Actively looking for job opportunities can be a daunting and time-intensive process, especially when having to prepare for job interviews. Having a conversation with a stranger, in which you need to demonstrate your skills and capabilities while creating an overall positive impression is not an easy task, especially when making this good impression has to be done over a phone or video interview. Because of COVID-19, one of the biggest changes in recruitment that occurred last year was the rise of the virtual interview; global research and advisory company Gartner revealed that by April 2020 86% of leading organisations across the globe had switched from in-person job interviews to virtual job interviews (Baker,2020). With so many states across Australia currently under strict lockdown restrictions, the virtual interview process isn’t going anywhere, and for those that haven’t yet had the experience of partaking in one, there are a few considerable differences. While the same rules for a virtual interview apply to an in-person interview, virtual communication requires special considerations and adjustments due to the limited ability to read body language and facial expressions. To help prepare you for your next (or first!) virtual interview, our Design & Build team have listed the key steps to make the process feel less intimidating, help you feel more confident and ultimately set yourself up for success:
Just like a normal job interview, it is essential to do your research on the company and the people who are interviewing you. Usually, the department or team you’re interviewing with will confirm who your interviewer is ahead of time and how they’ll relate to you (e.g. are they a potential manager, department head) so it’s always good to do a little research on their background and professional achievements beforehand, so you can consider their needs/requirements when preparing your interview answers. It’s also useful to look into the organisation you’re interviewing for; look over their company website, read their values and mission statement and see if you can access any press releases, news updates or case studies they’ve been involved in to give you a better idea of their company culture and what they are looking for. If you can find ways to weave or address your research into your answers, it will demonstrate that you’ve taken the time to properly prepare for the interview which conveys a level of professionalism that will help you stand out from the crowd.
Furthermore, while you can’t always predict the specific questions that will be asked in an interview, it’s still worthwhile anticipating the types of questions that could be asked. For example, what is your proudest achievement or greatest strength? Can you provide an example of a time you showed strong organisational skills? No matter if an interview is conducted in person, over the phone or via a video call, the ultimate purpose remains the same; to highlight your skills and compatibility to the job advertised. Therefore, having some prepared answers or examples which showcase your skills, experience level and achievements will help to convey this.
Secondly, before embarking on your first virtual interview, it’s important that you’ve double-checked the technology you’ll be using. At least a couple of hours before the interview, check that your internet connection is secure. This will minimise the risk of your signal dropping out or your screen freezing midway through your interview. If you’re not confident in the strength of the internet signal, you then have time to move to another location.
The organisation you’re interviewing for should tell you the platform that you’ll be interviewing on ahead of time, whether that be Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts etc. It’s strongly advised - especially if you’re unfamiliar with the platform- to log in ahead of time and ensure you’re comfortable with all the functions. You can even run through a practice interview with a family member or friend, to iron out any teething issues before your actual interview. Having your technology ready to go, will help ensure you can answer questions effectively as well as demonstrating strong organisational skills.
Finally, before logging on to the interview, it’s important to ensure all notifications are muted on your computer so that nothing will interrupt you or your interviewer mid-discussion.
When preparing your virtual interview it’s also important to consider the location of your interview. It’s best to find a location with good lighting where there are minimal distractions (e.g. background noises, bright colours and people moving around) so that your interviewer can easily see you and won’t have their attention drawn away from what you’re saying.
Part of this is setting up your camera so that you’re sitting a comfortable distance away from it; not so close that the interviewer can see up your nose, but still close enough that they can easily read your facial expressions and can tell when you’re maintaining eye contact. At this point it’s also worthwhile to check if anything in your shot is reflecting or giving off a glare that could distract your interviewer; watches, jewellery, eyeglasses or nearby lamps are the usual culprits, so these items might need to be removed for the interview.
Finally, it’s important to look professional in your virtual interview. While the urge to look less formal because you’re at home is understandable, you must remember that you’re still attending a formal interview and consequently need to dress the part. Not only will a professional appearance demonstrate to the interviewer that you’re taking the process seriously, but putting on business attire might also help you to feel more confident and capable as opposed to wearing pyjamas or a tracksuit which you’d usually associate with relaxing around the house. When choosing an outfit it’s also worthwhile to consider whether certain patterns might look a little strange on-screen or if particular skirts will look shorter or tops will get pulled down lower, when you’re sitting in front of the screen. These aspects will all play a part in creating a favourable first impression.
When you interview in person, there’s always a brief period at the beginning of the interview when you introduce yourself, shake hands and build an initial rapport before embarking on the actual ‘question asking’ portion of the interview. This can help to make an initial connection with the interviewer and ensure you both ‘settle in’ and feel comfortable.
Of course, this initial interaction can become a little bit more difficult when conducting the interview via screens. To ensure you can still create an initial connection and give a sense of warmth and openness when starting the interview try and supplement a handshake with a wave or a small nod and remember to smile and look directly at the camera when greeting your interviewer. You can also ask some brief introductory questions (‘How are you? How has your week been? Is this one of the first virtual interviews you’ve done?’ ) to provide a more relaxed setting and ease yourself into the questions.
Usually in a conversation, non-verbal cues play a significant role in conveying a message. But when it comes to a video interview, a lot of the avenues through which we usually give nonverbal cues – body language, physical gestures- are cut off. So, you have to focus on what you do possess that can help you communicate, namely facial expressions, eye contact and tone of voice. To avoid looking like a statue in your interview, try and be conscious of your facial movements. For example, try and maintain eye contact and nod along and smile when the interviewer is speaking, to convey to them that you’re understanding what they’re saying.
Focusing on these movements rather than confirming you’re listening verbally, through saying things like ‘mm-hmm’ or ‘yeah’ can also be more beneficial, as people can often mute microphones when they’re not speaking and can consequently momentarily break up the flow of conversation.
Remember that you can convey a lot through the tone and pace of your speech. While it might feel odd, slowing down your rate of speech will make it easier for your listener to follow the conversation, especially as they have limited other cues to rely on. It’ll also make it less likely that you’ll interrupt the interviewer. Similarly, consciously trying to alter your inflection when answering different questions, can help convey your thoughts and interests when discussing a subject. For example, a higher, upbeat pitch can help demonstrate you’re excited about something. Changing inflections can also make conversations easier to listen to and focus on, as a bland monotonous tone for an entire conversation can make people zone out.
While you can invest a significant amount of time into avoiding interruptions during a virtual interview, there are certain factors that are outside of your control. Sometimes technology can be temperamental or background noise (from neighbours or the street) can’t be helped. At the end of the day, virtual interviews are a new process for many, so there should be a higher level of understanding for both parties when embarking on them.
However, if you know there’s a chance of you being interrupted by something outside of your control, mentioning it at the start of the interview can prepare your interviewer and show them you’re proactive. It can also help settle your nerves about the situation. For example, if you have a dog in the next room that might start barking, you can make your interviewer aware of that possibility.
Design & Build specialise in helping candidates during the interview process – both in person and via video calls – and know what interviewers look for and value during the process. If you’re feeling a little anxious about your first virtual interview or looking to seek advice on how to make a great impression via a video call, you can reach out to our team of consultants at firstname.lastname@example.org
Baker, Mary. (2020). Gartner HR Survey Shows 86% of Organisations Are Conducting Virtual Interviews to Hire Candidates During Coronavirus Pandemic. Gartner. Retrieved from: https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-04-30-gartner-hr-survey-shows-86--of-organizations-are-cond