Taking care of a few important points can make a big difference to your virtual interview
These are strange times indeed; many call this the new normal – people attending virtual interviews, receiving offers, being onboarded and hitting the ground running in their new roles, all not having ever met their hiring manager and their colleagues, nor having stepped into their new workplace once (many in AIAP Batch 5 can attest to this!). COVID has upended the process of hiring and how new employees join their companies, one of the most important aspects of an employee’s experience.
While employers explore new ways to engage and attract talent to join them, jobseekers too grapple with new ways in which to stand out from the marketplace and impress the interviewers, and ultimately get that role that they have applied for. As an apprentice planning your return to industry, you have followed well-meaning advice (please read my earlier post if you have not yet done so!): you networked, written an impressive resume and updated your LinkedIn profile, and you have been invited to…a virtual interview. What should you do to convey your know-how, your abilities, and most importantly, your interest in the role and company?
1. Preparing your equipment
I don’t know about you, but IT has a way of not working when you most need it/least expect it to (there is probably research on how Murphy’s Law is 80% more likely to apply when it comes to IT equipment!). Prepare your equipment in advance – make sure your laptop camera is working, you have a working headset with a microphone, and ensure that where you will take that virtual call is an area with a strong WiFi signal. If possible, prepare another laptop or a tablet as a backup. Do not use a smartphone for a virtual interview, unless you also use a tripod or stand – most people hold their phones too close to their face and it conveys an unprofessional “vibe” to the session.
I cannot emphasise how important preparing your equipment is – even if you somehow manage to get on the call when you were not able to initially, it would have affected your focus, your frame of mind, and most of all, the interviewer’s impression of you.
2. Decide where you would take the call
Apart from WiFi signal strength, another aspect you should consider when deciding where you will take the call is the background of where you would be seated. Choose a spot where it conveys your maturity or professionalism – a neat bookshelf filled with books, a wall with some plants behind or even a blank wall painted in a neutral color are good backgrounds. What about virtual backgrounds, you say? If you have to use one (because you live in a shared apartment, or your kids have taken to drawing portraits of you on most of your walls), choose one that is static, and that reflects maturity and professionalism (like a neat bookshelf, for example!).
3. Practice looking into the camera
With virtual interviews, many do not realise that looking at the interviewer’s eyes on the computer screen is not the same as when looking at the interviewer’s eyes in a face-to-face interview – what the interviewer sees is you looking into the computer screen, and not at them. Thus, to ensure you convey interest and to establish a connection with the interviewer, it is important to practice looking into the laptop camera. Should you need to refer to notes (this is an advantage of virtual interviews – the ability to look at notes), place the notes slightly above the laptop camera. That way, you can still maintain “eye-contact” while you refer to what you have prepared. Think of yourself as a newscaster!
4. Be professionally dressed
You may be at home for the interview, but that doesn’t mean being informally dressed (even if you are interviewing with a hip tech startup). At the very least, a plain, neutral colour-ed polo tee for the men, and a blouse for the women. And please, to the men out there, please put on some pants! For the women, putting on some light makeup conveys your professionalism and interest in the role.
Being properly dressed also gives you confidence for the session and puts you in the right frame of mind for success.
5. Research and prepare
It is important to remember why interviews conducted in the first place – most hiring managers want to assess your interest in the role and company, to validate what you said in your resume, and to determine your personality and fit for their team and company. Thus, approach interviews with the mindset of conveying those very information to the hiring manager. Research deeply into the company and find out what is its mission, its growth trajectory, its upcoming projects, and how your role, if offered fits into those aspects. Think about your past experiences, and be prepared to share deeply about how you brought value to your previous companies, and how you these same skills and knowledge you now have, can continue to bring value to their company. Lastly, show a little personality – hiring managers want to also know you as a person, not a well-trained chatbot/AI that gives the perfect answers to questions. Smile, engage in light banter, and share personal anecdotes (nothing salacious or too personal/political) that drive home your professional “story”.
Virtual interviews have given either a false sense of comfort (“well, I’m behind a screen, what can possibly happen?”) to some, and a false sense of unease (“I’m behind a screen! What do I do?!”) to others, but it doesn’t have to be. As Abraham Lincoln once said “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” – the key is to be prepared. If you need help in preparing for such interviews, do remember that I am just a virtual call away!