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Job interview tips: How to navigate virtual interviews
Globally, COVID-19 has seen much of the workforce move from physical, face-to-face interaction to the virtual, online world.
As a result, recruiters and hiring managers are requiring candidates to get organised and prepared quick-smart, ensuring they are set up with the right technology, connections and etiquette to be able to conduct a job interview virtually.
FaceTime, Facebook Messenger and even Instagram Live and Stories have helped us to grow accustomed to communicating via screens (mainly on our mobile phones or tablets).
But while we stick to our social distancing and self-isolation for the foreseeable future, there are numerous considerations to be across when you need to conduct an online job interview.
Importantly, just because you are not physically present does not make the interview any less formal.
So what are the common platforms used by recruiters and hiring managers when you can’t physically meet at an office or worksite?
A simple Google or YouTube search can provide you with a quick introduction, tour and tutorial of how these platforms work. By doing so, you’ll avoid any additional stress that comes with navigating new technology – you’re dealing with enough pressure for the interview as it is.
Virtual interview preparation tips
Ahead of the interview, make sure you’re well prepared and ready to go. Here’s what to consider.
Do a test run with a friend or family member
Check connection, lag, microphone, volume, lighting and outside noise. If you already know the platform that will be used for the video interview, create an invite with a friend, and test to make sure the link or app opens up and connects successfully.
Plan your interview attire
Your interview attire should be what you would otherwise wear to a face-to-face interview. Some candidates think that just because they’re at home means they can stay casually dressed. That will not bode well with the recruiter or hiring manager. At the same time, only dressing your top half should be done with caution – people have been known to stand up or grab a glass of water, only to reveal they are not appropriately dressed for their bottom half.
Have a glass of water nearby
You may get a dry throat from talking and getting up to leave the interview is not only rude but it will ruin the momentum.
Have a pen, notepad, questions and your CV in front of you
A video interview from home means taking notes or referring to your CV and list of questions is generally acceptable, as long as you’re not fully relying on them or causing you to forget to interact.
Virtual interview techniques to land the job
Once you’re set up and ready to go, keep these tips in mind to perform your best during the interview.
Wait for your turn to speak
Have you ever noticed the slight lag on video calls? That’s usually caused by low signal strength on either end, and can lead to awkward moments as each person tries to speak over the other. To help the conversation flow smoothly, wait a beat longer than you usually would before you speak – otherwise your interviewer might not have finished their sentence.Show you’re engaged and try to make a connection
Natural physical cues are diminished due to screens. Show engagement by nodding your head or responding every few minutes. You will otherwise appear bored or not focusing on the discussion. Also find a way to establish rapport so that the video interview is not so clinical.
Look at the camera
It may feel strange staring at the little dot of your webcam, however you will come across as more engaged with the interviewer. Looking into the camera ensures the person conducting the interview feels like you’re making eye contact. On the flipside, it’s easy to get caught up staring at your own reflection on the screen which can make you seem aloof. If seeing yourself is going to be a distraction, try covering up your image with a sticky note.
Think about your surroundings
The key is to make your home, or wherever you’re conducting the interview, appear as professional as possible. That means setting yourself up in a room free of clutter. You don’t want a bunch of family photos or your favourite artwork distracting the interviewer – keep a clear background to keep the focus on you. Additionally, test out different lighting options until you find the one that works best. It looks better when you’re facing a light source – if the light is behind you, you’ll be hidden in shadow.
Turning your phone on silent is just the beginning – think about anything else that could distract you during your interview. Shut down any internet tabs that might grab your attention and turn off email alerts. If you live with other people, make sure they know not to disturb you, and to be quiet. If you have a noisy pet, move it to another room.
Have a backup
Do you have contact details for your interviewer? These are essential in case of any technological mishaps. An added bonus is that you have an email address to send a polite follow up and thank you message a few days after your interview.
Phone interview tips
Of course, not all virtual interviews are by video – some job interviews are conducted by phone as well. Although phone interviews are sometimes scheduled in advance, they can also happen out of the blue – so it’s best to be prepared and answer the phone professionally at all times.
Here are our top tips on how to interview over the phone and prepare for a phone interview.
How to prepare for a phone interview
Just like a face-to-face interview, it’s important to prepare talking points about your key strengths and weaknesses, and to research the company ahead of time. With that in mind, do the following:
- Create a checklist of your strengths, qualifications, and achievements: Getting caught off-guard can make it difficult to sell yourself, so write down a list of your strengths and qualifications and keep it with you for that moment the phone rings.
- Practice the interview: It may make you feel self-conscious, but talking out loud and practising your wording in advance will help you be clear and concise during the phone interview.
- Make note of key points about each company: Most phone interviewers won’t expect you to have memorised every single aspect of a company’s values and goals but showing that you understand the basics will go a long way to proving that you’re committed and switched-on.
- Think about questions you want to ask: A telephone interview is as good a chance as any to ask questions about the role or the company if you’re not sure whether it’s right for you. Avoid topics like salary and employee perks, but feel free to ask the interviewer to expand on the job description or the broader company.
How to handle a phone interview
When the time comes, follow these tips for a successful phone interview:
- Take your time answering questions: It’s perfectly acceptable to think about what you want to say before responding to a question, so don’t be afraid to stop and take a breath to collect your thoughts before answering.
- Focus and listen: It can be easy to get caught up thinking about your half of the conversation and fail to listen to the interviewer. Focus on listening to what the interviewer is saying, and ask for clarification if you need to.
- Take notes: It can be difficult to remember what you’ve talked about after a phone interview (especially if it was spontaneous), so jot down key points that you can refer to later.
- Be polite: Remember that a phone interview is no different than a face-to-face interview when it comes to etiquette, so keep it friendly but professional at all times.
- Keep your answers concise: Often, telephone interviewers are a quick way of judging your suitability for a role, so stay focused on the questions and keep your answers specific.
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