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How to prepare for a virtual interview

How to Prepare For a Virtual Interview: 3 Expert Tips

Interviewing has long been a source of anxiety for job candidates. Many of us fear that we’ll ramble, appear as nervous on the outside as we feel on the inside, or simply reach a blank on a certain question that will mean not landing the job. 


And while interviewing has always involved a balancing act of appearing enthusiastic but not desperate and confident but not cocky, what’s new in the world of interviewing is figuring out how we can let our personalities shine through in a virtual interview. 


When one of my clients landed a job interview at a company she’d had her eye on for years, she admitted that sometimes, she finds the artificial nature of screen-mediated communication hinders her ability to connect. In talking to her, I realized that this is a problem that many people— even people who are otherwise pretty confident in an interview setting— are facing nowadays. So, our conversation got me thinking: how do you nail a virtual interview? 


Covid-19 surely heightened the use of virtual interviews, but to a large degree, the rise of Zoom and Skype interviews actually predates the pandemic. Less than a month into the pandemic, 86% of interviews were being conducted virtually. This fact indicates that the era of online interviewing will not come to an end when (and if) we say goodbye to Covid-19 once and for all. Video interviewing is here to stay, especially because so many hiring managers find it more convenient. 


If video interviewing likely isn’t disappearing any time soon, then of course, it’s in your best interest to adapt to the new medium and take time to learn how to prepare for a virtual interview. You may be wondering, What’s different about a video interview? What’s not so different? Here are some tips for a virtual interview  that will ensure you nail it, just like you would an in-person interview. 


  • Make sure that you and your space look professional 


By 2022, we’ve all been acquainted with the classic ‘WFH button-down shirt with baggy sweatpants’ look.  But while many of us think we’re getting away with comfort while still appearing professional, dressing well in an interview setting is more than just appearing put together to your hiring manager— it’s about feeling put together.  


Your interviewer may not know that you’re wearing sweatpants or boxers, but you do, and unfortunately, this makes all the difference in a virtual interview. There’s a lot of research to suggest that dressing well boosts your confidence. One study even showed that professional clothing can enhance your abstract thinking and give you a broader perspective, which are certainly important qualities to demonstrate in your interview.


When you’re dressed in sweatpants, you’re more likely to be in “sweatpants mode,” whether you realize it or if it’s subconscious. And let’s face it, who you are in sweatpants isn’t exactly the kind of candidate your boss is looking for!


Though, again, interviewing is all about meeting a balance. On the flip side of dressing too casually, dressing too formal can negatively impact your chances of landing a job, as well. If you’re unsure about how to strike a balance, consider following Queer Eye fashisto Tan France for some great guidelines in office dress formality.  


As far as background and setting goes, clean and neutral backgrounds are usually the way to go. Too much clutter means that your interviewer is less likely to be focused on you and more likely to be focused on your family photos. 


  • Focus on body language and make sure you’re presenting well on video 


Another way to prepare for a virtual interview is by perfecting  your first impression, which in a virtual interview, means controlling your body language. Because you’re not in an in-person setting, you have to find different ways to have your confidence come across in a webcam. Some times to look your best and most confident on camera are:


    • Have a strong posture. 33% of interviewers decide on whether or not to hire a candidate within the first 90 seconds. And while this can sound daunting, it’s also an amazing opportunity to ‘come in hot’ with a strong posture and an inviting body language right away.
  • Have your webcam level with your line of sight. The angle you place your webcam matters, because it can create a more natural position for you to engage with your virtual interviewer. 
  • Engage your head and your hands. Nodding and smiling shows attentive listening, and talking with your hands (subtly— don’t start waving your hands all over the place!) can make you seem more credible to your interviewer.
  • Look at the webcam, and not at the screen to simulate eye contact. Eye contact is vital in an interview setting. 65% of hiring professionals state that candidates who failed to make eye contact didn’t land the job. However, as we know, making eye contact through a screen is a little confusing. Think of your webcam as their eyes, and try not to look down at the screen. 
  • Do a dry run with a friend. Before your interview, try to get a friend to Zoom or Skype you. This is a great way to get feedback on your body language and how you are coming across  on camera. 
  • Hide your own video. Disclaimer: this one’s an advanced level piece of advice. If you’re truly confident that you’re presenting yourself well on camera, you might consider turning off your own video feed. Looking at yourself on screen can be distracting and cause you to be less engaged with your interviewer.


3) Make sure your tech is up to snuff to best capture your interview 


Technical difficulties break the flow of conversation, and good, fluid conversation is the best indicator of a successful interview. Here are a few technical details  to check out to make sure you’re transmitting your best self: 


  • Your internet speed. For starters, you want to make sure your WiFi is working well. A study found that a delay as small as 1.2 seconds can negatively impact someone’s impression of you. You can check your internet speed by using the website speedtest
  • Lighting. Although you may like a big window as a nice aesthetic touch to your interview, back lighting actually makes it very difficult for your employer to see you! Remember, over 65% of communication is non-verbal, so when it comes to interviewing, you have to make sure your facial expressions are being seen. 
  • Background noise. Do whatever you have to do to keep your pet quiet, whether that be keeping them in a different room, or feeding them right before the interview starts so they’re too preoccupied to bark or scratch at the door! Background noise can be very distracting, so you might even want to consider headphones with a built-in microphone to keep the sound to minimum. 
  • Clear your computer of clutter ahead of an interview. Keeping tabs open is a sure way to distract yourself in an interview. You can easily avoid this by simply ensuring that all unused programs and unnecessary tabs are closed. This also helps with my first suggestion in making sure your internet speed is fast!

Interviewing over a video conferencing platform can definitely be nerve-wracking, but the important thing to remember is that as long as you follow a few simple guidelines, you shouldn’t have to change anything about yourself to make a first good impression! I hope these virtual interview tips have helped you be better prepared in the way you want to approach interviews moving forward!

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