Hiring Manager are increasing turning to virtual interviews in recent times. You may have even had a job interview or two via a video conferencing platforms, such Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, etc. Virtual interview can be daunting, especially if you haven't done one before. Thankfully, the fundamentals of a successful video interview are similar to an in-person chat: you want to connect with the interviewer, show them who you are, and demonstrate your abilities (check out more great interview tips here).
At the same time, there are some unique challenges that come with video interviews, from managing Wi-Fi woes to finding ways to stand out when you can’t meet in person.
We talked to four experts with years of experience to learn more about some best practices for virtual interviews.
Tip 1: For Remote Interviews, Think Skills, Speed, and Preparation
Get comfortable with the remote interview platform early
Don’t worry too much about tech problems
Use any hiccups to show off your skills, such as how you work under pressure
Remote hiring is a trend slated to continue, and that’s a good thing. When you join an interview, via Zoom for example, there’s no rush to find parking, no panic as a full bus zooms past you, and no need to leave at least an hour early — just in case.
If you haven’t yet used the program requested by the interviewer, get familiar with it a few days in advance of your meeting. Consider even running a practice interview with a friend to play around with the functionality.
Even when you’re a Zoom master, there’s still the issues of hiccups: Wi-Fi stuttering, dogs barking, and tech failing. Career coach Laura Griffin says not to worry too much about hiccups because they can work to your advantage.
“An issue with your connection or another tech problem gives you an opportunity to showcase how you react to stressful situations and how you work under pressure. These are important skills, and remote interviews can be a real opportunity for candidates to show them off organically,” Griffin says.
How to Handle a Less Than Perfect Wifi Connection
Test your internet speed (upload speed) with a practice interview
Get your interviewer’s phone number in case the connection drops
Seek out reliable internet, if needed, through local resources, like a college or co-working space
Remember that hiccups can happen on the interview-side, too, so be prepared and try not to worry
For many people in Ireland, less-than-ideal Wi-Fi speeds are a part of daily life. And while you can’t necessarily fix your own Wi-Fi connection, there are work-arounds you can use for interviews.
The best thing you can do is test your internet speed with a practice interview. You need a good upload speed for video calls, which means your internet may be grand for Netflix but could still produce delays over Zoom.
Fibre broadband or not, all the interview experts we spoke to suggest getting a contact number for your interviewer before jumping on the call. If your Wi-Fi starts to waver, you can let the interviewer know you’ll give them a ring so you can wrap up the interview with minimal disruption.
If your internet isn’t always reliable, you have other solutions, even during periods of lockdown. Your Local Enterprise Office, an innovation hub or co-working space, or even a local college are likely happy to let you in to complete your interview in their space using their broadband. Rory Brennan, of Marketing Career Recruitment, says to remember that you’re not the only one who can have issues during a call. The client may have a dead device battery or a blip in their Wi-Fi connection as well. Regardless of whose fault it is, he says, remember to keep your composure when you get back at the call.
Tips for Making an Excellent First Impression via Zoom
Check your position, lighting, and background on camera before joining the call
Turn background noise suppression up to eliminate noise
Turn off notifications on your computer and phone
Keep your background (or Zoom background) neutral
Now that you’re a confident video chat user and have a back-up plan for internet issues, think closely about your visual optics.
Rory Brennan, a marketing recruiter, says he reminds all his clients to, “Always check yourself on camera before going on a Zoom or Teams call. So, heck that you’re in the centre of the camera; the light is right; the sound is working; that you look smart.”
Thinking about using a Zoom virtual interview background? “Background optics are fine,” Brennan says, “as long as they are not distracting.” You might use a neutral background or even choose a background showcasing the company.
Our final virtual etiquette tip is this: if you are worried about background noise, go into Zoom’s settings and turn background noise suppression levels up. It will minimise the impact of traffic, dogs, construction, and noise around the house.
Additionally, turn off your computer or device notifications during the interview. Your interviewer will be able to hear any dings or alerts on their end, and it can be distracting.
Expert Tip: Do you share a computer or an account with kids or someone else? Double-check your user name and avatar on the day to make sure it’s correct. You want to avoid having your own “I’m not a cat” moment.
Tip 2: Practice Common Virtual Interview Questions and Answers
Competency questions still dominate interviews
Think carefully about remote work-related questions, including your experiences, skills, and personality
In many companies, the bulk of interview questions remain competency based. After all, the most important objective from the hiring perspective is to find the candidate who is best suited for the job.
Steven Kirk, founder of Recruit4U, places remote candidates exclusively. Kirk says of remote interviews and remote positions, “Hiring managers ask the same competency questions across candidates to provide unbiased comparatives because the same needs are required.”
A great place to resource these questions is via LinkedIn, GlassDoor, Indeed, and Reddit. You’ll find plenty of questions both for your sector and potentially even for the company, depending on the size of the organisation.
However, the way we interview has changed, and the way we work has changed, so it’s no surprise that many hiring managers also changed some of the questions they ask during their interview.
At the same time, there’s a new competency in town: the ability to work remotely.
Have a Think About Remote Work-Specific Questions
A big change in interview questions relates to questions related specifically to remote work both as a preference and as a skill.
Kirk says he sees candidates face questions related to:
Your ability to onboard and work individually
Your attention span and productivity remotely
How you learn new knowledge
Griffin has seen questions like:
What challenges have you faced in remote working?
What challenges do you see this industry facing because of remote working?
Do you have any ideas on how we can improve remote working?
You may also find it helpful to think about your personality and skills, such as your interpersonal skills. John Evoy, general manager at Grow Remote, says companies offering remote work, in particular, look for personality. “It’s your capacity to almost over communicate; you need to be willing to go out and ask questions that someone would otherwise hand you the answers to in an office setting,” Devoy says.
Tip 3: Reach Out and Connect Before Your Interview
Research the company, including its people and position in the market
Engage with the company on LinkedIn and stay up-to-date with news
Connect with people in your prospective role or department to learn more
Leverage your existing or new connections
Use a referral from someone you know within the company, if available
One of the biggest challenges facing candidates is learning more about the company during the remote recruiting process. While there’s added comfort to interviewing from home (or a neutral location), you miss out on the experience of visiting the office for the first time as well as attending recruitment events.
Kirk says that in some ways, your prep work hasn’t changed. “We always advise candidates to do in-depth research. Look at the company’s competitive landscape,” Kirk says.
How can you learn more? Reach out to the company offering the interview.
Griffin, Kirk, and Brennan all recommend using LinkedIn to your advantage. Follow the company, and engage with recent posts and news. And even reach out to people internally, including the hiring manager who will conduct your interview.
“Reach out to people working in the company, including whoever had the role in the past and whoever is occupying it now,” Griffin says. But you don’t need a cold open, necessarily.
“Use your own LinkedIn connections first, and you’ll see connections in or to that company. You might find out, “Oh, my brother’s friend actually works there.” Then, you can reach out if you’re not comfortable with a cold email.”
Tip: Referrals who get an interview have a 40% chance of getting an offer compared to other candidates. So, use your network to your advantage!
Tip 4: Use Props to Stand Out in a Virtual Interview
Look sharp on camera and speak sharply with succinct answers
Create a presentation or infographic to share during the interview
Use notes and post-it notes to keep important names and thoughts close-to-hand
The final part of your interview preparation lies in finding ways to stand out during the interview itself. Again, there are many new opportunities to be found that you might not find with an in-person interview.
Brennan says, “Always remember the panel interviewing you really hope you will perform well.”
“And as much as the thought of a remote interview may be anxiety-provoking as you are on the clock, so to speak – you should change your mindset to relish the opportunity.”
So, what does it mean to stand out?
It starts with excellent prep work: “Looking sharp and professional on camera is important – but you have to have your content equally sharp and professional during the Teams/Zoom call,” Brennan says.
In practical terms, this means keeping your answers succinct; HR professionals want short, punchy answers rather than long-winded ones.
Although speaking in sound bites sounds easier said than done in an interview, it’s actually where remote interviews benefit you.
Griffin recommends putting together a presentation to share with the interview panel detailing a project you’re particularly proud of, even if the interview doesn’t require one. If you don’t have enough data for a presentation, an infographic can also be a great way to stand out and focus your energy during your interview.
Another of Griffin’s top remote interview tips is to keep important names, acronyms, and thoughts on a post-it note around your screen. It will help remind you of important thoughts or themes and help you avoid the need to search for words or waffle as you try to remember an important thought.
Master Remote Interview Skills and Land Your Next Job
Remote hiring is likely here to stay. Even though it can present more challenges, it also offers more opportunities for job candidates and hiring managers.
Although the principles are the same, you do need to account for some of the hiccups that can occur and look for creative ways to connect and stand out.
Check out our article on How to Accept a Job Offer for tips on how start your next role off on the right foot!