One year into the pandemic, and we’ve gotten into the rhythm of working from home. Virtual tools have become second nature to us, and face-to-face is happening in a new way: over video.
Life goes on despite the coronavirus, and for some, that means so do job interviews. While you may be comfortable meeting with people you know over video, it can be more challenging to make a great first impression virtually when you’re trying to find a new job.
Here are some things to consider to up your virtual interview game and help you land the next position of your dreams.
Check your tech
Nothing is worse than starting a big virtual presentation and having your slide deck freeze or your connection drop. It’s even more frustrating if it happens during a job interview.
“It’s critically important to make sure the video conferencing software you are using for your interview is installed correctly on your computer and functioning the way it is supposed to,” insists UMGC Associate Vice President for Career Development Dr. Francine Blume. “Check the meeting invite to find out which application you will be using, and make sure it’s ready to go before the interview begins.”
This includes testing your microphone and camera to make sure your interviewer can hear and see you. You also make have to load or download software to access the virtual platform. You may consider doing a dry run with a family member or friend before the big day.
On the day of the interview, check your internet connection an hour or two before your interview begins. Make sure to have a back-up plan if your internet is slow or down, such as going to a family member’s house to use their connection.
“Also, if you plan to share any documents during the interview, have them open and ready in case you’re invited to share your screen,” says Dr. Blume. “That way you don’t waste valuable time trying to find them.”
Choose your interview space and attire
If you’re interviewing from home, make sure others in the household are quiet during the designated time and they steer clear of the room you’re in until you’re done.
Many virtual meeting platforms offer background features. If your space is messy or distracting in any way, consider changing your background to something neutral so you are the only thing your interviewer notices.
“Of course, it’s important to dress the part for any interview, whether it’s in person or online,” says Dr. Blume. “That’s true even if it’s scheduled as a phone interview. You never know if the person on the other end is going to ask you to turn on your camera unexpectedly, so be ready.”
If the lighting in your interview space is dim, you may consider buying an inexpensive ring light to use during your video interview. These lights are designed to eliminate unflattering shadows so you can put your best face forward during video meetings.
Do your research, of course
“This should go without saying by now, but it’s essential to prepare for a video interview the same way you would for an in-person one,” notes Dr. Blume.
This includes spending time researching the company, learning about its business objectives, reading about its leadership team and studying its growth strategy.
“But don’t just research the company you’re interviewing with,” advises Dr. Blume. “It’s also a good idea to explore the industry at large, including the company’s main competitors and any key trends.”
Armed with this information, you can create a list of thoughtful questions that will demonstrate to the interviewer that you took the time to prepare and are excited about the position you’re interviewing for.
Prepare a few ice breakers
Let’s face it – many of us struggling to make small talk in person, and virtual chatter can be even more difficult. It’s a good idea to prepare a few ice breakers you can use to establish rapport with your interviewer and create a comfortable foundation for the interview.
You likely know what city your interviewer is in, so start there. Perhaps you’ve visited the area and have an affinity for it, or it just got hit by a big storm or made news because of a sports victory. Since you did your research, you also know if the company you’re interviewing with has been in the news.
“Any of these topics make for a good conversation starter so you can make a human connection and then ease into the interview,” suggests Dr. Blume.
Practice makes perfect
Nervous in front of a camera? You’re not alone.
“The best way to overcome your stage fright is to practice,” says Dr. Blume.
Put on your interview clothes, settle into your interview space and start recording a video of yourself. Pretend your interviewer is on the other end, and practice making your introductions and asking questions.
Then—as painful as it may be—watch the recording. Evaluate how you came across on camera. Were you nervous or natural? How was your eye contact? Was the lighting OK? Was there anything unprofessional or distracting in the background? If so, make adjustments and try again.
“When the day of your interview comes, you’ll feel confident knowing that you’re ready to make a great impression on camera,” says Dr. Blume.
Circle back right away
Since we’re still in the middle of the pandemic, there’s a good chance your interviewer is also working remotely. That means snail mail—the gold standard of old—won’t work for your follow-up touch point. Instead, send your interviewer an email within 24 hours.
“Thank them for their time, reiterate your interest in the position and share something from your discussion that made an impact on you,” notes Dr. Blume. “Then, ask for the next steps in the interview process.”
When you’ve made the proper preparations for a virtual interview, your confidence and competence will come across on camera and help you make a great impression—and land the job.