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9 tips to help candidates master the virtual interview

20 July 2020

Are you ready for your job interview? Better turn on your webcam and put your headphones in, because the job interview as we know it has changed. No more firm handshakes and nervous waits in reception, because interviews have migrated online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual collaboration tools (e.g. Zoom, Skype, etc.) have become the norm in today’s recruitment process, overhauling how employers interact with new candidates. This has given rise to the virtual job interview, creating a new set of challenges and considerations that candidates must now be aware of to be successful in their job search. In this article, we’re sharing the top 9 tips to help you master the virtual job interview and secure that dream job.

  1. Optimise your sound quality
    One of the most important considerations in a virtual interview is sound quality. It’s important that an interviewer can clearly understand what you’re saying to make an accurate judgement of your capabilities and personality as you answer their questions. To foster this, eliminate background noises and remove any distractions that may take away from your presentation. Find a quiet spot to conduct the interview, mute notifications on your phone and PC, wear high quality headphones that can block out external noises. These small actions will improve your sound quality, improving the overall quality of your interview.
  1. Set your background
    The background you use in a virtual interview is a key strategic decision to make prior to an interview, as its contents can reveal additional information to an employer about who you are. With modern technology, there are plenty of options including virtual, plain or real-life backgrounds. Each has its pros and cons and infers different information. A plain background is more conservative and ensures you’re the focal point which can help you standout. A virtual background can look visually striking and memorable but can also distract the interviewer. A real background, like a home office or bedroom, can help showcase elements of your personality and attributes that may otherwise be missed. For example, it’s much easier to convince an employer you’re well organised if you’re sitting in a clean and tidy space. A bookcase may suggest a willingness to learn, or a guitar may suggest you’re creatively minded. Done well, a real background can be a subtle way to showcase who you are to an employer helping you standout in a limited amount of time. Just remember, whatever you choose, the interviewer can see everything behind you, so think carefully about how you set your background.
  1. Check your lighting
    Lighting is another key consideration in the virtual interview, after all you still want to capture your best side. A room with strong natural light always works well, so you may want to sit near a window. We recommend using a light source in front of you to ensure you don’t appear washed out on-screen. Conversely, a light source behind you can create glare on the lens which could inhibit the visual experience for the employer. You can also improve the visual experience by using a high-quality webcam, or even utilise in-built features on Zoom that optimise your appearance. Strong visual quality, just like sound quality, is essential in a virtual interview in order to be remembered or at least not forgotten.
  1. Use positive body language
    The firm handshake and enthusiastic greeting have become redundant in a virtual interview, but body language still has an important role to play. Strong body language conveys confidence to an employer, and can greatly influence the overall feel of an interview. It’s important to consider what gestures translate well on-camera and which ones do not. Simple ways to project strong body language online can include sitting up straight, maintaining eye contact with the camera and smiling. These simple actions signal engagement, enthusiasm and confidence, which are beneficial when trying to impress a prospective employer.
  1. Consider your virtual identity
    Our virtual identity now plays a key role in the formation of first impressions. In today’s digital world, an interviewer will see your email address and username long before they meet you. It’s very unlikely these digital identifiers will help you stand out from the crowd, but inappropriate or unprofessional ones could significantly inhibit your outcome. This means [email protected] or Sparkleboy84 may not go down so well in a professional context. To combat this, keep your digital identifiers simple, clear and as professional as possible. This will create an untainted initial impression with your interviewer, which you can then build upon later during your interview.
  1. Test your technology
    Relying on technology to conduct an interview brings with it a number of potential risks. Prior to your interview, check your WiFi signal, make sure your computer battery is charged, test your audio, make sure your webcam works, have back-up equipment just in case and click on the meeting link early to ensure everything downloads smoothly. There is nothing worse than dropping out mid-interview, or producing obstructed visuals or muffled audio. Sometimes these issues are unavoidable, but testing all your equipment to minimise these risks will greatly increase the likelihood that everything runs smoothly during the actual interview enhancing overall quality.
  1. Use notes
    One key advantage of the virtual interview is that you can use notes to guide you without an employer knowing. Notes can be a great aid during an interview, reminding you to communicate all key points and assisting you if you become stuck or flustered. However, it’s important that you don’t rely on notes, or risk being perceived as reading off a page. This can be a major turn-off for an employer. To avoid this, we recommend using minimal notes and displaying them at eye level with the camera. This will allow you to use them if necessary, without giving away to an employer you are doing so. This back-up option could provide you with extra confidence needed to help you thrive in your interview.
  1. Remember the basics
    While the environment of the interview has drastically changed, ultimately the interview itself remains the same. Due to this, it’s important to remember the basics. Dress to impress by ensuring your appearance reflects the professional identity your trying to present – remember the top-half online is key. Do your research to better understand the employer, the industry and their needs. Have a digital copy of your CV ready on standby just in case the employer asks for it. Remembering these basics will allow you to flourish in any interview whether conducted virtually or not.
  1. Practice makes perfect
    Using new technologies can be unsettling, particularly in an already stressful situation like an interview. To minimise this, practice remains crucial to building confidence and improving performance. Get a feel for talking into a camera, work out the angles, lighting, background, etc. that works best for you. Learn how to use different virtual collaboration tools (e.g. Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.) to understand their features or settings that could lift your performance. Practice answering typical questions and record yourself to get a sense of how you come across. These tips will help you overcome any anxiety you may experience, optimising your performance for the real thing.

These 9 tips will help you master the virtual job interview and secure new employment in today’s increasingly digital environment. Understanding how to use virtual collaboration tools, and using them in your favour, can be a huge advantage to help you stand out in the highly competitive candidate market. If you’ve got a virtual interview coming up, take a deep breath, relax, remember these tips and you will give yourself the best chance of success.

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Author: Mark Southwood
Executive Business Analyst

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