Have you had a virtual interview yet?
Live video interviews aren’t new. Companies have been interviewing and hiring online for years. But, as hiring practices shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers everywhere realized that virtual interviews have a number of benefits.
On the employer’s side, video interviews offer a way to streamline the interview process, increase the effectiveness of recruitment, and improve cost-effectiveness. On the candidate’s side, staying at home for a job interview can help to calm nerves and increase confidence, which makes it easier to spotlight their strengths. New statistics show that both employers and applicants prefer live online interviews over other types. It’s quite likely that employers will continue to hold most of their interviews online even after the pandemic ends.
Preparing for virtual interviews requires a different approach than for in-person interviews. Tech concerns, the professionalism of your space, how the color of your clothing appears on a screen, and your comfort level with the camera are some things to keep in mind for the online interview process.
Types of Video Interviews
When you think of being interviewed, you likely envision back-and-forth conversation between yourself and the interviewer. And while live video interviews are pretty common, there’s actually another type of virtual interview as well: the pre-recorded one-way or asynchronous interview.
Laura DeCarlo offers this analogy in a blog piece at Job-Hunt.org: think of an asynchronous video as being a demo tape, as cut by a musician. The candidate appears alone in the video and is usually given a few chances to answer a set of pre-scripted questions. The candidate can then submit their best effort to the hiring team, which will be able to view the recording at their convenience.
Asynchronous interviews are usually quite short and part of the initial screening process. These recordings give applicants a chance to showcase their personality and strengths, to talk about their career goals, and give the recruiters an idea of how well they will fit with the company.
Live Video Interviews
Live video interviews are that conversation between interviewers and candidate. The only difference is that it takes place in an online video chat room. The platform used for an online interview might be one that you’re already familiar with, such as:
However, some recruiters may choose to use an app that was developed specifically for online interviews, such as SparkHire and Jobma. These kinds of apps allow the employer to brand the chat space and, more importantly, to record the proceedings. While you may feel uncomfortable being recorded, it can be quite helpful for recruiters. It negates the need to take notes because it’s easy to go back and locate your exact words at any point of the interview if clarification is needed. As well, without the distraction of notetaking, the interviewers can pay closer attention to your answers in real time.
Prepping Your Equipment Set-Up
Since many interviews are now virtual, take time at the very beginning of your job search to ensure that your technology is in good working order. Even before you’re called for an interview, review your hardware options and your internet connection. The software used for the interview will vary between companies. Once you have an interview scheduled, your interviewer should let you know how to manage your software configuration.
A desktop computer with an external webcam or a laptop with an internal webcam are far preferable to small devices like a tablet or smartphone. Their small screens combined with temperamental video software and the possibility of losing wifi connectivity on a handheld device make those poor choices for something as important as a job interview.
That said, keep those handheld devices handy and fully charged, with necessary software installed, for backup.
While most webcams have built-in mics, a headset is a terrific choice. It doesn’t have to be the stereotypical headset with large padded ear covers — many basic earphones/earbuds have built-in mics. Regardless of the type, a headset will block out ambient background noise and more richly project your voice. If you prefer to not wear a headset, having a backup external mic is an excellent idea.
In advance of any interview, make sure all your hardware is fully charged and, ideally, also plugged in. Test all your hardware components, including the device itself, as well as the camera, microphone, speakers, and/or headset.
A wired connection is always ideal. Wifi can cause lagging or freezing, particularly with video. If you aren’t able to secure a wired connection, set up your interview spot as close to the router as possible. Close all other tabs on the device you’re using and disable wifi on other devices until the interview is completed.
Prepping Your Software Configuration
Your recruiter might use a video chat platform that you already have and/or are familiar with, such as Zoom or Google Hangouts. Or they might use an app that was developed specifically for interviews. Either way, they should let you know in advance which platform your interview will be hosted on. If they don’t, ask for:
- Instructions for accessing the software, which may involve a download and installation or just logging into an online portal.
- A list of tech requirements for the software.
- Contact information for their IT department.
- An idea of what to expect during the interview such as who will attend and how long it’s expected to last.
It’s important to have the software installed and tested prior to the interview, so that you’re confident in navigating the platform.
Even though you’re at home, your interviewer will expect a professional appearance. Take the time to carefully choose your interview space and your clothing.
The space you choose for your interview can provide a great deal of insight for your recruiters. Ensure that it’s neat, tidy, and uncluttered, and that all distractions are eliminated. Silence device notifications, block pets out of the space, and ask others living in the household to refrain from interrupting.
To give the recruiters a clear, flattering view of yourself, position the camera or laptop a little bit higher than eye level and tilt it slightly downwards. Prop it on a stack of books if necessary.
It’s ideal to face natural lighting but if that’s not possible, place a light source behind your camera. You could use a lamp, the flashlight on your cell phone, or even the glowing blank white screen of your computer monitor. It’s important to avoid bright lights behind you, which will place your face in shadow and be distracting.
There are a few exceptions but, in general, if you would wear it to an in-person interview, it’s suitable for a video interview. Choose simple, classic styles, and specifically:
- Avoid solid white or black, which will cause color balance issues with the webcam.
- Avoid bright colors, which can give your skin tone an unnatural tint.
- Pass on busy prints and patterns.
- Pick pieces in soft, dark colors.
Practice, Practice, Practice
There are essentially two things to practice: answering common interview questions and answering questions on camera.
Do an online search to determine the most common interview questions, which usually include queries such as: “How will you be an asset to this organization?” and “Why should I hire you?” As well, spend some time brushing up on knowledge specific to your industry, such as recent innovations and news.
Then, use those questions and knowledge to practice speaking on camera. Record yourself and play back the video capture. Use this as an opportunity to critically assess yourself, noting nervous tics, such as playing with your hair, and your posture. Make adjustments as necessary. For additional feedback, ask a trusted friend or mentor.
Keep practicing until you feel comfortable and confident in front of the camera, allowing your personality to shine through. And always — whether you’re practicing or answering questions in the actual interview — don’t forget to smile!