Due to Covid-19, nearly all interviewing is now done virtually. This means that, pretty soon, you'll likely have a virtual interview. And when you do, you'll want to be prepared. So, here are three essential tips for virtual interviewing, along with a checklist that will help you the day before, the day of, and during your virtual interview.
1. Deliver shorter responses
During in-person interviews, interviewers’ biggest distractions tend to be their thoughts. Thoughts about the next step of their projects or how your voice reminds them of their favorite uncle bounce in and out of their heads. When you’re in the same room as your interviewer—during in-person interviews—ignoring thoughts like these is relatively easy for interviewers, thanks to social norms and a low level of distractions. Only when you deliver several responses that last longer than two minutes will your interviewer’s ability to maintain focus begin to be compromised.
However, when interviewers aren't in the same room as you—when you're interviewing virtually—they can be easily distracted. Think about the last time you attended an online lecture or dialed in for a Zoom meeting. You probably placed your microphone on mute as you conducted other activities. Even if your microphone wasn't muted, your eyes probably wandered and you distracted yourself with items on your desk as you engaged in conversation.
Your interviewers will be tempted to do the same. That’s why it’s important to deliver shorter responses to questions in virtual interviews. By giving answers that are no longer than one minute and 30 seconds, you'll reduce the likelihood of interviewers’ focus succumbing to the extra distractions around them.
2. Avoid using notes
Don't use notes in a virtual interview. You might think because interviewers can’t see your notes that they don’t know you’re using any. If you think that, you’re wrong. Your eyes and speaking will give it away. If you have your notes nearby, your eyes will be tempted to glance at them for reassurance, even when you don’t need them. Interviewers will see your eyes dart away from the screen and notice atypical speech patterns that will inform them you’re using notes. That will make you seem unprepared and less believable. Do yourself a favor and keep your notes far from your reach, just like you would during an in-person interview.
3. Increase voice and facial expressions
Keeping answers shorter than in-person interviews is not the only way you can maintain interviewers’ attention. You should also use your voice and facial expressions to be more interesting than the Rubik’s cube on their desk. During virtual interviews, your camera should focus on the top third of your body. This means you’ll lose the ability to leverage many aspects of body language. So, you'll want to use a combination of widening and narrowing your eyes, furrowing and raising your brow, as well as thoughtful glances to the side to enhance your believability and keep the viewer engaged. Don’t be the candidate who speaks in a monotone with few facial expressions beyond blinking. Also, make sure you’re looking into the camera, not at the screen.
You’ll set yourself up for a high-quality virtual interview if you take the steps of shortening your delivery, not using notes, and increasing voice and facial expressions. Those steps are the most overlooked and impactful when it comes to virtual interviewing. However, there are a few other tips to keep in mind when you’re participating in virtual interviews that require less explanation. Below is a checklist to follow to make sure you perform your best during virtual interviews.
Day before the interview
- Find a quiet, private room (ideally with natural light)
- Identify the communication device you’ll use (phone/laptop/tablet)
- Download or update and test software if necessary
- Use a professional email and screen name when you create a profile on the interview platform (First name_Last name)
Day of the interview
- Wear the same attire you would for an in-person interview
- Make sure communication devices are charged before interviewing
- Print a hard copy of your resume to reference if needed
- Find a pen and paper to take notes during the interview
- Fill up a water bottle to keep nearby in case your mouth dries out during the interview
- Move any pets to another room
- Position lamp or window diagonal to where you’ll sit to make your face easy to see
- Select a plain wall for your background
- Arrange the camera so it’s at eye level and hands-free
- Test your camera video and audio functionality
- Place device chargers within arm’s reach
- Place a sign outside of the room that says, “Quiet please: Interviewing”
- Close all nonessential apps and programs on your devices
- Turn off call waiting on your phone
- Turn off laptop notification sounds
During the interview
- Avoid using the speaker phone
- Don’t eat, chew gum, or sip your water excessively
- Say “pardon me,” mute your microphone, and turn away from the camera if you need to cough, sneeze, or wipe your nose
- Keep answers short (less than 90 seconds)
- Be expressive with your face and voice
- Look into the camera, not at the screen
- Remain calm if there are any technology issues
This post was excerpted from the forthcoming Vault Guide to Behavioral Interviews.
David Solloway is a career consultant, life coach, and cross-cultural training/development specialist. He works as the assistant director for Daytime MBA Career Services at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and is a co-author of the Vault Guide to the International MBA Job Search.