Making sure you have a distraction-free background and testing technology are crucial elements of a successful virtual interview
by Bethan Rees
With many offices remaining empty as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, companies are opting for virtual interviews as their preferred recruitment method. The questions may be similar, but there are other aspects of the interview a candidate needs to think about in advance.
Setting the scene
Previously, a candidate would meet the hiring manager in an office, or possibly a public space, but now it is at home. A Glassdoor article by Dominique Fluker outlines some steps to take in making sure the space you're being interviewed in is appropriate and not distracting.
She says it's "essential to choose a quiet, well-lit, neutral and clean space to conduct your interview", as it gives an "intimate glimpse into your personal life". In a Forbes article, Joseph Liu asks Kevin Parker, CEO of HireVue (a provider of virtual interview technology), about some of the biggest mistakes candidates can make. "While video interviews are very convenient, they still require a bit of planning," Parker says. He recommends finding a location where you won't be disturbed and suggests making sure that any bright light (window or lamp) is coming from in front of you, rather than behind, as this can cause issues for the camera.
"Video interviews introduce the question of how you operate under stress"
In another Forbes article, career coach Kathy Caprino says that if you can, you should show your real background, rather than using a blur effect or simulated background. "I suggest going the more authentic route, showing the actual room where you're speaking from, if it's suitable. Often, virtual backgrounds create more distraction and a [greater] sense of artificiality than is effective for an interview," she says.
A distraction-free zone is important for a virtual interview, but sometimes life doesn't allow that to happen. In a CNN Business article Kathryn Vasel suggests that if your interview is interrupted by a child or a pet, for example, "use this moment to your advantage". She quotes Ian Siegel, co-founder and CEO of ZipRecruiter, in the article. He suggests if you are interrupted to laugh and not get frustrated. "Video interviews introduce the question of how you operate under stress and you have the opportunity to show versus tell."
Test the technology
There's no point in having the perfect setting if the technology doesn't work properly. Even if it's worked before, you should test it again, before the day of the interview and on the day of the interview, too.
Fluker recommends double-checking your WiFi, camera and audio and video conferencing platforms to make sure they all work. She writes: "Being technologically savvy is a coveted skill that employers are looking for, and by not doing your due diligence to ensure that you're good to go in the technology realm, you could have the hiring manager or interviewer questioning if you're the right candidate for the position."
You could try doing a run-through with a friend or family member the day before and on the day, to make sure everything is working as it should. Some video conferencing technologies also have the option to do tests for audio and video.
Make sure you prepare
As with any other interview, preparation is key and a virtual interview is no different. You may feel more comfortable doing an interview from home, but don't let that change your attitude towards preparation.
"You should be ready to speak in-depth about why you want to join the organisation, how the company mission resonates with you and the value you will bring to the specific role,” writes Fluker.
"If you're a novice at online meetings or interviewing, practise and practise some more"
Parker (as quoted by Liu) suggests having a list of stories and experiences that you can apply to the different types of questions the interviewers might ask. "Think about the job or role description and how your experiences can fit that role ahead of time," Parker says.
Practising with a friend or a 'coaching buddy' could help you prepare too, reports Caprino. "If you're a novice at online meetings or interviewing, practise and practise some more. Have a friend or coaching buddy role-play the interview and record your online meeting. Have them ask some tough questions that many interviewers will ask and get very clear and comfortable with how you'll answer these questions," she writes.
Dress to impress
While it may be tempting to wear comfortable, casual clothes for your virtual interview, you should wear what you would wear if it were face-to-face. "When you put your best foot forward by dressing professionally, it will show the interviewer that you are serious about the position," Fluker says.
A career guide by job site Indeed suggests that wearing professional attire can help you feel more prepared and confident. "If you're unsure, business casual is a good standard to follow. A great outfit example for men and women is a button-down shirt and blazer with trousers," the guide says.
Will virtual interviews become a sustained part of the 'new normal'? Leave your comments below.