Preparing for a Virtual Interview
“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” – Yogi Berra
It’s early in 2021. Much of the world has adapted to virtual learning and remote working. With vaccines being distributed, the end of COVID-19 might finally be that small light at the end of the tunnel; however, that doesn’t mean everything will go back to the way we used to know things to be. Working remotely can be more efficient and cost-effective than a traditional office setting. Employers can save money by not having to pay rent for physical office spaces. Employees don’t have to sit through rush hour traffic and can work almost anywhere in the world, which can open up job opportunities there were previously out of reach. One thing is certain: virtual meetings are not going away completely anytime soon.
This is NOT a blog about how to get the interview for your dream job. This is NOT a blog about how to nail the interview once you get it. This IS a blog about how to prepare for your virtual interview.
Your resume is still just a technical snapshot of your experience and qualifications. Employers still want to know who YOU are. In person interviews are always the best way to get a full feel for a potential candidate. Phone calls are okay, but still leave much to be desired. So, in 2021, employers rely heavily on virtual interviews to vet their candidates. Let’s make sure that you know how to prepare for your virtual interview.
VIRTUAL MEETING PLATFORMS
The most popular virtual interview platforms are Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and GoToMeeting. They all come with free basic plans and they are all fairly easy to navigate, but they are all different and you should know about your interviewer’s preferred meeting platform BEFORE you start the interview.
First and foremost, you need a computer, laptop, or even a phone that can use the meeting software. The major meeting platforms are all compatible with Macs, PCs, Androids and iPhones, so that shouldn’t be a problem. But don’t wait until the last minute to download the app or software. If you miss your interview simply because the app took longer to download and install than you anticipated, you could have just lost that job.
Next, you need to know what platform your interviewer prefers. As soon as you know, download the app or install the software and set up your free account if you don’t already have it. And then OPEN IT. Make sure it works. Set up your screen name, your account information, your professional profile picture. Figure out where the control buttons are. How do you turn on your video and audio? How do you mute yourself? How do you share your screen if they need to see something on your screen? There really aren’t a lot of functional buttons to get to know, but it really makes a big difference if you don’t know where they are during the interview.
Should you use a headset with a microphone? Do you plug your headset in or is it wireless? Is your device compatible with your headset? Should you use the computer’s audio capabilities? Are you using a webcam? Will your laptop’s or phone’s camera work for the interview? How is your sound quality when you speak? In order to fully prepare for your virtual interview, these are all things you should know BEFOREHAND. Reach out to a friend, colleague or family member and ask them to engage in a virtual meeting with you through your interviewer’s preferred platform. Make sure whatever device and supporting hardware you use is visually & audibly clear and professional to whoever is on the other end of the meeting.
You do not need a fancy virtual background for the interview. You don’t need to go buy a greenscreen and create a virtual environment. If you do choose to use a virtual background, keep it simple and professional. Choose an office-looking room in a house, choose an actual office environment. The goal here is for the interview to be about YOU. You don’t want your interviewer distracted by your background. Don’t choose the bridge of the SS Enterprise from Star Trek or the locker room of the Miami Dolphins. Do not choose a background with a copyright watermark or company logo on it. Choose option three. A simple wall and bookshelf. It’s not flashy, but it will keep the attention on YOU.
Employer’s understand the world we live in right now and that you’re most likely going to be talking to them from home. The most important thing is to have a clean and distraction-free environment. If you’re in your living room, look at what your camera can see. Make sure your room isn’t cluttered. If there is a TV in the room, make sure it isn’t turned on. If you’re in the bedroom, make sure your bed is made and your laundry is out of site. Do not have your interview on your phone in your car during rush-hour traffic. (Yes, I’ve actually had a candidate lose a job because of that.) Also make sure that there is nothing in front of you that would distract you from the interview. You should treat the camera in front of you as if it was the interviewer.
You want an environment that is free from noises. Save the laundry or dirty dishes for another time. If you have pets, do your best to keep them quiet and out of the room. If there are other people in your living space, make sure they know you are going to be in an interview and allow you the space to be fully engaged in the interview.
YOUR CAMERA’S EYE
Just as important as making sure your device’s camera is working with the meeting platform is WHAT your camera sees. Turn on the camera in the meeting platform BEFORE the interview. You don’t want the camera pointing at your forehead. You don’t want the camera pointing straight up your nose. While you don’t need fancy lighting equipment, you want a well-lit area. A sunny window behind you can completely drown you out. Look at option four. That’s what you’re going for.
Generally, the accepted attire for virtual interviews is business casual. You don’t need a suit and tie, but you want more than a hoodie. A button-down shirt, a nice sweater, a blouse are all perfectly appropriate. For the love of all that is decent, wear PANTS. For many reasons. One, it puts you in the right frame of mind to be appropriately dressed for a professional interview. Second, you might think it’s obvious, but people have forgotten to turn off their video feed and stood up or walked away from their computer, revealing what they are (or are not) wearing. Finally, you might accidentally drop your phone, bump your computer or laptop affecting your camera’s angle. A technical oops shouldn’t turn into a wardrobe malfunction that could cost you the job.
I have to state a few other things you think would be obvious but just in case, in a blog about how to prepare for your virtual interview let’s cover all the bases. Do NOT get up and walk around holding your phone or laptop. Pick a spot and sit still. Do NOT eat during your interview. An occasional sip of water or coffee is acceptable. Do NOT pick your nose, go to the bathroom, or engage in any other activities during your interview. You and your interviewer should be completely focused on the interview and on each other. Interviewing is hard enough for both the job seeker and the interviewer. Taking the few basic preparatory steps before your interview should eliminate some of the unnecessary distractions so you can just get right down to the nitty gritty of landing that perfect job.