Virtual job interviews have become the norm for those posting and seeking jobs, offering convenience but also presenting unique challenges. As you face this new world of job interviewing, it's crucial to adapt to this format. 

Trisha Thompson, senior career coach at Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, shared some tips and strategies on how to prepare for and participate in a virtual interview to help you shine in your job search.

Why it’s important to give a good remote interview

Thompson said the virtual interview is becoming more common. Also, because many more jobs are going hybrid or remote, virtual interviews can be a good insight to how you will work.

“In the interview process, the first and possibly second one are going to be virtual, so you need to be prepared for that,” she said.

“If the position you're applying for or interviewing for is actually a remote job, this is how you will be working. You have to go into it thinking, ‘This is how I work, and I am presenting. I'm not FaceTiming, I'm not watching TV. I'm engaged, and I'm in a meeting, and this is how I work.’”

Tips and tricks on how to prepare for a virtual interview

1. Test your technology

Check your equipment, ensuring that your computer, webcam, and microphone are functioning properly. A stable internet connection is essential to avoid interruptions. 

Familiarize yourself with the platform. Whether it's Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet, get comfortable. Practice with friends or family to avoid last-minute technical glitches.

Make sure your computer or other device you're using is fully charged or plugged in during the interview.

“I always try to have my computer and phone charged, ready to go,” Thompson said. “If something happens on the computer, I have my phone ready to go. We're in a digital age, and most people have more than one device. Also, charge your headphones and microphone if they need it.” 

2. Create a professional environment

Select a quiet, well-lit area free from distractions. Inform family or roommates of your interview schedule to minimize interruptions.

“I would highly recommend looking at your local library and reserving a room and using their Wi-Fi,” Thompson advised.

A clean, clutter-free background is ideal. If this isn’t possible, consider using a virtual background that is professional and not distracting.

“If you feel like the background is distracting, or is taking away from the person, blur it,” she said. “If you have a flat white wall, there's no depth, so you seem like you're floating. Having a blurred background or virtual background creates some depth and allows you to pop from the background. That helps make it seem they’re actually engaging with a person instead of a screen because you added that depth.”

Lighting is also important. Position yourself so that light comes from in front of you, not behind. Natural light is best and ring lights are common, but a well-placed lamp can also help.

3. Dress the part

Dressing for a virtual interview is similar to dressing for an in-person interview. Wear appropriate attire from head to toe, not just from the waist up. This helps you get into a professional mindset and avoids any potential embarrassment if you need to stand up.

“Some people only think belly button and up, but just because they only see your belly button up, doesn't mean don't wear pants,” Thompson said.

Avoid distracting patterns in your clothes. Solid colors are generally safer and less distracting on camera.

“A good go-to color for interviews is blue. It’s a color that indicates trust,” Thompson said. “Also, use solid colors. If you have a background, or you're blurring, use colors that mix well.”

4. Prepare your materials

Have the documents you’ll need at hand. Keep your resume, cover letter, and any other relevant documents within easy reach. You can also have digital copies open on your desktop.

“I would have the job description pulled up,” Thompson said. “I would also have their website pulled up.”

Thompson also advises to anticipate some questions, such as times you had to deal with difficulties, or examples of success. Have answers written up as bullet points so you can look them up.

“You should have four to five of those examples in your back pocket so you can be ready,” she said. “Being prepared like this gives you a psychological advantage in responding in a way that’s easier for your interviewers to understand.”

You should also have a notebook and pen handy for jotting down important points or questions that arise during the interview.

5. Practice to make perfect

Conduct mock interviews with friends, family, or a career services department. This helps you become comfortable with the format and receive constructive feedback.

Record practice sessions to identify areas for improvement, such as body language, eye contact, and speech clarity. 

“Watching yourself and listening to yourself can help you present yourself better,” Thompson said. “The first few times, your voice will sound embarrassing. But this is not a judgment about what you sound like. It’s about what you're saying, and how you're communicating.”

6. Master non-verbal communication

Look at the camera, not the screen, to mimic eye contact. This helps build a connection with your interviewer. One method to help would be to place a sticker or googly eyes on either side of your camera to draw your attention.

Remember your body language, too. Sit up straight, smile, and use natural hand gestures. Avoid fidgeting or looking away frequently.

“When you're on camera, you also should be centered, or slightly off center,” Thompson said. “But your hands need to stay calm and low. 

“If you're a gesticulator, then keep your hands off screen while you're talking, or just try to keep your hands calm and on the table. When you move your hands a lot, it becomes a distraction.”

7. Be aware of cultural considerations

As a global school, Thunderbird serves students of all different backgrounds and considerations. Your interview may have to factor in cultural differences.

“It would be unlikely to expect me, for example, to cover up if interviewing with professionals, who are also practicing Muslims,” Thompson said. “However, if I am applying to work at a Muslim-majority organization and their company practices align with Islam, I should be wearing something that respects their culture because I want to be a part of that culture.”

Thompson said it is important that you align how you want to present yourself with the culture of the company. 

“Not only do they want someone who can do the job, they want someone who will stay there with them,” she said.

8. Be punctual

Join the virtual meeting 10-15 minutes before the scheduled time to account for any last-minute technical issues.

Thompson recommends you be prepared for challenges.

“If something happens, the first thing is to stay calm,” she said. “Second, don't assume you have done anything wrong. Assume that it is just technology and give it a second. 

“If it persists, say, ‘I feel like there's difficulties happening, and I'd like to address them, so I am going to wait three seconds after I believe you've finished your question to ensure I hear the whole thing before responding.’”

9. Engage actively

Pay close attention to the questions asked and respond thoughtfully. Don’t interrupt, and wait for a natural pause before speaking. When unsure of how to respond, asking for clarity reflects engagement and gives time to form a better answer.

Also be sure to demonstrate your interest in the role and the company through your tone of voice and facial expressions.

10. Follow up

As with a conventional interview, send a personalized thank-you email to your interviewer, reiterating your interest in the position and highlighting key points from the conversation. It is recommended to send a thank-you email within a day of the interview to those that participated.

Knowing what to do for a virtual job interview doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By following these tips and tricks, you can approach interviews with confidence and poise, setting yourself up for success in the digital job market.

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