Job interviews are nerve-wracking no matter how they take place, but virtual interviews are especially daunting. You’re trying to connect with the interviewers while dealing with the ins and outs of cameras, background noises, and potential internet troubles.
However, if you take time in advance to make sure you’re set up for success — if you follow these virtual interview tips — you can ensure you’ll able to put your best foot forward, even from hundreds (or thousands) of miles away.
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What to expect from a virtual interview
A great virtual interview should have a lot of the same ingredients as an in-person one! But instead of the formalities of handshakes and figuring out which chair to sit at in the conference room, you’ll click a link and drop into a video call, where hopefully your interviewer will be waiting.
How to prepare for a virtual interview
Follow these 10 tips to prepare for your virtual interview and make sure you’re set up for success when it starts.
1. Ensure you have a fast, reliable internet connection
If a tree falls in the woods, does anyone hear it? If a new scientific breakthrough is shared on a crummy connection, is it still brilliant?
A poor connection means you risk unclear audio on the call, which is a real deal breaker. No matter what excellent preparation you do for the call, if your interviewers can’t hear you or if your video freezes, you’re cooked.
In case you’re curious about your internet speed, sites like Speedtest are great for measuring your bandwidth. It’s also a good idea to close out of any other programs that might be slowing down your computer or hogging data before your interview starts.
2. Get the hardware you need
Whenever possible, always do your video call on a laptop with a webcam! It’s a better experience for you and those on the other end; joining a video call from a mobile phone can come across unprofessional if not done properly. If you have to take the call from your phone, try to get a stand to stabilize things.
Pro tip: Always wear headphones on a video call, especially if it’s an interview! You’ll get clearer audio, reduce the chances that you’ll get an echo, and minimize surprise background noise. While you can go as fancy as you’d like on a headset, the earbuds with a microphone that come with most mobile phones will also do the trick.
How to position the webcam for a virtual interview
Try to position the webcam just above eye level and about two feet away from you. If you’re working with a smaller laptop and don’t have a laptop stand, you can always sit your laptop on top of some books during your interview to get your webcam slightly above eye level.
3. Master your tools
Remote interviews are unique in that your relationship with your potential new employer is brokered by technology, not by sharing space and connecting in the same room.
Take the time to learn and get comfortable with any tools that will power your interview. This way, the technology will blend seamlessly into the background so your human connection will shine through.
Check to see if you need to set up an account or download new software for the video call service you’ll be using for the interview. You don’t want to be late to join the call on the big day because you didn’t download a plugin.
Make sure you know how to manage the audio inputs/outputs on your computer, as well as how to adjust the audio in the video call service.
Practice muting and unmuting yourself, sharing your screen, and so on.
How early should you show up for a virtual interview?
Join the video call right on your scheduled time! Unlike in-person interviews, there isn’t a lobby to hang around in while your interviewer gets ready. The person conducting the call needs a chance to fire up the video call, so arriving early might not always go as planned in a virtual context.
4. Set the stage
Fire up a practice call using the software your interviewers plan to use, then:
Decide how you’re going to sit in relation to the camera.
Check your background to make sure there’s nothing in the shot that would detract from your interview.
If you’re using multiple monitors, set them up so that you’ll be looking directly into the camera on the screen ahead of you. Otherwise, your interviewers will be looking at the side of your face, and you’ll look unfocused.
5. Light from the front
To look your best on a video call, you want to remember to have your light source in front of you. While it might be tempting to show off your sweeping window view, being backlit will lead to shadowing your face — and a weird interview experience!
Since you probably don’t have ring lights and fancy light gear lying around, place yourself facing a window to take advantage of natural light. If you don’t have a good window to use, find a table lamp and place it a foot or so in front of you, then fire up the video call to test what you see.
Light from the front 👍
What should you wear to a virtual interview?
Is this a formal interview or a casual chat? Either way, leave your worn out, hole-riddled Backstreet Boys t-shirt in the drawer for this one. Wear what feels good, but keep it simple and professional.
6. Go somewhere quiet
Don’t try to conduct an interview from a coffee shop! Background noise will be distracting, and you want to eliminate the potential for interruptions (unless you want something like this to happen, adorable as it was).
7. Turn off notifications
Your video interview won’t start with a reel from the movies asking you to turn off your cell phone, so add this to your pre-interview checklist! Also make sure to turn off notifications for other online services that might ping, ring, or otherwise play a jaunty tune and distract you from your interview.
Sign out of messaging services, turn on do-not-disturb in any tool you can’t close, close out of social media sites that give you notifications, and close any browser windows or tabs that might surprise you with an auto-play video.
8. Adjust what you can see
Video calls allow you to see yourself and the person or team of people you’re speaking with on-screen. Experiment with how these windows are displayed so you can find the right arrangement for your call.
Pro tip: Place the video window as close to your actual webcam as possible so when you’re looking at the interviewer, you’ll also be looking at the webcam.
9. Do a test run
On the day of your interview, you don’t want the technology that is allowing you the opportunity to work at a remote company to trip you up! Practice so that the technology will feel invisible to you and your interviewer. You can practice with anyone — it doesn’t have to be a professional connection.
If you’re struggling to think of someone who would practice with you, use this as an opportunity to reconnect with a friend or family member with whom you haven’t spoken in a while. If you’re not used to video calls, you’ll have a nice chance to experience the richer connection of witnessing each other’s reactions on camera in real time.
10. Have a backup plan
No matter how much you prepare, a video tool can break, and your call can fizzle out into the electronic ether. Do a test run the day of your interview to make sure everything is still working, and be prepared to send an alternate suggestion, such as a traditional phone call, to the interviewers in case your technology fails.
How to stand out in a virtual interview
Once you have your quiet corner with reliable internet picked out and a laptop charged and ready, you’re almost ready to wow your interviewer. But consider these things for the big dance:
Look into the webcam! I know that might feel unnatural, but it will give the interviewer the sense that you’re making eye contact and paying attention to what they’re saying.
Don’t move! Okay, so that’s not entirely reasonable, but try not to fidget, swivel your chair, type on the keyboard, or leave the frame of the video chat. It’s distracting and feels off-putting.
Set any note-taking expectations. Taking notes during an interview is encouraged, but if you plan to type notes on the same device from which you’ll be taking the call, let your interviewers know so they’ll know you aren’t being rude or distracted.
If something happens with the connection, be honest! Everyone understands that a video call can have some glitches, so it’s always okay to ask someone to repeat something because the screen froze temporarily.
Have fun. Smiling, laughing, and showing you’re enjoying the video chat are absolutely encouraged.
What to do after a virtual interview
As with an in-person interview, it’s always a nice touch to send your interviewer a short email thanking them for their time and to leave a lasting impression. This is a great moment to reiterate your excitement about the team and the opportunity as well!
Here’s how to craft a post-interview thank-you note that’s customizable to your unique strengths and character.
It’s show time!
In the end, interviewing for a remote job is no different than interviewing for any job at a co-located company: You need to convey your passion for the company and display what value you can add to their business.
Preparing thoughtfully so you’ll have comfort and confidence in the technology powering your call will allow you to focus on the important work of presenting yourself as an excellent candidate and knocking your interview out of the park.
Originally written by Mel Larsen and published in March 2017, this post has been updated with some great new tips for acing a virtual job interview.
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