1. CHECK THE LOGISTICS
While it may sound intuitive, it is a good idea for candidates to double-check the logistics when setting up the interview. For example, did you know there are different types of virtual interviews? A pre-recorded interview does not require interviewer(s) and interviewee(s) to meet at a pre-determined time, whereas a typical virtual interview would be in real-time over a platform, such as Zoom or Skype. Pay close attention to the interview coordination to make sure you fully understand what will take place. Another detail you should not overlook is the interview time—the time zone may not be the same as yours. A simple oversight could cost you the job.
2. SET THE STAGE
Once you're informed of what platform your interview will be, test it out in advance. Try a "dress rehearsal" replicating conditions as closely as possible, including the same time and day of the week as your scheduled interview. This way you can check internet connection, adjust lighting, and see if any other unexpected events might occur (the mail delivery, neighbor's barking dog, etc). I recommend getting familiar with the features of the platform, such as the mute/unmute button (you never know if you might have an unexpected sneeze or car outside playing loud music), and screen sharing, if you want to show examples of your work in conversation.
Arrange your physical space so you have a good camera angle that is parallel to your eyeline and in a quiet, private space. Some candidates might put signs up on their room's door, even outer door to signal they are unavailable. Choose an area that is not cluttered, preferably a plain wall or non-distracting space. Why? You want the hiring manager to focus on you and your answers. For this same reason, I suggest avoiding the use of virtual backgrounds that can be distracting and disingenuous.
3. PREPARE CONTENT AND DRESS
Most of your time should go towards the preparation of your interview, and this shouldn’t be taken lightly! Research the company extensively. You can do this by getting to know their website, social media, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and activity in the news. This way, you can prepare questions for the employer and tailor what examples and stories you talk about.
Prepare for common interview questions and behavioral interview questions. You should be able to answer, “tell me about yourself,” “what are your strengths and weaknesses,” and “why do you want to work for us” easily. Beyond this, I suggest preparing examples from your experience to match bullets (all, if possible!) from the job description. It is okay to have some notes handy to reference during your virtual interview (a couple of important bullets might suffice), but don't rely on them heavily!
This is your first impression, so dress formally for your interview. And, don’t forget the shoes! While you might have heard interviewing urban legends about employers asking to see candidates' shoes during virtual interviews, the takeaway is for the psychological effect of feeling fully “put together.” You might also wear some perfume or cologne for a confidence boost—something I would not recommend for an in-person interview.
4. BE AUTHENTIC AND PRESENT
Answer questions genuinely and authentically. Whether the interview is in-person or online, I make sure to tell candidates to not just answer with what you think they want to hear, but what you truly think and feel. This will benefit you and the recruiter to assess a match for the position.
Virtually, you must go a little further to make a connection. Proper eye contact is a good first step. Look straight into the camera when you talk, as opposed to watching the person on the computer. While this feels unnatural, the person on the other screen will see eye contact, which will help with rapport building. It’s also a great idea to take notes, but for a virtual interview, I recommend using old fashioned pen and paper. Make mention of it so there is no room for misinterpretation (“thanks for sharing that background about the company, I would like to just note that quickly for later reference”).
What it comes down to is connecting with the person on the other side of the screen, so try not to get too caught up in your nerves, notes, or any other distractions. Be present in the moment as much as possible.
Send a thank you letter within 24 hours of your interview for proper professional etiquette. It doesn’t have to be very long, but it should be sincere where you reference topics of conversation from the interview.
Practice and be persistent! Schedule an appointment at Career Services to practice with a career development specialist, ask a friend, and/or mentor. Record yourself and watch how you did for the self-assessment. If you are interviewing often and still not finding a job, continue to practice, but also be kind to yourself. The more interviews you do, the better your interview skills will become, and the more comfortable you will be.