Artwork by: Lizabeth Zaft
Is your first video interview coming up? Follow these tips on acing your virtual interview and landing the job!
Job interviews are intimidating for many professionals. With the recent influx of virtual job interviews, there is even more to anticipate. We’ve compiled everything you need to know about video interviews so you will ace your next one.
In this article we’ll discuss:
The most commonly asked questions about video job interviews
Mistakes that are easily avoidable
Tips and examples on what to say and how to conduct yourself during an interview
We asked your top concerns about video job interviews and came up with these ten most frequently asked questions.
Preparing for any job interview will typically cover the same basic steps: Review the job posting and requirements, prepare some questions to ask, and have your salary and schedule expectations ready.
With video interviews, however, you need to take a few more steps to prepare. The biggest thing to focus on is creating a professional-looking workspace. It is best to conduct video interviews in your home because you can have more control over the space. If you can avoid it, try not to be in public for an interview. If that is your only option, many libraries and co-working spaces offer private rooms for rent.
Creating an interview space is easy to do; the main elements to focus on are visuals and audio.
Lighting is the most relevant visual component during a video interview. A major limitation of virtual interviews is that it can be hard to get to know someone because all you get to see is a small window of their face. Therefore, your face should be in focus and illuminated.
Illuminating your face is as simple as sitting in front of a window or in a well-lit room. A common mistake is to accidentally back-light yourself, creating a silhouette effect. Whether natural or synthetic light is being used, make sure that you are facing the light to create the best image.
Relating to the importance of finding a private space for your interview, outside audio can create a big distraction. Headphones with built-in microphones can be utilized for better sound quality if you are concerned about noises coming through your mic.
Even if you are able to create a workspace in your home, there are still audio concerns to double-check. Let your family or roommates know about your interview so no one will barge into the room. If you have a dog that tends to bark, do you have a friend who would mind taking them for a walk for an hour? Taking these extra precautions can pay off big in the long run.
During virtual interviews, the employer will be largely focused on your qualifications as a candidate for the position. It’s also normal for them to be looking out for how good of a culture fit you are with the team and company.
Being tech-savvy will benefit any professional in almost any field. Video interviews also set the stage for you to flaunt your technological adeptness. Troubleshoot your problems ahead of time so your interview doesn’t get interrupted. A smooth video session might not necessarily receive accolades, but a poor video could count against you. Keep this in mind as you prepare for your interview.
In most video interviews and meetings, you will sit in the virtual waiting room until the host/interviewer lets you in. At that point, you will be face-to-face with your interviewer. Greet them with a smile and a hand wave. This will allow them to greet you verbally without you both talking over each other.
While you are waving, the interviewer might say:
“Hi _____, how are you doing?”
In response, say something like, “Hi, I’m doing great thanks. I’m really excited to be here, thank you for meeting with me today.”
For the most part, the questions asked in virtual interviews are no different than those asked during in-person interviews. Here are the most commonly asked interview questions, regardless of the mode of the interview:
Tell me about yourself
Why are you interested in this position?
Why do you want to work for this company?
What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
How would you handle _____ situation?
Describe a time you overcame a challenge at work.
What motivates you at work?
What kind of leader are you?
Do you prefer being given specific instructions, or do you like finding solutions on your own?
Do you work better as part of a team or independently?
In an in-person interview, you should maintain eye contact. Virtual interviews make that a bit difficult because if you are looking at the screen, your eyes appear lowered from the interviewer’s view. While it’s recommended to look directly at the camera lens in an effort to maintain eye contact, that can be unrealistic. It’s natural to want to look at the interviewer's face when they’re speaking to you. To balance it out, try looking at the screen when the interviewer is speaking, and when you are speaking, look at the camera lens.
Yes, you should still put effort into a professional appearance even during virtual interviews. Obviously, you’ll have many more freedoms during a virtual interview than an in-person one, but the effect should be the same. Groom your hair and wear a professional (but not formal) outfit.
A lot of people only dress professionally from the waist up during video meetings. However, an interview is a high-stakes situation. If there is a cause for you to stand up suddenly, you don’t want to be caught in your pajamas. It’s recommended to put on a whole outfit for this occasion.
Your body can be either sitting or standing during your interview. The important thing here is that your computer is stabilized either way. A shaky background during a video can be really distracting and present as unprofessional.
If you choose to stand, be careful not to move around too much. You want to stay in the frame, but also you want to appear calm and collected. For jittery or nervous energy, consider using a fidget toy you hold in your hand and out of view from the video.
There are some common mistakes that people make during their interviews that could negatively impact their performance. Here are the top five:
One of the most common mistakes is to have a poor technical setup during your interview. When the world first went virtual during the pandemic, there was a lot of patience and leniency for tech errors. However, we are years past that point, and the expectation is that you should be prepared enough to not have issues.
Do what you can to prepare your tech setup by making sure you can join the meeting link, are connected to your strongest available internet, and have checked your mic and camera.
Of course, accidents happen and even the best computers can have glitches. In such a case, it’s good to have the phone number easily accessible. You can also send an email with your phone number so they have it in case of connection issues..
Don’t let your technical preparations overshadow your basic job interview preparations. Re-read the job description, research the company and its services or products, follow their LinkedIn page, and compile notes about your experience that you hope to share during the interview.
Just like in-person interviews, you want to be engaged and give personalized answers. Preparing ahead of time will allow you to leave that great first impression.
Every job seeker's goal should be to stand out from the crowd. This is especially difficult to do in virtual interviews because you only see a small square of the other person's face. To make a lasting impression, and therefore increase your chances of being hired, it’s important to have a presence.
The best way to go about this is to engage with the interviewer. When they ask, “How are you today?”, don’t just say good; add some personality. Try something like, “I got an extra shot of espresso today so I’m feeling great!”
Beyond that, try to treat the interview more like a conversation than a Q&A. If they ask you about something that you’re unsure of, say, “Oh right, yes I remember learning about that but could you elaborate again for me?” Unless specifically asked, try to eliminate yes and no responses as much as possible. Doing so will help create a more organic interaction that will leave a great impression on an interviewer.
We covered this a little bit earlier, but a common mistake is allowing distractions during your video call. Computer mics can pick up sound really well. So if you have a particularly loud clock, you get a phone call and the ringer is on, or have kids running around the house, the interviewer will likely hear it. You want to be the main focus of your interview; do what you can to eliminate any other distractions.
A lot of people have been thrown off by what the expectations are for professionalism during virtual interviews. We’re saying it for the record: all interviews, virtual or in-person, should be treated with the same level of professionalism. It can be particularly easy to act too casual when interviewing from your home. Use office-appropriate language, keep all commentary safe for work, and show respect and courtesy. Some have found it helpful to maintain a professional demeanor when they are also dressed professionally, so lean into appearance if you think it could act as a tool.
The interviewer should be the one to wrap up the interview. They’ll likely use a cue, like, “Okay great, that’s all I’ve got for you, do you have any questions for me?” Upon hearing this or a similar cue, let them know that you appreciate them taking the time to speak with you, and reaffirm your excitement for the opportunity.
The unspoken norm for exiting a professional video call is to hold up a hand and wave lightly, say goodby, then as you continue waving press the red ‘end call’ button.
Always send a thank you email following your interview. It can be short and sweet, nothing too overzealous. Follow-up emails are just a great way to make your impression last a bit longer.
Video etiquette asks that you remain vigilant about talking over each other. During in-person interactions, it’s fine to hem and haw as you engage with the interviewer. However, in virtual interviews, that would be a distraction. Instead, use your body language and facial expressions to indicate agreeance, curiosity, or excitement.
For the most part, virtual interviews will feel very similar to in-person interviews.
The best tip is to prepare yourself! That includes technical preparations as well as professional ones.
Engage with the interviewer to leave a great first impression.
Emma is a certified employment specialist with over six years of experience in career mentorship and employment training. Emma is passionate about nurturing professional growth and helping people gain momentum in their field. She uses her writing and strategic career planning skills to help her clients fulfill their aspirations and reach new chapters in their professions. In 2020, she helped design Colorado’s first state-certified training program for people with disabilities entering the workforce.