looking at the camera on your device. Set yourself up so the camera is at eye level, sit up straight, smile and try not to fidget.
You’ll also need to show that you’re engaging with what the interviewer is saying; a bit of nodding and ummmming definitely won’t hurt, and nor will noting down the odd point that you’d like to discuss later.
- Don’t do things you wouldn’t do face-to-face
It’s so tempting when you’re on an online call to check your phone if it pings, or flick your eyes to another window on your screen. But it’s also very, very obvious to the person on the other side that your attention has wandered. Put your phone on silent, out of reach, and mute your emails. And try as hard as you can not to check your own image.
- Stay calm if things go wrong
However well prepared you are, there’s always a chance that something won’t go according to plan. If the tech fails, or you get interrupted, or an loud, unexplained noise comes from down your street, don’t panic, and don’t overapologise. Respond calmly, and you’ll demonstrate that you can handle the unexpected.
Of course, some standard interview practices are still valid, and the overall need to make a good impression and convince the employer that you’d be a good fit is the same, virtual interview or not.
So you’ll still need to do your research on the company and consider how you’ll handle any conversations about flexible working. You’ll need to think through your answers to common questions in advance. And on the day, you’ll need to dress as smartly as you would normally (and not just from the waist up).
Above all, you need to be yourself in a virtual interview, just as you would in a face-to-face one. And by following the advice above, you’ll be giving your best self the best chance of coming across.