Camera-ready: tips for acing your virtual interview

“You know what I wish were more difficult? Job interviews.” — no one. 

The year 2020 has turned our world completely upside down. In our efforts to control the spread of coronavirus, we’re reevaluating how we do everything from education to errands. In this new and ever-shifting landscape, job hunting has changed dramatically. Employers with positions to fill are adjusting their recruiting, interviewing, and hiring processes in response to this new reality. Perhaps the most noticeable change is the large scale shift from in-person interviews to virtual options. 

Virtual meeting tools have become the favorite platform for employers to screen and interview job candidates. Though it can be viewed as a “good enough for the time being” solution,  teleconferencing does have a unique ability to streamline hiring. Without the need for multiple candidates to commute to an office, interviews can be scheduled quickly, moving the hiring process along more rapidly.

There is a wide range of platforms for video interviews, and each employer has their own preference. Though the questions and conversations, at their core, are likely to resemble what you would have encountered at a pre-COVID, in-person interview, there are some additional considerations to keep in mind when interviewing via a digital screen. The good news is that with a bit of planning and savvy, you can ace the video interview with the same ease you would have face-to-face. Here are just a few digital interviewing tips to help you land the job.

Check your tech

Technical difficulties are often unavoidable, and most employers understand that. However, they can seriously disrupt the flow of an otherwise successful interview, so you want to do the legwork to prevent them where possible. Download the employer’s preferred virtual meeting tool and invest some time in familiarizing yourself with the platform. It’s also a good idea to check your internet connection speed to ensure your video runs smoothly. No one likes a mid-interview freeze! Make sure you and your interviewer have exchanged phone numbers so if tech issues do become distracting, you can continue the interview over the phone. Above all, make sure to keep cool and take it in stride if something goes wrong. Employers are not likely to judge you for issues you can’t control; but how you handle them can go a long way in demonstrating how you work under pressure. 

Dress yourself, and your space

When it comes to video interviews, projecting the appearance you want requires an extra step. You’ll want to make sure your backdrop expresses professionalism as much as your personal appearance does. If you’re doing the interview from home, choose a well-lit space with few distractions. The environment around you gives a glimpse into your personal life. You might be the country’s foremost collector of velvet Elvis posters, but your potential employer doesn’t need to know that. Yet. Keep pets and family members or roommates in another room during the interview and don’t forget to silence your phone and computer notifications. 

Just because you’re meeting your interviewers virtually doesn’t mean the dress code changes. Dress as you would if you were going to the interview in person – top AND bottom. You never know when you may have to get out of your seat and pajama pants are not a good interview look. Dressing the part 100% will boost your confidence and project a polished, professional image to the person on the other side of the screen. 

Be prepared

Just as you would with an in-person interview, carve out plenty of time beforehand to do your research on both the role and the company. Sprinkling recent news you’ve read about the company into your answers shows your interest in joining the team, and can help keep the conversation flowing naturally (because, let’s face it, sometimes video can be awkward). Hiring managers love candidates that show up curious, so make sure to have a list of role or company specific questions that will prove you’ve done your research and emphasize your curiosity. While you’re preparing, it never hurts to hop on a video call with a friend or family member for a practice run. Ask for their honest feedback and make tweaks accordingly. 

It’s okay to cheat (a little)

The beauty of a video interview is that the interviewer can only see what’s directly in front of the camera. Use this limit to your advantage and write down a few important talking points. Don’t write them out in too much detail; you don’t want to look like you’re reading a script. But jot down just enough info to jog your memory if you get stuck. Stick your cheat sheet behind your laptop screen or camera and take a peek whenever you need to.

The eyes have it

The rules of eye contact are a bit different in this format, but they largely still apply. Resist the urge to stare at yourself in camera. Checking to see what you look like is something we all do subconsciously, but unfortunately, it’s easily detectable. When speaking to an interviewer via video chat, look directly at the camera to maintain eye contact and show you’re fully engaged in the conversation.

Go ahead, show off

Without the organic back and forth of a face-to-face meeting, you’ll have to think outside of the box when it comes to showing off your work. When you can’t rely on physical examples, there are plenty of ways to get creative! Depending on the type of role you’re applying for, you may want to share spreadsheets or calendars you’ve created, or digital portfolios of your previous work. Whatever demonstrates your unique strengths, get it prepped and make screen-share your friend. Confidently showcasing relevant work in creative ways shows your adaptability and ingenuity, along with highlighting the ways you’re uniquely qualified for the position.

Speaking of adaptability…

For many companies, an entirely remote hiring process is uncharted territory. Just like you, they’re doing their best to cope. But don’t forget: we’re all just making it up as we go along. It’s crucial to approach the process with openness and honesty. It’s likely you’ll have many questions; ask them. And be patient as you wait for answers. Though this new way of doing things can cause a fair amount of confusion and anxiety, it also can foster some common ground between employers and candidates. Everyone is doing their best to make it work, and being willing to roll with the punches is more important now than ever. 

Follow through

Even though we’re in a totally new world, many of the old rules still apply. The number one example of this is the thank you note. After a killer interview, take a few moments to synthesize all the information you took in and jot down notes, then send your interviewer an email as soon as possible, after you’ve collected your thoughts. Thank them for their time and the valuable information they’ve given you about the position. Use this communication to demonstrate you’ve picked up on what’s unique and special about their team, and summarize why you’d fit well within that dynamic. A well-crafted follow-up note is just as important with a digital interview as a traditional one. Don’t miss this opportunity to shine!  

Love them or hate them, video interviews are likely to be a large part of the job hunting process for the foreseeable future. Updating your approach to account for this new reality will put you ahead of many less prepared applicants. As COVID continues to shape the way we live and work, you’ll want to do whatever you can to show your ability to perform in this new arena. Employers are looking for people who are proactive, self-motivated, able to collaborate digitally, and communicate effectively in all mediums. With just a few modifications to your interview repertoire, you can demonstrate you’ve got the adaptability it takes to rise to these new challenges.

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