You’ve read the Virtual Vocations blog guides on Telecommuting Resume Writing and Telecommuting Cover Letters. Now, the web’s largest and most comprehensive telecommute-only jobs board explores effective virtual interview strategies and tips for employees and employers.
Hiring managers are constantly searching for ways to spend less time, energy and money while still locating the best match for each of their vacancies. At the same time, dozens or even hundreds of applicants are expending their own time, energy and resources to show potential employers that they are the best candidate for the job. Virtual interviews are a convenient, affordable solution that meets the needs of both sides of the hiring equation.
Virtual interviewing—conducted via mediums like web conferencing, instant messaging, and video calling—has emerged as a viable hiring resource for employers seeking qualified workers in a variety of professions.
A 2013 Right Management survey found that one in five applicants (18%) has participated in a virtual interview.
Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts—free, easily accessible video conferencing platforms—are readily available to anyone and require only a smattering of tech savvy. In addition, the ever-expanding list of companies now creating for-fee virtual interview software gives further credence to this growing market.
As a telecommute job seeker hoping a virtual interview leads to a remote job offer, or as a telecommute-friendly employer utilizing virtual interviewing to whittle down the often vast numbers of telework candidates in the applicant pool for its open positions, the virtual interviewing tips and strategies outlined below will benefit you and your business:
Virtual Interview Basics for the Applicant
Securing a first-level job interview is critical to getting hired. Without acing it, you don’t progress toward a job offer. This is your chance to distinguish yourself from the other applicants, proving you are worthy of a second interview. Bring your A-game or you’ll find yourself in the slush pile, cut from the list of viable candidates.
Set yourself apart by communicating who you are as a person. They already know who you are on paper—your education, skills and experience, as represented in your cover letter, resume and job application, have defined you enough to get to the first stage of interviewing. Now hiring managers want to know if they could feel comfortable having you represent their company.
So what does it look like to ace a virtual interview?
Related: 6 Remote Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
The Virtual Interview Environment
Prior to your virtual interview, practice answering common interview questions, double-check your computer hardware and video conferencing software, and run through a mock interview with a friend or loved one.
Here’s a breakdown of elements you should consider as you prep:
Soft lighting is best to avoid having to squint at the camera during your virtual interview. The light should shine on your face and come from behind the webcam. Placing your lighting source in back of you will create a silhouette from the interviewer’s perspective and make it difficult to see your face and observe your mannerisms.
Your webcam should sit at eye level, angled so your head and shoulders fit in the frame. Throughout your virtual interview, remember to look at the camera, rather than at your screen, as you give your answers. If you have trouble remembering this point, tape a photo of your interviewer or the company’s logo to the side of or near your webcam.
Test your computer’s microphone and speakers prior to your virtual interviewing session. Listen for static, humming, and buzzing that could distract you or the interviewer. If you are not impressed with your computer’s internal audio system, consider using the earbuds that came with your smart phone or utilize a headset with microphone.
Speaking of distractions, ensure you have cleared your home office space of auditory virtual interviewing red flags like traffic noise filtering in from an open window, smartphone and desktop notifications, and your lovable, yet noisy, children and pets.
Keep copies of your cover letter, resume, job application, professional portfolio, and any other employment documents and files you’ve submitted during the application process, at the ready. Write down important facts about your employment history, telecommuting experience, and work philosophy, as well as questions for the interviewer, on sticky notes attached to the perimeter of your computer monitor to subtlety cue yourself as new talking points arise during your virtual interview.
Technology Considerations for Virtual Interviewing
Remote employers expect (at minimum) basic technological competency. Your interviewers are going to be looking to see if you’ve kept up with advancements in relevant software and equipment. To ace your interview and set yourself apart from the others in the applicant pool, you need to demonstrate your aptitude for technology. Consider these tips for doing just that:
When the interviewer lets you know which software platform they’ll use for your virtual interview, dive in and learn as much as you can about the software. Search YouTube video tutorials that coherently explain the basic processes and quirks, research the program online, and ask knowledgeable friends or co-workers for guidance.
It’s ideal to complete this virtual interviewing software crash course prior to your job interview, so that when it’s time for your big moment you’ll seem well-versed, even if you’re a novice at virtual interviews.
If you don’t currently utilize a professional sounding username for programs you’ll be using for virtual interviews, create one. It’s worth it to confirm your persona as a real competitor for the job. When you sign in, there will be nothing to distract your interviewers or make them raise an eyebrow.
An hour before your interview, do a final check of your hardware and software. Take care that your desktop computer or laptop is connected to its power source. Turn off all programs that could draw down your battery or slow your Internet connection—you don’t want any surprises to pop up during your virtual interview. Make sure you have a good connection, plugged in directly to your high-speed modem, that does not run off WiFi. Then, eliminate messy cables and organize your work space.
Even if you’re as prepared as possible, occasionally technology simply malfunctions. What will you do if this happens?
When faced with a technology glitch during your virtual interview, stay calm. If the issue cannot be resolved quickly, let your interviewer know you’ll call back momentarily. Candidates who are easily flustered over tech mishaps can be a red flag to hiring managers looking to fill telecommuting roles.
Dress and Personal Presence for a Virtual Interview
WHAT TO WEAR
For your virtual interview, dress as professionally as you would for an in-person interview; yes, even down to the dress shoes. Once you’re hired you may never again have to change out of your casual attire, but wearing industry appropriate, traditional business attire during a virtual interview sets the tone. You’ll feel confident; you’ll project professionally; and your interviewer will notice that difference.
When selecting your virtual interviewing wardrobe, keep the camera in mind and think about the following:
- Avoid wearing bright white tops or shiny jewelry that could cause glaring
- Don’t wear a top that blends in or clashes with your backdrop
- Skip sparkly, gaudy, or jingling jewelry
- Pass on clothing with loud patterns or designs that reveal too much skin
- If you opt for nail polish, choose a neutral manicure
- Blot your face if the skin on your forehead or nose appears oily
- Appropriately dress the bottom half of your body as well; should you have to get up from your office chair during your virtual interview, you’ll want to look professional from head to toe
COURTESIES TO OBSERVE
- Begin your virtual interview in the same manner you would if you were interviewing on-site: with a greeting. You can’t physically shake hands, but you can politely acknowledge your interviewer.
Greet your virtual interviewers with a slight nod to your webcam as you introduce yourself and mention that you’re glad to meet them.
- If you have to cough or sneeze during your conversation, say “Excuse me.” Although you aren’t in the room with your interviewers, this simple gesture helps paint a picture of who you are as a person and the manners you have acquired.
- However difficult it seems, refrain from checking your smartphone notifications, texts, emails, and call lists while virtual interviewing. In addition to being a common courtesy, this simple act conveys that you know how to prioritize and focus on the most important tasks at appropriate times.
- Don’t chew gum—this is not well-received in any interview setting, whether in-person or virtual.
Content of the Virtual Interview
Take your time when responding to questions. Some companies plan their virtual interviews with the expectation that candidates will take as much as 15-30 seconds to gather their thoughts, with another two minutes of answer time allowed per question. If you’d like to expand further on a point, you’ll impress with a simple statement like “If it would help, I can provide additional details.”
Think of the virtual interviewing process as a dance: the interviewer leads and you follow. However, this doesn’t mean you cannot interject your own flair in the form of a well-placed anecdote that illustrates your uniqueness and professional experience. Consider the research you completed on your potential employer—you know what they’re about and what they’re looking for their new hire to be able to accomplish. Show them you can accomplish it.
If you stumble during any of your answers, remember to refer to the sticky notes on your monitor highlighting your key qualifications and questions you may have for the interviewer. You have a right and responsibility to seek answers to questions that matter to you, and the interviewer will take note of your initiative and preparation.
Virtual Interview Basics for the Interviewer/Recruiter
Today’s interviewer using virtual interviews to whittle down the pools of applicants they may be considering will do well to follow many/most of the recommendations above for setting up their environment for the interview, mastering the technology needs, and for dressing and presenting themselves professionally on camera. Additionally, there are some specific strategies in each area that will help the interviewer ace his or her own side of the interview.
If you’re set up in your office, make the space look orderly. Otherwise, if you’re working from an on-site office or co-working space, find a conference room you can use, and arrange your materials neatly. You are representing the company to the job candidates you will interview virtually, so it’s as important for you to make a great first impression as it is for the job applicants to do the same.
You shouldn’t expect applicants to dress professionally if you don’t put forth the same effort. On the days you participate in virtual interviewing, make sure to put your best self forward. Ensure your clothes aren’t wrinkled or stained and dress in a professional manner befitting your line of work. You can’t expect more from the candidate than you do of yourself
Yours should be the first greeting, welcoming and respectful to all candidates. You set the agenda for the interview. If you’ve sent out pre-work and want interviewees to explain their answers, make that clear. Start with easy, non-threatening questions to help the interviewees establish their comfort level with the technology, the situation, and with you.
It’s helpful to personalize the interview by talking a little bit about yourself, your background, and your work with the company. You can also mention something about the candidates that caught your eye while conducting your own research. Establishing some level of rapport at the beginning means a better interview throughout the process.
In the same way that job applicants must research their potential employers and the industry within which they wish to work, in order to be able to answer questions asked of them while virtual interviewing, the job interviewer must be prepared to answer questions asked by the candidates.
As a virtual job interviewer, you should know what your human resources department expects from you in regard to the non-discriminatory, legal content of questions. As such, you should have disclosure forms at the ready. If you’re recording the interview, you must let the applicants know if the recordings are audio-only or audio and visual in nature.
The major goal of a stage one virtual interview is to make connections with the applicants. This is the time to weed out the candidates with the best professional qualifications who also seem as though they could meld with the established company culture of your organization. During the virtual interviewing process, consider questions like the following:
- Do you think this candidate will fit well with the company?
- Can you imagine the candidate representing the company well?
- If the candidate is lacking some professional experience, but has the temperament and work ethic you seek, are you willing to train the applicant?
Using a virtual interview to narrow down a list of candidates whose resumes and portfolios are equally impressive is a smart thing for companies to do. Technology’s advances have made this venue an affordable option for employers who value remote work.
Related: 40 Virtual Companies That Embrace Telecommuters
Interviewers, recruiters, and potential employees can benefit from proper preparation and the use of a strategic approach to getting the most from the virtual interview.
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