With the world still working through the societal changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with a strong majority of companies operating in a fully-remote or a hybrid (part in-office, part remote) capacity, there’s a good chance that if you’re in the job-seeking market, the interview process may take place virtually. Here are a few tips and reminders on how to make a good [virtual] first impression and secure your next big opportunity!
Check your Tech: Unlike the streamlined and efficient preparation of traditional face-to-face interviews, gearing up for a virtual interview is much more detail-oriented. Start by checking your computer’s connection to the internet with ample amount of time prior to the meeting; if the camera quality is lagging, or volume delayed, consider finding a different environment which a more stable connection (i.e. a family or friend’s unused office space). If an environment with better internet isn’t available, consider purchasing an ethernet cable, which will give your computer direct connection from the modem, rather than sharing with other devices. For a phone screening, be certain that your cell service is reliable, and consider a video/FaceTime call so verbal and non-verbal communication can be more easily interpreted. Always be sure to test the meeting software platform [i.e. Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.], download if needed and check for upgrades that may impact proper usage.
Setup your Space: Having a clean background, a properly formatted desktop, and adequate lighting can help provide an aesthetic advantage that enhances the professional ambiance. Consider using a riser or textbooks underneath the base of your computer to help raise the camera in line with your eyesight for a more direct means of communication. Similarly, good lighting allows the interviewee to focus more on your conversation and feel more physically engaged even though you may be a few hundred miles away. The overall look and feel of your space will likely provide the hiring manager with a bit of insight into your personality and organizational traits.
Prep yourself: It’s probable this thought has crossed your mind, “A virtual interview? I can just make a script of what I need to say!”Although the handiness of technology can give you the upper hand in a virtual interview, we recommend relying on practice rather than detailed notes. Having a few bullet points readily available never hurts, but employers are looking for the interviewee’s eye contact and focus, so continually looking away from the camera will ultimately make you seem distracted or uninterested. Review your notes, talking points, and questions a few times in the days leading up: an hour of scrolling through the company’s website, practicing classic interview questions, and understanding your compatibility with the role will help you to appear and feel confident and well prepared.
Be yourself: A main purpose of an interview is to exemplify that you’re qualified for the position, but more importantly, to sell your true self, and determine whether you fit the culture, atmosphere, and values of the hiring company. Strong manners, respect, and rhetoric are obvious keys to nailing an interview, but don’t focus on perfection. Use the same verbal and non-verbal communication as you would in-person. If you’re quirky, tell a few jokes, smile and laugh with the interviewer – allow for your authentic personality to be expressed. Be confident and real when explaining your strengths and weaknesses! Allowing your character to shine through helps hiring teams quickly determine if you’re a good fit for the company and culture vibe, which is key to moving forward with the hiring process!
Follow-Up: This is essential — within 24 hours of the meeting, reach out to the hiring team — either via LinkedIn, Email, etc. and thank them for their time. If you’re genuinely interested in the position, express your enthusiasm for next steps, and possibly a few take-aways from the meeting. Not only is a follow-up thank you a great courtesy, but it helps the interviewer recall their experience with you and reconfirms your interest!
Prepare, keep calm, be confident and be yourself — We have no doubt you’ll make a fabulous virtual first impression!