7 Tips to Help You Prepare for a Virtual Job Interview

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As technology continues to advance and remote work becomes a mainstream arrangement, more and more companies are conducting virtual rather than in-person job interviews. When you get to the bottom of it, there’s little difference—the employer merely wants to assess whether you’d be a good fit for their company, which is just as possible to do online as in person. Being in the same room with someone can make it easier to connect and engage on a human level, but virtual job interviews also have their advantages.

Regardless of which format your interview will follow, some of the steps are the same, but preparing for a virtual job interview does require a few extra considerations. On the other hand, there are some things you don’t need to worry about, such as the traffic situation. The most important piece of advice we can offer is to take your virtual job interview as seriously as you would an in-person meeting. 

Just because your interview is online doesn’t mean it’s any less serious or formal than a meeting in an office. You’re still the same person with the same qualifications and communication skills. You’re applying for the same job, saying the same things and behaving in the same way as you would in person. The interview has the same power to affect your career path. You still have to make a great first impression, look the part, answer the questions thoughtfully and honestly, ask your own questions to show your interest and enthusiasm for the role, and handle any unexpected technical issues. 

Still, don’t let all of that scare you. A virtual interview also means you don’t have to worry about commuting or bad weather, so you can stay focused on the conversation between you and the person on your screen. It’s just a different environment to adapt to—that’s all.

If you’re feeling anxious about your upcoming job interview, set up a mock interview with one of our job success experts, who will give you constructive feedback so you can face the interviewer with confidence. 

So, how can you prepare for a virtual job interview? 

1. Check your tech

The success of a virtual job interview depends not only on how well-prepared you are but also on your tech, which is why it’s crucial to test your equipment beforehand and make sure all is running smoothly. Once you know which platform you’ll be using for your video call, do a test call so you can familiarize yourself with the interface. You don’t need to become an expert in the software, but you want to avoid your unfamiliarity causing delays and hiccups, which will reflect poorly on you, even if your experience with this platform is otherwise irrelevant to the job. 

Check that your audio and video are clear and that your internet connection is strong and steady—try to do this well in advance to troubleshoot in case anything goes wrong. If your internet connection is too weak, consider asking a relative or a friend with a stronger connection to do the interview at their place. If your audio and video aren’t clear enough, it may be worth it to invest in a better mic and webcam, especially if the new job is likely to require virtual meetings.

When the day of the interview arrives, make sure to set everything up and do a test run at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the meeting. This gives you time to resolve any minor tech issues you may encounter.

2. Pick your spot

One of the most critical elements of a virtual job interview is the spot you pick for the video call. Choose one where you’ll be comfortable and have a stable surface for your device, and make sure your face is well-lit, but be mindful of how the light hits you. For example, overhead lights can cast strange shadows and make you look weird, a strong backlight will plunge you into darkness, and lights from the side can cause a glare on your screen. 

Move around until you find the perfect (preferably natural) light source that illuminates your face from the front without making you squint your eyes. Consider the time of day, which can affect the lighting. Obviously, a hiring manager wouldn’t cross you off the candidate list simply because your lighting was off, but the impression you give can impact your chances of landing the job. The lighting can affect the interviewer’s perception of you even if they don’t realize it, so take it seriously.

Also, choose a spot where noises, whether from the inside or the outside, won’t interfere with the conversation. For example, you can’t stop sirens from blaring outside, but you can close the window to dull the racket. If you’re sharing the space with others, try to pick a spot where you won’t be interrupted and other people won’t be moving around behind you. Some things are beyond your control, and the hiring manager understands that, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do everything you can to ensure your interview is conducted in a quiet, professional-looking spot.

3. Prep your space

What the interviewer sees around and behind you is just as important as their being able to see your face clearly. Therefore, make sure the space visible on your camera is uncluttered, clean, aesthetically pleasing, and free of bulky decorations or bright colors that will distract from your onscreen presence. Think of your environment as an extension of yourself since the hiring manager will use your background to gain insight into your personality. Your surroundings can also impact their opinion of you subconsciously, so you’ll want to consider the appearance of your space just as seriously as your own appearance.

Look for neutral walls and a comfortable seat where your screen is at eye level, and try to keep your bed, bathroom, and kitchen out of sight. When in doubt, it’s better to find a white wall than to use a virtual background, which can make you look unprofessional. Flowers or books can be a nice touch if you don’t want to be sitting in a completely blank space, but keep in mind that less is more in this situation. Depending on what your space looks like, you may need some time to clean things up, so make sure to consider your environment well in advance.

4. Be ready early

You’ve already picked the perfect spot for your interview, made sure your device is charged and connected to the internet, and done a test call to check your sound and video. Nevertheless, you should still be ready to start the interview about five minutes early. Give yourself enough time to put on something comfortable and appropriate and to groom yourself, just as you would if you were going to an in-person job interview. Make sure you check your teeth and hair in the mirror, put your phone on silent (turn off vibrations, too—you don’t want your phone buzzing in the middle of the conversation), and open the video call link so that you’re already there waiting when the interviewer appears. 

This is no different from an in-person interview—it’s considered best practice to show up 10 to 15 minutes early when you’re interviewing on site. Whether your interview is online or in person, you don’t want to be rushing as this will fray your nerves, so giving yourself enough time will allow you to remain calm, collected, and confident.

5. Make eye contact and listen carefully

Since a computer screen can dull interactions, it’s imperative that you make eye contact and listen carefully to the interviewer. However, keep in mind that “eye contact” on a video call isn’t the same as in person. Certain non-verbal aspects of communication are inevitably lost in a video call, making things such as eye contact even more important. 

Try to keep your eyes on your camera rather than on the screen, which can feel weird and awkward at first. Still, if selfies have taught us anything over the years, it’s that the “eye” of the beholder is met by looking into the lens, not the other person’s face. If necessary, practice this in calls with family members or friends to get used to it before your interview.

Listen carefully to everything the interviewer is saying and asking, and wait until you’re sure they’ve finished speaking before you start—sometimes, there’s a lag and you don’t want to interrupt or talk over them. Even if you have a stable internet connection, little hiccups are normal, so situations like this are sometimes inevitable, but you want to avoid them as much as possible. 

Also, make sure you speak clearly so you can be easily heard and understood, and use headphones or external speakers if your device doesn’t have the best volume or sound quality. Opt for headphones if possible because the sound from speakers can reverberate and produce an echo on the other side, which is distracting and makes it difficult to understand what’s being said.

6. Be mindful of your body language

Although the interviewer won’t be able to see your entire body, they will see your posture and gestures, so be mindful of how you’re sitting and how much you’re waving your hands around. Sit up straight and stay conscious of your facial expressions, which can sometimes speak louder than words. Just imagine you’re doing an in-person interview and behave as you would there—in other words, assume that the interviewer can see everything.

It can be awkward to sit in front of a camera and act as if you’re sitting in front of another person in an office, but you want to be as natural as you can. It’s great to have good energy—you don’t want to sit there like a log—but avoid playing with your hair or touching your face too much as it can be very distracting for the person on the other end. 

7. Be prepared

Use the days leading up to the interview to prepare and practice. You want to make sure you’re ready to answer common interview questions and provide examples from your work history that highlight your relevant skills and experience. Even though you can’t know what questions they’ll ask, this practice is worth the effort—any job interview is likely to contain some version of the most common questions recruiters ask, and all you have to do is adapt your answer.

It’s okay to have a few notes on a piece of paper or another window on your screen, but try not to rely on those because it’s very easy to tell when someone is reading during a video call. You never want to recite a script in your job interview, anyway—even if you’ve memorized it, interviewers can tell when a candidate is or isn’t being authentic. Your notes should be nothing more than broad pointers. Don’t try to memorize your answers or you’ll sound over-rehearsed. What you want is to come across as genuine, authentic, and comfortable. 

Once you’ve aced your virtual job interview, check out our follow-up letter templates, which you can personalize and send to the interviewer as a thank-you note, thus standing out from the crowd and reinforcing your professionalism. This may feel insignificant, but it is an important step in the process, so don’t skip it. 

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