There is no doubt the job interview process can be intimidating. However, when you take away the opportunity to meet face-to-face with a prospective employer, it can add another layer of anxiety to the mix. Virtual interviews are here to stay. If you have been thinking about starting a new job, changing careers, or advancing your career, then you should learn how to stand out in an interview.
Many employers have moved to filling open positions with virtual interviews, even if just to narrow down the candidate pool. You may be asking yourself, in what ways does the virtual interview differ from an in-person interview, and how can you prepare to make the best virtual impression? Let’s explore some of the most important tips for this new steppingstone to a career transition.
How to Stand Out in an Interview
Rather than sitting in a comfy office or taking a walking tour of the facility, the virtual interview usually relegates you to a head and shoulders shot of your interviewer and to use your imagination to envision the company’s physical environment. To stand out in an interview, it is important to overcome this potential barrier. Our best advice is to be prepared! Do some homework on the organization. Visit their website and watch any videos that give you a mental picture of the work setting. Read employee reviews of the company to see how they feel about working there. If you live nearby, drive by to see how big and well-maintained the facility is. Visit the company’s social media pages to get a sense of the corporate culture. If you know who will be interviewing you, research them personally to get a feel for their role, leadership style, and any connections you may have. Then, bring all of that knowledge to your “head and shoulders” interview. It will give you a leg up when you’re able to reference these things despite not being there in person.
Prepare for Virtual Interview Questions
When you prepare for virtual interviews, the questions will likely be similar to the ones you would prepare for in-person. What about the dreaded question? Job seekers often want to know how to answer the “what are your weaknesses” interview question. If asked to self-evaluate, be honest about an area you struggle with professionally, but always end on a positive note about how you learned in a situation or how you have taken steps to overcome a weakness or challenge. This lets a prospective employer know that you are both self-aware and proactive. Also, frame each of your answers in a work-related context and provide concrete examples as often as possible.
Develop Your Virtual Interview Questions
Now it’s time for you to go over your virtual interview questions. You should always come prepared to pose two or three questions of the interviewer. While it is typically best to avoid questions about compensation, politics, or personal information, here are a few options to consider for a first interview.
- What does a typical day in this role look like?
- What are the company’s goals this quarter?
- I read that (name of company’s) mission is to (fill in the blank). How does this role contribute to that mission?
- What other departments or groups would I be working with to meet goals?
- How long has this role been a part of the company and how has it evolved?
- How would you describe the ideal candidate for this position?
Stage an Interview
Your physical setting is also something you don’t usually have to consider during an interview. It can be easy to simply pull out your computer and think you’re ready to go. Not so. Your environment in a virtual interview will contribute to the impression you make, so keep these things in mind:
- Find a quiet, well-lit place to conduct the interview.
- Stage an inviting, tidy background.
- Make sure the lighting is good – not too dark or bright.
- Frame your shot so you are at the right height and angle, with your computer straight on or a little above you, but not below. Your computer should also be a long arm’s length – two to three feet – from your chair/face as a general rule of thumb.
- Get rid of any distractions. If others will be in the house, make sure they know to be quiet during that time. Also, keep animals out of the area and silence your phone.
- Film yourself ahead of time to see how you will appear to the interviewer and make adjustments as necessary.
- Take advantage of the virtual interview by using post-it notes on the edge of your monitor or bulleted cheat sheets to help you remember key points. Just be sure you only glance when referencing them rather than looking down for a prolonged period.
Test the Technology
In a face-to-face interview, you have to worry about a lot of things, but technology isn’t usually one of them. Making sure your meeting will be glitch-free is imperative in mastering the interview. First of all, ensure that you have a strong internet connection. It is a good idea to disconnect other devices during the interview, so your connection isn’t slowed down. On the day of the interview, you should double-check both your audio levels and camera connection so there aren’t any last-minute surprises. Finally, be at your computer and be ready to join the interview meeting 10 minutes before the scheduled time so you are already connected when the interviewer logs in.
Adjust Your Body Language
The virtual interview changes the usual body language narrative just a bit. You can’t give a firm handshake to demonstrate your confidence; nuanced movements or physical cues don’t come through as easily on camera; even sitting on the edge of your chair to show interest is lost. That’s why adjusting your body language for the camera is vital.
Consider these pointers:
- Sit up straight with good posture.
- Occasionally nod your head in agreement without overdoing it.
- Lean forward slightly into the camera frame for emphasis when appropriate.
- Wear a smile, not only on your face but also in your voice.
- Make sure you control your voice volume – not too loud or soft.
- Control any nervous ticks, such as shifting in your seat, looking down or around, big hand gestures, biting nails, etc. These are even more noticeable on camera.
- Maintain eye contact consistently throughout. This is just as important virtually as when you are face to face.
- Listen attentively and adjust for any delays in the virtual communication. Talking on top of one another may be unavoidable a time or two but mastering the delay will make your interview go much more smoothly.
Keep in mind that several things are the same for in-person and virtual interviews. Perhaps the number one tip that remains the same is to let your personality and character shine through while remaining professional. Companies don’t want a robot, so give them a glimpse of who you are and how you will interact with colleagues when starting a new job. Try to make a personal connection, if possible. For example, if you know you have baseball in common and you have a signed ball, it can be a connecting point to bring that out and discuss your common interest briefly. After all, your career transition is too important not to use every tool at your disposal.
Continue Your Education
One great way to prepare for a career transition and to get familiar with the virtual world is by continuing your education through Ottawa University's accelerated, online degrees. With our 8-week terms and generous credit transfer policy, you can quickly move through the degree program of your choice and learn all the nuances of virtual learning. Ottawa University is conveniently located in Kansas City, Milwaukee, Phoenix, and online. Remember, that it is never too late to return to college, and you’ll be starting a new job in no time.
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