If you've landed on this post, it's likely that your resume has impressed the hiring manager(s) at the company you're applying to work for, and you've now been invited to a virtual interview. That's a huge accomplishment.
- What is a virtual interview?
- How to Prepare for Virtual Interviews
- Virtual Interview Tips
- Automated Virtual Interview Tips
What is a virtual interview?
A virtual interview is a job interview that takes place remotely via video conferencing rather than a face-to-face meeting.
How to Prepare For Virtual Video Interviews
There’s something about remote interviews that can make the interview process more daunting. For some, it’s the risk of technical difficulties. For others, it’s the inability to read full body language.
However, virtual interviews can actually be better than face-to-face meetings. For one, you don’t have to travel, giving you more time to prepare and get yourself ready. Secondly, you can have some notes on your screen to help you hit some key points during your conversations.
Just like a traditional interview, a video interview is your moment to sell yourself to the interviewer and put a personality behind your amazing resume.
In fact, it’s what Shavon Bell, former executive recruiter at HubSpot, looks for when speaking with candidates.
“I recognize it can be challenging for a senior leader to fit all of their experience into a two-page document, so don't leave anything to be assumed during exploratory conversations or an interview, tell your story the way you want it to be told — transparency is key," she says.
Telling your story is what will set you apart from others – but that's not all. It's also important to know the story behind the company you're interviewing with.
For Kate Kearns, one of HubSpot's campus recruiters, showing that you've done your research on the company will make you stand out.
"Take some time to make sure you are prepared to answer questions testing your knowledge of the company and role," she says.
Think about what hiring managers want to know about you during your short time talking. It’s not as easy to make a connection virtual, so finding ways to do so naturally will likely raise your interview score.
For example, explain how the role will help you reach your professional and personal goals. Identify what you can add to the company, and mention those superstar qualities about your talent that will make the hiring manager go to bat for you.
Next, we're going to go over some tips you can follow for video interviews, but if you would like more information about preparing for an interview, check out this interview kit.
8 Virtual Video Interview Tips
It's the big day. Or, as those in the theater call it, opening night.
The task at hand: sell yourself. Don't let the screen interrupt the purpose of the interview. You know you have what it takes to land that role, and with these tips, you'll knock that interview out of the park.
1. Dress to impress your interviewer.
As The Office character Michael Scott says, "I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious."
That's where my lucky interview blazer comes in. Every time I have a video interview so does my blazer: I never start one without it.
Even though your interview will be through a screen, dressing for the interview communicates to the interviewer that you still know how to maintain professionalism in a virtual setting.
So, even though you might be in your bedroom, or sitting at your kitchen table, make sure you're in your business best. This can be a button-down shirt, a blazer, a suit, or simple jewelry.
2. Keep your notes accessible.
If you're someone who finds it helpful to refer to notes when interviewing, keep them in front of you.
For me, it's helpful to have my LinkedIn profile and resume open in another window, with sections I know I want to mention highlighted or bolded. This helps to make a quick reference.
Why it works: By already having those reference points accessible, you won't forget anything important.
3. Test your technology beforehand.
You will be notified of the software you need to have in order to successfully complete your interview well in advance. Maximize this time, download the software if you haven't already, and make sure you understand the basics of how it works.
This is also a great time to test how your webcam interacts with the software. No two video technology services are the same. So, you'll want to test:
Pro-tip: Frame your camera so that the interviewer can see your face down to your shoulders and that there are a few inches of room above your head.
4. Maintain eye contact with your interviewer.
Remember: The only difference between a video interview and a traditional interview is that you aren't in the same room as your interviewer. That said, be sure to maintain eye contact with your interviewer.
You might have other distractions, things that are unavoidable when working from home, such as family or roommates. The best way to maintain professionalism regardless of the outside environment is to keep eye contact and make sure the interviewer knows you are engaged. After all, they will be keeping eye contact with you.
Pro-tip: If you’re using two monitors, be sure to talk and look at the screen with the camera. Otherwise, the interviewer will look at your profile and be wondering what else you’re looking at.
5. Minimize possible distractions.
Even though there might be uncontrollable distractions, there are distractions that you can control. For instance, keep your phone away from you. Turn it over and put it on silent or in another room.
Additionally, if you plan to conduct your interview outside of an office setting, like a kitchen or a bedroom, be sure there’s nothing distracting in the background like a mess or people walking by.
Be sure to clean up your background so that the focus stays on you or use a background blur filter if your software allows.
Lastly, inform any roommates that you will be in a meeting during the time so that you’re not interrupted.
6. Set up proper lighting.
Because you won’t be meeting your interview in person, it’s important that they can clearly see you on video.
When you’re testing your technology, this is the perfect time to also test your lighting. Ideally, you can sit in front of a window to benefit from natural lighting.
If that’s not possible, you may need to buy a desk lamp to help illuminate your full face.
Pro-tip: When using a desk lamp, don’t aim the lamp right on your face. Instead, direct it to the wall and let the light reflect back to your face. This will give you more natural, diffused light instead of a harsh light with hot spots.
7. Be early to each round.
This is a chance to go over notes and take a few deep breaths to stay calm and motivated. It makes a big difference to go into an interview calmly and composed, rather than rushing to join the video call after a quick bathroom break.
This doesn't mean that you have to sit around on Zoom or Skype 20 minutes prior to your interview start time. However, do try to be five minutes early for each interview round.
8. Speak loudly and clearly.
If you have a soft voice, be mindful of speaking loudly enough so your microphone will pick up your voice. Video interviewers have a little less to go from, and if they can't hear you, they won't be able to assess your answers.
To prepare for this, record yourself saying the lyrics to your favorite song with the video software you will be using. Take time to separate the words, and listen back for volume control.
In essence, a traditional video interview is one that you can complete from your own space. Fixing up this space to be interview-ready can be a challenge, but you don't have to completely alter the functionality of the room. Just be sure you're communicating yourself and your professionalism.
Now, what if your interview doesn’t include an interviewer? That means it will likely be automated. Let's go over what that means, and provide tips on how to master them.
What is an automated video interview?
Automated video interviews are interviews in which the interviewee must answer prompts that appear on their computer screen within a certain time limit. This can either be done in a written format or in a call-and-response format.
These interviews take an in-person interviewer out of the equation. Instead, your interviewer will be a series of questions that you'll have an allotted amount of time to read and comprehend. Then, you will record your responses via video or text, depending on the instructions.
How do you successfully complete one? Let’s cover some best practices.
Automated Video Interview Tips
- Test your technology in advance.
- Do a trial run beforehand.
- Speak steadily and concisely.
- Be cognizant of body language.
- Make sure you understand the prompts.
- Don't overthink the interview.
- Give it your best shot.
When the interviewer is merely represented by words on a screen, it can be an unnerving experience trying to prepare for the interview questions. But don't fear, these tips will help you make sure you have all your bases covered to ace your automated interview.
1. Test your technology in advance.
When you receive your automated interview invitation, make sure you have the correct software needed. For instance, if your automated video is hosted using a third-party app that you have to download, make sure you have it beforehand.
Additionally, test your tools:
- Is your webcam working?
- Is your microphone turned on?
- Is your keyboard properly working?
- Is your face illuminated or do you need better lighting?
All of these questions will be imperative to your success in an automated interview — there's nothing worse than realizing something’s wrong once the timer starts.
2. Do a trial run beforehand.
Think about the questions you might be asked during the interview. Then, record yourself answering them on a time limit. Note: this will feel weird and unnatural.
However, timing your answers and analyzing your body language will help avoid those intrusive interview thoughts of, "Will I have enough time?" and "How am I coming across?"
Treat the trial as if it's a real interview: dress for the occasion and rehearse earnestly.
3. Speak steadily and concisely.
My biggest fear when I was interacting with my first automated video interview was having enough time to get all of my thoughts out. My advice is to trust the time limit. Chances are, most of your in-person interview responses take the same amount of time the automation allows.
That said, you'll have more than enough time to speak steadily. When you practice, take note of your sentence flow and be mindful of how fast you're speaking.
On the other hand, your answers should get to the point — avoid fluff so you can get to all the points of the question.
4. Be cognizant of body language.
During in-person interviews, you're likely hyper-focused on body language. Automated interviews should be no different, especially if you are recording your answers with video.
Remember to treat these interviews as if they're with another person (More often than not, real people will be assessing your answers.)
Make eye contact with the web camera or the screen in front of you and maintain a professional posture.
5. Don't overthink the interview.
Automated interviews usually provide clear instructions and more than enough time to answer the question.
In fact, automated interviews can be quite fun; you'll have the opportunity to present yourself in a new way, and to do so within the comfort of your own space.
6. Make sure you understand the prompts.
Once you receive your prompts, take the time to read, comprehend, and form your answer before you record.
You won't be able to ask the prompt for clarification and you may not be able to re-record your answer once you send it in. With this in mind, don’t rush into recording. Take the time to ensure you understand the question and know how you will deliver your answer.
However, just like in in-person interviews, mistakes happen. If you flub a word, misspeak, or want to change your answer mid-way, it’s not the end of the world. Continue on confidently.
You’re human and the person reviewing your interview is too.
7. Give it your best shot.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make during an automated interview is not answering a question. Even if you are unsure of what the question is asking, take your best shot. You can always restate what you believe the question is asking in the interview to clear up confusion.
If the prompt asks you to detail a situation you've never been in before, instead of leaving the answer field blank, or answering the question by saying, "I don't know, I've never encountered that," explain how you would approach the situation instead.
It looks way better hiring managers for an answer to start with, "I've never come across this situation in particular, but if I had, this is how I would approach it," other than no answer at all. Remember, these situational questions are to demonstrate your problem-solving skills in a work environment.
Overall, take a deep breath. Your resume has already impressed the company, and the purpose of the interview is to make sure you can back up your experience. Give the interviewer, whether automated or in-person, a chance to get to know you, your personality, and your professionalism.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.